Tara Sophia Mohr | Playing Big

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

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.

Love,

Tara

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“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.

Love,

Tara

Get the Playing Big book HERE!

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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,

Tara

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.

Love,

Tara

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!

when people criticize my work

I recently had the most amazing experience with criticism.

But first, let me take you back to where I started from. I started out as a girl so damn afraid of criticism that the harsh words my English professors said during college (your short story just “doesn’t go anywhere”, your writing is “clunky”, and so on) were so wounding to me that I didn’t write for years after graduating. Years.

And then, over the past years, that changed. A first step was realizing that if I was going to write, I needed to write for myself–not for praise. A second step was getting used to people writing harsh comments about my work and realizing I was always going to get both praise and criticism. Thank you Huffington Post, for being a great bootcamp for getting used to that.

Another step was practicing, for years, the tool I now teach: interpreting feedback as telling me useful information about the person giving the feedback, not about myself.

It was not lost on me, of course, how ironic it was that I then was asked to write an essay about this topic for The New York Times. I had to deal with my own inner spaz about whether the world was going to praise my essay on unhooking from praise. Ha ha, universe, very funny.

What happened was just what I talked about in the article: all substantive work draws both positive and negative feedback. Lots of people loved the piece. I got tons of positive feedback. It was the #1 Most Emailed story of the week. And some people really didn’t like the essay. A few women journalists and bloggers wrote other articles, at popular sites, about what they felt was missing from it and wrong with it.

And here’s what was so amazing. I was honestly happy for those women. I really really was. I was happy for them because they were sharing what they felt had been unsaid about the issue, and they were actually  getting their voices out, and publishing, and I know so well how hard that is and how much courage it takes. I was also happy for them because they weren’t being bound by “nice-girl” norms that could have prevented them from vocally disagreeing, from writing a piece that was fundamentally a critique of another.

I felt like we were all sitting at a round table and I was sharing my point of view, and they theirs. I felt so free because as I wrote my essay, and afterward, I’d given myself permission to not address every possible objection, to not cover all my bases, so to speak. I didn’t ask myself to do that. I asked myself to stay firmly rooted in my subjective slice of the truth and share that. And our conversation as a collective is only whole if other people do the same. We live in a world of multiple truths, countless layers of the truth, different prisms on the truth. My job was not to say it all, it was to say my part.

As I felt my way through that strange experience of responding to the critical essays by having this new kind of “I’m so happy for you that you are getting your voice out there!” feeling, to my own surprise, the phrase that kept coming into my consciousness was “a kind of spiritual generosity.”

This was something I had never thought about before, that there is a spiritual generosity we can extend in welcoming, allowing other people’s criticism of our work, when that criticism is part of what it looks like for them to share their perspective. They would of course be “allowed” to do it no matter how I felt about it, but I believe somehow energetically it matters for them, and for me, that I welcome it and respect it.

Now, if that criticism had come in a conversation with me, maybe this would have been an entirely different experience for me, one that required different skills and different recovery, but in our virtual roundtable, so to speak, this was my experience.

And, at the same time, I protected my fragile artist-writer self. I skimmed their work – I didn’t dwell on it. I didn’t feel the need to form an opinion about it or to respond.

But I was, and am, genuinely happy that they were taking their seat at the table, and I mine.

How can you extend the spiritual generosity to others to more fully allow them their seat at the table – even if that entails criticism of your ideas?

Love,

Tara

Bay Area & Texas folks – please check out my upcoming events HERE! 

And get your copy of the Playing Big book HERE!