Tara Sophia Mohr | Playing Big

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

the 1000 year test + upcoming europe trip

So many of us are faced with this dilemma: on the one hand, there is some project, some new direction, or some new career chapter we feel called toward. To start that school teaching kids music. To make a career shift from financial advisor to therapist. To write the book.

And yet on the other hand, we’ve got our current responsibilities. Kids to raise. Aging parents to take care for. Financial constraints. The feeling that life is full to the brim already and there just isn’t room for more expansion, for anything that will take more energy out of us, let alone more time.

When I hear women telling me about that dilemma (which they often do – so many of us have it), I always invite them to do this:

1. First, ask yourself if there really truly is a conflict between your dream and your life circumstances. Sometimes, limiting beliefs or false assumptions (and our fears) cause us to think our two goals are incompatible when they really aren’t. The limiting belief or false assumption could be that pursuing your dream would be all-consuming, or that it would take way from what you could give your family, or that it would drain your energy. Often these assumptions are not based in reality but rather come from our conditioned ideas about what good mothers or good wives or good daughters do. Or they are just mistaken impressions we picked up somewhere along the way. Other times, the issue is fear: we’re afraid to pursue the dream (because like all dreams it will ask us to risk failure and take us out of our comfort zones) and so our brain helpfully makes up lots of reasons to put action on hold, including that the dream just isn’t doable given our current responsibilities.

So question: is the conflict between your responsibilities/life circumstances and your dream really there? Are the two in fact incompatible? Maybe you can do the dream in a way that isn’t all consuming. Maybe it will dramatically enrich what you can give to your family, not take away from it. Maybe it will replenish your energy, rather than drain in. So first things first, rigorously question every assumption or belief you have about how the various priorities/loves/parts of your life can’t happily coexist.

If you discover that some of your assumptions are just that – assumptions – you can start to move forward on your dream in a way that also honors your other life commitments.

But if you find that yes indeed, there is a conflict between what you feel called to create/do/launch and your life responsibilities – let’s say you just can’t figure out how you could do that demanding tech start up while also being around in the way you’d like to for your two frail parents, or you just can’t figure out how to transition from being an attorney to a school principal while also paying off your student debt and raising your two young kids, then try step two.

2. Give your calling the 1000 year test. Ask yourself, “what is the form of this calling that could have existed 1000 years ago?” 1000 years ago, you wouldn’t feel called to be a school principal, but you might feel called to teach kids or to lead others who teach kids. 1000 years ago you wouldn’t feel called to become a graphic designer, but you might feel called to create beauty and order in visual form. 1000 years ago you wouldn’t have felt called to design an amazing mobile app for busy working parents, but you might have felt called to serve families in making their lives easier. Ask yourself, what’s the essence of this calling, the form that could have existed 1000 years ago?

Then brainstorm ways you can live out that fundamental call today. Five minute ways, ten minute ways, or a few hours a week ways. Ways you can live that calling while in your current job and circumstances. So if an attorney’s calling to be a school principal is, at its essence, about wanting to lead a team working for good, she can join a volunteer corps in her community. If the essence of her calling was about improving education, she can give her time, money and energies outside her current work to do that. If it was about being in a school environment, maybe she can start doing so pro bono legal work for schools.

I believe that every one of us can live out the essence – the 1000 year old elemental core – of our callings in our current lives, even if we can’t yet figure out how to live the particular form our calling originally took in our minds. And I believe we have a responsibility to our souls to be respectful enough of what call us that we find those simple, often mundane ways to live our callings out in some way, beginning today. Yes, today.

Click to tweet: Give your calling the 1000 year test.

And – Europe trip! I will be visiting Amsterdam, London, Bath, and Edinburgh this March, as the international editions of Playing Big make their way out into the world. If your company or organization would like to host a major talk or workshop in or near those locations, please shoot us a note at taramohr@taramohr.com and a member of my team will be in touch. Because my time is very limited on this trip, we will be focusing only a major, larger events, but if that’s a fit for your organization, please do reach out!



“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

“spiritual” in secular settings

I recently received this question from a reader, Gail, who wrote:

“My work is informed by an underlying spirituality, but I work in a university environment. I often worry about my spirituality being criticized by others or that I’ll get into trouble if I talk about it. How do I stay true my spiritual callings while also working in a secular setting?

First things first: I know many of you reading don’t identify with (or like) the word “spirituality.” I hear you. For the purposes of this discussion, please take spirituality to mean that large, heartfelt impulse to do good, a sense of moral purpose that comes from an understanding of the sacredness and connectedness of all life. Even that version of spirituality, without dieties and theologies, can be hard to live out in the jaded, harsh settings that many of us work within.

When I was in school – in the secular environments of college and then graduate school – I needed my spiritual life deeply. I needed it because the social fish bowl and competitive culture of those places challenged my sense of confidence and to my connection to my self. I got easily intimidated and lost. I needed something to ground me and center me and lift me up – and for me, that is remembering the larger force of good and love, surrendering to it, asking to be of service to it.

But the spiritual stuff wasn’t really something I felt I could talk about or something that I felt I needed to talk about. On my own – whether in my own room before the school day – or in my own head in a difficult moment on campus, I grounded myself in that something larger. I remembered the sacredness of everyone around me. I asked to be of service. I asked for help from the great and potent unknown. I threw up my hands in surrender when it was too much, when I did not know. I practiced what people might call prayer and meditation. I read spiritual texts. I tried to act in ways that were kind, generous, loving. And of course, many times I failed to live up to all of that. But I would return to the intentions and try again.

That spiritual practice made it possible for me to stay truer to my voice in those places. It was the basis for any joy I found within them. And hopefully, I hope hope hope, it allowed to be a better contributor to those communities than I otherwise would have been.

I think that’s what I have to offer in response to Gail’s question – not advice, but that lesson learned from my own experience: that we can live our spirituality privately, quietly, and yet still fully. If we are doing that, others probably won’t think of us a “spiritual” or know a thing about our beliefs, but they will experience us as people able to own up to our mistakes, as people who are humble, grateful, and above all, as people who are kind.

How do you live your spirituality? How could you live your spirituality a little more today?

Last but not least, if you are like me, you are in the midst of finding those perfect holiday gifts for those you love. Click HERE to get signed, personalized Playing Big books for the special women in your life this year.



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!