Tara Sophia Mohr | Playing Big

Tara Sophia Mohr, Playing Big. Find Your VOICE, Your MISSION, and Your MESSAGE.

two kinds of gratitude

I was thinking about what I wanted to write about for Thanksgiving, after my Dad reminded me it would be nice to send out a holiday post. Thanks Dad.

Naturally, my thoughts went to gratitude.

And I realized that in recent months my gratitude practice had been impoverished, not as rich as it used to be. And then I realized why.

In recent months, I’ve been calling on gratitude when I feel overwhelmed, sad, depleted. Learning to be a mom, weathering the mommyhood sleep deprivation, putting a book into the world and navigating everything that goes with that, accepting that our sweet five year old golden retriever has a very aggressive cancer…well, I’ve needed gratitude.

When things are tough, I will often pause and remind myself it’s time to think of everything I’m grateful for. I’ll name the list – occasionally on paper, but usually just in my mind. Sometimes, moments of that day make up the list: the special note or exciting opportunity that showed up in my inbox, the time with a friend, the walk in our neighborhood filled with so many majestic trees. Sometimes, the list is the big things – my husband, my son, our doggie, the good health and presence of so many people I love.

This usually helps to put things in perspective and lift my mood. But something about it feels like that – it’s a tool to lift my mood. Like now I’m making a column of the good stuff to remind myself it’s there.

I realized that this week that this is one kind of gratitude, what I’d call “gratitude for” – because the emphasis is on noticing what we are grateful for.

There is a deeper kind of gratitude that I used to experience more and that I’m going to start searching for again. It wasn’t so much “gratitude for” as “gratitude to.” In other words, I wasn’t just thinking about what I was grateful for, but also about the fact that those blessings had a source, a source that is a fount of abundant goodness, a source that keeps generating diverse expressions of life and gracing me.

It wasn’t the gratitude for but the gratitude to that brings tears to my eyes, that would make me feel not just lucky but held. Gratitude for makes me feel fortunate, gratitude to makes me feel in my right place -as a humbled, limited, human being. Gratitude for is about counting our blessings. Gratitude to is about being on the receiving end of a conversation with something larger. That is the gratitude I want.

May your experience of gratitude be deep and rich, and this year may you remember not just what you are grateful for, but also that there is something unnameable from which our blessings flow.

With love,




“Tara Mohr offers a new model of leadership, one that acknowledges and embraces the complex realities of women’s lives. Playing Big is the perfect catalyst for any woman who wants to go outside her comfort zone, find her voice, and embrace the biggest possibilities of her life.” - Kelly McGonigal, author of The Willpower Instinct

Shortcut to Joy

On the book tour, I met a woman named Lisa. After twenty years doing something that she felt was “just a job,” she’d just taken a few months off from working, hoping to find her passion and figure out what kind of work she really wanted to do.

At the end of the four months, she didn’t have answers. She had even more problems, including the loss of much of her savings which she’d spent down during that time, more confusion about her next steps, and now also feelings of regret and failure about her time off.

(A side note: this is what has happened to everyone I know who has taken time off to “figure out” what they want to do next, including myself. No one ever figures it out during downtime. Instead, we get more confused, overwhelmed, and isolated. We end up spending way too much time in pajamas, and with reality tv and almond butter. I’ve come to believe we don’t really ever need full days to sit around and “figure out” our next big career steps. We need more courage to be honest with ourselves, a little time for reflection and research (but as the side dish, not the main course), support to take action, and lots of opportunities to experiment and learn by doing.)

So back to Lisa. Lisa was feeling really frustrated and asked me, “how can I figure out my life purpose?”

My answer, my conviction, is this: we all have the same life purpose. We have it by dint of being born on to earth. Our purpose is to create more love and light on this planet that is a dense and tangled mix of light and dark, love and fear. Our purpose is repair what is broken, to heal what is wounded here. Our purpose is to make this place a little more worthy of the souls that inhabit it. There are as many ways to do that as there are moments, and we don’t have to find our one big way, or our right way, before we start living that purpose.

We can each live that purpose in whatever job we are doing today, whatever circumstances we are in today.

