When we hear the words ‘playing big’, many of us dismiss it as something that does not apply to us. Our idea of playing big is akin to selling out and living life according to the rules and terms of capitalism. It seems that the world polarizes us from one another. It seems to promote individualism and we see how a few thrive at the expense of humanity and the environment. In such a world it is not surprising that we have developed a bias against this notion of ‘bigness’.
However, in the past few years, time and time again, I have had to face up to some not so very pretty truths about myself. I had to face my beliefs and ultimately my fears. I have realised that whilst my values about a world where all thrive is the foundation of who I am, at the end of the day, I have also used it as a crutch for ‘hiding’. This served as a justification for not stepping up or out, for not claiming space, or to own my power. My biggest fears were falling flat on my face and not succeeding.
In the other corner, my inner critic kept on whispering ‘who are you to do this thing? People will judge you! You are really not worthy!’ It has been an ongoing battle with these voices that for most part tended to run the show! The results were me holding back, never taking those big chances, and never imagining more than what I knew in my ‘small’ pond!
This realisation about five years ago did push me out of my cocoon somewhat, but I have to be honest that the allure of the comfort zone, of hiding in the background, kind of prevailed more. Over time though, I became weary of the ongoing scuffles with fear, ‘what if’s’ and an inner critic that somehow always reincarnates itself in myriad ways to question my worthiness.
A turning point was when I owned up to the fact that there was another voice (my inner activist) that I could also listen to!
I conceded that there would be no magic moment when it all fell into place. I had to make peace with the real possibility that for me, to live up to my greater potential, I would have to constantly step up and out in conversation with fear and the inner critic.
In the past two years, I have continuously pushed beyond these thresholds and have in fact seen amazing results. Don’t get me wrong, as I said, my inner critic and the voice of fear are very much still in residence, but I have learnt to not give them the platform to run the show. I have learnt to embrace these voices as my own and their purpose of protecting me. In turn, I had to ask whether their cautions were in fact the ‘truth’, and to decide to find out for myself.
All that said, what have I learnt about playing a bigger life? For me, it has not been about looking at anyone else and comparing myself and my journey to them, but coming back to myself and asking who do I truly desire and deserve to be? What is the contribution I would like to make to the world?
In this process I have had to employ some radical honesty about whether I am 100% true to MYSELF, not the visions or versions that others have of me. I have learnt that in fact playing big is playing the game of life on your terms.
Martin Heidegger, the philosopher speaks about thrownness as the fact that we do not have a choice as to where we are born, or the circumstances we are born into, such as the culture, religion, gender, class etc. That in fact, as a result of thrownness, one of the first things we learn in this life is how to survive by the rules that already exist (in other words, rules not created by us). These rules include the norms, practices and values of our particular context. As a result, in order to survive, and to feel that we belong, our formative years is about learning these rules and applying them (sometimes conforming). However, at some point, it is likely that we may forget that this is not the real purpose of our journeys.
Paraphrasing a popular quote, Einstein in fact pointed out that we indeed have to learn the rules of the game. However, our real work lies in using these rules to play our own game in life!
So, for me, that is what it means to play big! It is making that transition from playing and functioning in a world that functions like a matrix, to creating and living life as you were meant to, by your unique standards and rules! With that transition, that is when the work really begins, because quite honestly when you make the decision to play big, you make the decision to swim against the tide.
Below are some tips that has worked for me in stepping up and playing my own game in life:
The first step on the journey is to have clarity what your unique contribution in life is. What would be you living at full blast! Once you have a vision of that, you have to take stock of the rules you have learnt and decide which of those you need to convert to your own and which others do serve you and your vision. Furthermore, you have to assess what is holding you back from living a bigger life. Have the conversation with yourself about fear and the role it plays in your life, lead an exploration of your inner critic and how it has held you back.
Unfortunately, with clarity, you will not magically start living this bigger life. You actually still have to make the decision and the commitment (in other words choose) that you are willing to take a leap into the unknown. A leap that you are willing to trust yourself and life as you go about redefining the rules on your terms!
There is a saying: courage is not the absence of fear, but it is the ability to act in spite of that fear. Courage is required for each moment of living larger. It is required for those moments when you doubt yourself, those moments when you need to step into unknown situations, and for those moments when you are ready to give up. It is not surprising that we daily see awesome people with awesome potential who are quite frankly settling for mediocrity. We absorb messages daily about what ‘success’ should be, what we should aspire to, and this messaging has dumbed us down to simply exist in the current system. It takes curiosity and courage to step out of this paradigm. Courage is an ongoing antidote for when we are fooled by the illusion that other people’s choice of sticking to what they know is simpler, more comfortable and less anxiety ridden.
To play bigger, you will need a group of people who believe in you, who will remind you and root for you as you take these steps to live bigger. They will celebrate with you, they will cry with you if needed, but mostly, they will get why you have chosen this path. In fact, making sure that you surround yourself with others who have taken similar leaps is an affirmation that you are not ‘crazy’ to swim upstream. The fallacy of individualism is that it creates isolation and starves us of the support we need to keep going on our respective journeys. It doesn’t have to be. I firmly believe that we all need community to thrive.
One of the things I am learning is to play often! I have learnt not to be so focused on the outcomes, but to enjoy the journey. This means, creating spaces along the road on a regular basis to bring colour, joy, and to dance to the beat of your world. Living big is after all a celebration of your very existence. You exist to shine! Making time to regularly celebrate is an absolute must!
I firmly believe we are here to give of ourselves! Living bigger means that you have to identify in which ways you want to give, to share and pay it forward. Being able to live a bigger life is a privilege. So, contribution can take the form of mentoring another fellow traveller who is hovering on the ledge, ready to take the leap. It may mean sharing whatever resources (networks, lessons, financial if you can) with others so they too can thrive in this world. Personally, I regard contributing essential as it ensures that you keep the energy of flow alive in your own life and that of others.
Living life bigger is an exciting, tumultuous, but mostly rewarding journey! I wish you well on your adventures.