Permission to Play Small

Relief For All Those Feeling the ‘Play Big’ Burden

A coach and writer that I admire greatly has a new book coming out, Playing Big by Tara Mohr. I’m excited to read it and am sure there will be a lot of excellent content to inspire me in the book, as her blog inspires me often. By no means do I mean to put her book down by asking you to consider playing small, but I feel compelled just now to write a counterpoint to all the usual “Play Big” stuff I see in the life coaching world.

What do you think of when you hear the words Play Big?

Personally, I want to cower under a rock and not come out. Those words scare me, and not because I’m afraid to live out my values, purpose and dreams in the world. I think they scare me because I’m tired of everybody thinking there’s only one way to live your dreams — and that’s to live big, with money and fame and a larger than life existence.

Is it just me who sees a problem with our cultural ideas of Playing Big?

I’d like to present another viewpoint. My view is that you play big when you do what brings you joy and your own version of fulfillment. Sometimes that looks very small indeed. What would it feel like to give yourself permission to play small?

Sometimes we find ‘small’ hard to accept. Are you, like me, one of those people who is constantly down on yourself? Do you feel you rarely live up to what the world expects of you, or even your own expectations of you?

We are pulled in so many directions these days. Besides the whole work/life balance thing we now get social media enticing us with political calls to action, words of encouragement, and the constant input of keeping up with everyone we know and a whole bunch of people we don’t. Sometimes someone comes up in my Facebook newsfeed and I’ll ask myself “Who is she and how do I know her?” I have ‘friends’ on Facebook whose names I don’t even recognize! How am I supposed to keep up with it all?

Maybe, just maybe, I’m not. For me playing big begins to look a lot more like playing small in the face of all these demands on my time and energy. It’s going against the grain of what everybody else is doing (yes, I’m a rebel!). It’s staying home when everyone else is going out. It’s being present and single-tasking when most of the world is multi-tasking till their eyes bug out.

Playing big in my world is being quiet when all around me the world buzzes with noise. I turn the TV off, shut down the podcasts and just sit with my own thoughts.

Playing big is appreciating the moments with a cup of coffee on my front porch instead of dreaming about jetting off to Paris (oh wait, that big one I do dream about, I have to admit!).

But when I am being present to my own life as it is here and now, and when I do those little things that bring me joy, as small as it all might be, that affects everyone around me. My happiness allows my kids and husband to be happier and that in turn affects the people around them. My role modeling what it is to live a life I enjoy, and encouraging those around me to do the same, means they’ll feel freer to meet the hopes and dreams that come from within them instead of feeling pressured by what the rest of the world says.

I have to add here at the end that I think all the ‘playing big’ coaches would say a lot of what I just said if you look further into their books and their work. But I don’t think I’m the only one who gets caught up in the ‘play big’ fervor and thinks it means I should be doing more more more all the time.

So I hope that by giving yourself permission to play small, at least sometimes, you’ll feel a sense of relief and joy in that moment. You’ll know that even if the ‘biggest’ thing you did today was feed your cat or hug your kid, you did something small that has BIG repercussions. Repercussions that might just be felt around the world. How much bigger does it get than that? Not much.

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