Playing Big

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"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

The Big Idea

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

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?

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Insight #2

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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Tara Mohr

Tara Sophia Mohr is an expert on women’s leadership and well-being. She is the author of Playing Big: Find Your Voice, Your Mission, Your Message, published by Penguin in October 2014. She is the creator of the acclaimed Playing Big leadership program for women, which now has more than 1000 graduates from around the world. Tara writes a popular blog on women’s careers and wellbeing at and has been featured on The Today Show and in publications ranging from Huffington Post to Harvard Business Review to Tara received her MBA from Stanford University and her undergraduate degree in English literature from Yale. In 2010, Tara was named a Girl Champion by the Girl Effect organization, honoring her work on girls’ education in the developing world. She is also a poet, and the author of Your Other Names: Poems for Wise Living. She lives in San Francisco and loves dance, art, and long walks with her beloved husband, son and golden retriever.

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