I’ve written about this idea before here. But today I want to delve into one aspect of it, one I’ve been thinking about a lot lately: how that purpose is our shortcut to joy.

Watching my son play these past few months (he’s nine months old now) has pretty much debunked for me the contemporary California-y spiritual notion that we should be able to be perfectly content in the stillness, in the emptiness, just witnessing our breath.

I watch him – always reaching for the next object, in love with novelty and stimulation of all forms. I watch him work intently on challenges that he devises – how to get the shoe in the basket, how to clank the two cups together, how to pull the lid off the container. In him, I see so clearly how much we are wired to problem-solve, to work with purpose, with a goal. When he falls into focus intently working on one of those problems and silently does so – with none of the squeals or screeches that come with boredom for him, I see in him the part of all of us that is so content when we are absorbed in a puzzle, a project, a problem.

What I want to suggest to you today is that there is one grand puzzle that we are all here to solve, and that is always available for our devotion. And when we become devoted to it, we have found our shortcut to joy.

It is the problem of how to light a candle in the darkness. It is the problem of how to let kindness flow forth where harshness is present. It is the problem of how to let love rule. It is the challenge of being a ray of light in the world, discovering what that means in its every application.

When you make that your purpose, you have all the clarity and contented absorpbtion and rich inner life that comes with purpose. And you have your shortcut to joy.

Give it a try today, and let me know how it goes.

Click to tweet: There is one grand puzzle we are all here to solve, and it is our shortcut to joy.





“Don’t try to change the world before you read this book! In Playing Big Tara Mohr offers you the keys to unlocking your gifts, your potential and your power to make a difference. I guarantee that you will find yourself and your dreams somewhere in this book and when you do Tara’s deep insights, her practical action steps and her real life stories will set you free.” – Dr. Rachel Naomi Remen, author, My Grandfather’s Blessings and Kitchen Table Wisdom

I got the joke.

A few weeks ago, while I was getting prepared for a speaking event, I found out that someone quite famous (famous in the women’s leadership world, anyway) would be attending.

Let’s call that person Judith, for the sake of this post.

Here’s what I knew about Judith: she’s super smart, she’s well-known and well-connected, and she and I disagree about a LOT of things in the women’s empowerment conversation.

So my inner critic took all that in and started feeling really worried about what she’d think of the talk. I started feeling unprepared, less than, not my normal self.

During the speech, from time to time, I’d fall out of flow and stand outside my words, listening to them and imagining how they might sound to her. And of course in my mind the answer to that was always that they sounded incoherent, irrational, mundane.

Afterward, I went over to one of the hosts of the event and said I’d love to meet Judith – after all, despite all my worries, I did also have a lot of respect for her, and wanted to say hello. “Oh,” they said, “she couldn’t make it. Her son ended up getting sick and she needed to stay at home with him.”

It was the oddest moment. All that worry, for nothing. Based on nothing. I had been steeped in my fears about what she would think of the talk. I had imagined her presence in the room as I was talking – and her judgements, her criticism, even her scoffing at some of what I had said. And she was not in the room. All that imagining was simply that: imagining.

I immediately thought: Ok life, I get the joke.

The joke–or the lesson–was this. This was such a great metaphor for what I often do. Because special guest or not, when I’m writing something particularly vulnerable or risky, or when I’m giving a talk to a group that intimidates me, I often find my mind imagining, projecting, the most critical, skeptical, even mean view on my work.

And the truth is, that imagined voice, that judge, is almost never really in the room. It’s just that – imagined. Sure, there will be a range of responses to my work, but most of the time, the external criticism I encounter is so easy-peasy compared to what I fear, so deal-with-able, so just “it is what it is” – nothing like the big boogie-man my own fears make it out to be.

So maybe time to ask yourself – if you are not doing something because you imagine the harsh criticism that could come your way if you do it, or if your joy and full expression is diminished because you, like me, hold in your head what the skeptic would be saying about your work, ask yourself – how would I behave if I knew that voice was really, really, really not in the room? And then do that.



Get the Playing Big book HERE!



We’re Hiring!, Upcoming Events, and More

Good morning!

