Playing Big

"Playing Big is about bridging the gap between what we see in you and what you know about yourself. It’s a practical guide to moving past self-doubt and creating what you most want to create"

- Playing Big, page ix

It is no mystery that there is gender inequality in our society. This inequality is especially evident in the workplace. But for all of the ways that women have advanced in society, why does workplace inequality persist? This question and more about women’s leadership has been a core concern for Tara Mohr. In her book Playing Big, Mohr explores this issue in depth and also offers women concrete advice for stepping into leadership roles.

To Mohr, playing big means living with great freedom to express your voice and pursue your aspirations. Even though we are all aware of this potential, Mohr couldn’t help but notice that many women were denying it in themselves. “You are that talented woman who doesn’t see how talented she is.” Playing Big is Mohr’s solution to recognizing and owning our talent, and living a more fulfilling life. Mohr walks readers through a process of understanding our barriers to playing big (i.e. our Inner Critic), tuning into our inner wisdom, working through fear, communicating with power, finding our calling and embracing ease. Playing Big is a comprehensive guide for women who want to make big changes in their life and career.

The Big Idea

The Big Idea: The biggest takeaway from the book

Overcome the Internal Barriers

"Centuries of women’s exclusion from political, public, and professional life have had many effects. Some of these effects were external. But inequality of men and women has also left internal effects in us."
- Playing Big, page xxv

The conversation about workplace inequality is typically about external barriers to women. This includes legislation, formal policies, pay disparities, lack of legal protections, and the denial of women’s basic rights. But what Mohr is suggesting is that even though the playing field is not completely even, women can advance more by focusing on the internal barriers. The internalized oppression that women experience is a result of years of external oppression. Mohr suggests that it has also shaped how we think of ourselves and what we see as possible for our lives and work. The core practices and ideas in Playing Big all come from this basic idea.

Mohr’s goal is to help women work through their internalized oppression and barriers. Playing Big is the result of years of this type of coaching that Mohr has provided to women, and what she outlines in the book are many practical ideas and tips for women to independently work through their barriers. Read on for two.

Insight #1

An actionable way to implement the Big Idea into your life

Befriend Your Inner Critic

"You simply need to learn how to live with the inner voice of self-doubt but not be held back by it, to hear the voice and not take direction from it."
- Playing Big, page 3

Although we may not talk about it often, we all have a voice in our minds that is often our biggest critic. “We are so used to living with this voice, most of us don’t imagine it could be otherwise,” she writes. Mohr suggests the key problem with the voice of our inner critic is that we do not separate ourselves from this voice. In other words, we see this voice and its narrative as a direct reflection of who we really are. But that’s simply not the case. The problem with our inner critic is that often we let that voice take the wheel and make our decisions. Mohr suggests a few practices for managing our inner critic:

  • Label and notice – When you start hearing your inner critic, pause and notice it. Specifically, recognize that it is your inner critic.
  • Separate the “I” from the inner critic – Recognize that your inner critic is struggling, not you.
  • Compassionately see your inner critic’s motives – When you hear the voice of self-doubt, try to understand what your critic is trying protect you from. What are the real intentions behind their words?
  • Have a sense of humor – Sometimes the best way to manage our inner critic is with a sense of humor. Is there something absurd or funny about what the critic is telling you?

Insight #2

An actionable way to implement the Big Idea into your life

At Some Point, We Have to Leap

"Leaps get us playing bigger right now."
- Playing Big, page 165

For all of the inner work that we might do to help ourselves prepare to play big, at some point we have to actually start playing big. Mohr suggests this requires us to leap from where we are to playing big.

A leap, according to Mohr, meets six criteria:

  1. It gets you playing bigger now, according to what that means for you.
  2. It can be finished within one to two weeks.
  3. It’s a simple, action phrase (i.e. to apply to three jobs in your desired field).
  4. It gets your adrenaline flowing because a leap stretches you outside your comfort zone.
  5. A leap puts you in contact with the audience you want to reach or influence.
  6. You leap with intent to learn.

Mohr offers immense advice for women who want to play big in their lives and careers. I think it’s one of the most practical and useful personal development books that I’ve read in recent years. For women who are ready to make a change in their lives, this is a must read.

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Vanessa Chase

ABOUT Vanessa Chase

I am a fundraising strategist and copywriter, and run the non-profit resource website, Philanthropy For All. Through my work, my goal is to help passionate non-profit folks better articulate their non-profit’s impact and work is a way that translates to engaged philanthropic communities...
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