playing bigger

I’m nearly half way through Tara Mohr’s six-month course, Playing Big. For weeks, I resisted signing up for the class, ignoring the countless and persistent nudges. But along with the nudges, an important question also persisted. Was I playing big?

In my most honest moments, I suspected that at times I was—and at others I wasn’t. Curious about the times I wasn’t, I finally leaped into a new phase of my journey to find some answers.

At face value, the concept of “playing big” conjures visions of corner offices, book deals, large audiences, big social impact…. And to be fair, Tara gives plenty of space for bold visions. But for me, this six-month process seems to have very little do with any of those heady things.

The mere fact that I was participating in a seminar called Playing Big has made me excruciatingly aware of how frequently I choose to not play big. To my initial alarm and eventual amusement, I soon began to catch myself whenever I’d choose to play fearfully.

Or defensively.

Or petulantly.

Or defiantly.

Or victimy.

Or critically.

Or passive-aggressively….

Well, you get the point.  A few years ago, these realizations might have caused me to crawl into a hole. But I’m more resilient now—and have a much better sense of humor. (Hey, I can’t change what I can’t see.)

The current chaos and upheaval in my job has given me many opportunities to experiment with both sides of the equation. To be sure, I’ve been tempted to feel sorry for myself, to assign blame, and to withhold my best work. And I’ve held more than one private pity party while sitting at my desk. But these are lonely and self-defeating events. Oh, and they feel like total crap.

I’ve now got this playing big thing to live up to—or at least to try on. I also can’t silence the gentle, but insistent voice, goading, challenging, and cheering me on to play bigger.

And it turns out that playing big is a choice.

For me that choice has meant choosing to do great work, even when I’m tempted not to because I think no one will notice. Other times it has entailed biting my tongue on a petty complaint, replacing it with something else—anything else. Occasionally, it has even meant giving myself a break and some room to breathe (without beating myself up). And inevitably, it has meant purposefully choosing to show up without all of my well-worn baggage—those peksy limiting thoughts and tired habits.

I’m still in the experimental phase of this journey, my Playing Big journey. Yet the early results are compelling enough to merit further experimentation. I can’t (yet) point to the external successes of my playing big. But I appreciate noticing when I’m not. And I like myself a lot when I make the choice—no matter how seemingly small—to play differently.

If playing big is a choice, then it’s also a feeling. And what I’ve discovered is that playing big doesn’t feel fearful, whiny, defensive, or critical. By contrast, it feels empowered, creative, confident—and surprisingly playful. It doesn’t insist on anyone appreciating me or approving of me. In fact, it doesn’t require anyone to behave differently in any way. That is, except for me—and I can live with that.

11 thoughts on “playing bigger”

  1. Now I want to take this course! So often we are not present enough to recognize our “big” moments when they’re happening – we might attribute them to luck, hard work, or whatever – anything but our own courage. I love that there’s a course that coaches you to deliberately play big. As I read this post, I found myself thinking of all the ways I’ve seen you play big throughout your life, and the list is long. I think I’m going to take time today to sit down and reflect on my own life, and make a list of the times I’ve played big. Thanks, as always, for sharing your experiences with us – I appreciate all the useful tools you give to help us discover who we are on this journey of life.

  2. Now I want to take this course! So often we are not present enough to recognize our “big” moments when they’re happening – we might attribute them to luck, hard work, or whatever – anything but our own courage. I love that there’s a course that coaches you to deliberately play big. As I read this post, I found myself thinking of all the ways I’ve seen you play big throughout your life, and the list is long. I think I’m going to take time today to sit down and reflect on my own life, and make a list of the times I’ve played big. Thanks, as always, for sharing your experiences with us – I appreciate all the useful tools you give to help us discover who we are on this journey of life.

  3. Thank you for your wonderful writings, Carolyn. You are an inspiration to all of us and capture what we are feeling but don’t always have the language to express it. How easy it is to think in unlimited ways! We are so frightened to get out of our safety zone, trust ourselves and explore the unknown, You have given us some words explaining how we get in our own way by our not-so-healthy attitudes! Thank you, Carolyn. You are the BEST! carol

    1. What a journey it is, Deb! I continue to enjoy your posts–and appreciate how you are also sharing the Playing Big journey. (Apologies, btw, some of my earlier replies to comments didn’t go through.)

  4. Congrats on your awareness to choose to show up differently, showing up in a way that serves you. We can be our own worst saboteurs! and those feelings of “not enough” can get us down and in the way of playing big. How you communicate with yourself is half the battle and sounds like the more kind and nourishing you are with yourself the bigger you play. Great reminder to all of us.

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