Some updates and announcements today:

1. The book! Playing Big is here, and I’m so happy to say, being met with rave reviews. Have you picked up your copy yet? Get it HERE.

2. I am HIRING a new business operations manager – a details-loving, systems-thinking, techie-grooving soul to join our team. Is that maybe you? More information is HERE.

3. Upcoming Events
I’ll be in Palo Alto this Sunday for a book event (get your spot HERE), and Austin, TX for the Texas Conference for women in a couple weeks (details HERE). Would love to meet you at one of these events!

4. And some easy listening…
I recently was on three wonderful podcasts – all are great resources for regular listening too.
Jonathan Fields’ Good Life Project
Todd Henry’s The Accidental Creative
Kimberly Wilson’s Tranquility du Jour

And if you missed them, here are a couple of my recent reflections:

On comparing ourselves to others
When people criticize my work

Sending love,


If you find yourself comparing yourself to others…

On the book tour, I’ve found that A LOT of women are struggling with comparing themselves to others. They keep asking me what to do about that.

Here is my take: comparing ourselves to others isn’t the problem. It’s an indication of the problem. It’s a consequence of the real problem, which is that we have turned away from our own path in some way.

When we’re comparing, it’s because we aren’t doing the things that pull us into an intoxicating romance with our own life. And therefore we have time, and room, to focus on what others are doing.

I usually find when I’m comparing one of two things are going on with me:

1. I’m not practicing my passions, the activities I love, love, love to do, the activities that give me juice and fill me up. I love to write. I love to dance. I love to create–creating a beautiful party or creating a course or creating a vision for the year ahead. Those things – writing, dancing, creating – are my highway to joy. Your list is surely different – maybe you love to paint or ride horses or organize details or write code.

When I’m not practicing my passions enough (and sometimes just a little of one is enough, sometimes more is needed), my life gets less alive. I’m not in my own romance with those loves. I’m not following the mystery of where they take me. I get cranky and bored. And then, and only then, I start looking outward to what others are doing and comparing myself unfavorably to them.

2. I also start comparing myself to others when I’m denying a calling - a project or endeavor that I feel a longing toward. I really want to do a particular project in my business but I’ve convinced myself I can’t yet for this or that reason. Or, I have a long-held dream that I’m refusing to accept is a real dream of mine. That kind of thing.

The beauty of this is that life has given all of us this cool warning system, this system of checks. If you find yourself often comparing yourself to others, it’s time to ask yourself, “What important activity that I love am I not doing enough of in my life?” and “What callings am I ignoring?”

Embrace your callings (find out how to identify them in this post), and pursue your passions, and then you are on your path. And it will be so damn intoxicating, joyful, and scary that you will become absorbed in it. You’ll have less time and energy and need to look outward, but when you do, you will experience everyone else’s accomplishments in a very different way – in a much lighter, not-loaded way.

That’s what I believe. We can’t stop comparing ourselves to others by trying to stop. That won’t be enough. We need something to turn our gaze toward. We need to answer the calls in our hearts. We need to bravely reclaim those long lost passions – even if we think we don’t have time for them or our inner critics talked us out of doing them long ago.

When I was writing about writing and dance and creativity just now, I got choked up, with tears of gratitude.

We each get granted a few passions, a few special practices that bring us joy and centeredness and that sense of home, and they are among the greatest blessings we receive in this lifetime. We all receive them – we just need to discover what ours are, or remember what they are, or trust the inklings about what they are, and then give ourselves the gift of doing them.

Life loved us enough to give us this gift, but we have to love ourselves enough to receive it.

And when we do, and feel that joy move through us, we glimpse how deeply Life loved us, to give us this.



Click to tweet: We can’t stop comparing ourselves to others by trying to stop. We can only fall in love with our own adventure more.

Want to go deeper with the topic of comparison? Check out this new program from Tanya Geisler and Lauren Bacon about it, Beyond Compare.

bookcover2 Last but not least, thank you so much for all the beautiful notes about your experiences reading the Playing Big book. I’m so glad it’s making such a difference for you! I want to share some pics of people reading it so feel free to share your pics on Facebook and tag me at Tara Mohr! And if you haven’t gotten your copy yet, get it HERE!