Tara Sophia Mohr | wise living

Tara Sophia Mohr, Wise Living. Tools for finding more fulfillment, peace and everyday joy.

really great resources [#1]

Sign by Dustin Shelves

Sign by Dustin Shelves

I’m launching a book. A book that has my face on the cover. I’m about to enter into a period of speaking a lot, publicly, about my work and my ideas.

As in all things, balance is needed. Knowing that time is coming has made me eager to talk about other people and their work for now. So the next few posts are going to be some recommendations of fabulous resources for you.

I love Brene Brown’s work and I’m guessing you do too. (If you don’t know it, go here, quickly! and watch her now world famous TED talk to get started.)Perhaps what you don’t know is that she has this really great listing of her favorite books – the books that changed her life. I just discovered this treasure!

HERE IT IS. You can discover her most beloved reads on parenting, creativity — even cookbooks!

And, because one list of great books is never enough, I also want to point you to Lindsey Mead’s LIST OF HER FAVORITE BOOKS OF THE YEAR SO FAR. Lindsey is a beautiful beautiful writer, a gem of the blogosphere, so when you jump over to her site make sure to read some of her posts, too.

Happy summer reading!

Love to you –

join me in the big apple this Fall…

This October, I’m going to be speaking at a very special conference, Emerging Women Live.

I was also a speaker at their inaugural event last year so I can tell you with certainty it’s a fabulous, inspiring, thoughtfully-designed event.

And…register by July 31, and you’ll receive a copy of my new book, Playing Big, with your registration. How fabulous is that?

Other speakers this year include Eve Ensler, Arianna Huffington, Brene Brown and many other fabulous women.

I’ll also be teaching two workshops there so we’ll have a chance to work together in depth.

I would love to meet you there. Watch What Women Are Saying about the event. And click here for more information!



grapihc for EW

I’d love for you to meet…

MarianneSeatedSM-300x300Today I’m bringing you a chock-full-of-insights Q&A with my friend and colleague Marianne Elliott.  Marianne is a writer, human rights advocate, and yoga teacher. Brené Brown called her “One of the best teachers I’ve ever experienced … a beautiful writer and a courageous truth teller.” Marianne writes and teaches on creating, developing and sustaining real change in personal life, work and the world. Marianne is one of the most thoughtful, compassionate, wise women I know.

Trained as a lawyer, Marianne helped develop human rights strategies for the governments of New Zealand and East Timor, was a Policy Advisor for Oxfam, and spent two years in the Gaza Strip before going to Afghanistan, where she served in the United Nations. In Afghanistan, she decided stories were her weapon of choice, and yoga was her medicine. Her next round of 30 Days of Courage, an online guide to bravery in action, starts on August 4th.

Here are her answers to my questions about courage and about playing big.

Tara: Marianne, what’s your definition of courage?

Marianne: Being willing and able to do things that scare us. Simple as that. Simple, but by no means easy. Courage takes practice, and I try to practice courage in some small way every day.

What does “playing big” mean to you? What does it look like in your life?

Playing big is allowing yourself, your work, your ideas and your words to be seen and heard, and to take up the space you need to do the good work you are destined to do in the world.

What are some of the things your inner critic says to you and what do you do/think/not do, etc. so that self-doubt doesn’t get in your way?

My inner critic isn’t very original. It says ‘You are not good/smart/experienced enough. You could fail. You could mess this important thing up. You should probably just stay quiet.’

When I hear that voice, I call on the voice of my inner sweetheart or cheerleader – who says : ‘You’re doing fine, Marianne, it’s natural to be scared, just keep going.’

My inner sweetheart speaks with the voice of my Buddhist teacher, who is the embodiment of kindness.

I also remember something you told me, Tara – that my inner critic is the guardian of my comfort zone. So whenever that critical voice gets loud, it’s a sign that I’m getting close to the outer gate of the territory I already know and near to something new. And that excites me and reminds me to call on that inner cheerleader to help me keep going.

For many women, fears come up when they start playing bigger, or even when they contemplate playing bigger. What fears have come up for you along the way and how do you move past them?

Like many women, I’ve internalized the idea that femininity equals humility, gentleness and grace. So when I began to play big and to amplify my voice, my work and my ideas, I was afraid people would think was too proud, loud or arrogant.

I moved past those fears largely by watching the women I admired - Helen Clark, Horia Mosadiq, Suraya Pakzad, Michelle Obama, Jane Goodall, Eve Ensler, Seane Corn, Natalie Goldberg and many others – all be criticized, at some point, for being too loud, proud, or arrogant.

I realized that being criticized comes with the territory of playing big as a woman, and that rather than playing small to avoid criticism, I could choose to play big anyway and make sure I had good support and self-care in place for when that criticism arrived.

How do you think about risk-taking and failure?

I think there’s nothing really worth having in life that comes without risk. Loving someone is a risk. Every creative endeavor is a risk. All forms of social activism and change work involve risk, and they rarely work out the way we expect them to.

I’ve learned to think of my life as one great experiment. So what I might otherwise have deemed to be a ‘failure’ now becomes a ‘result’ of my latest experiment, and produces new data for me to take on board. This way, there are no ‘failed’ experiments, just unexpected results and the chance to learn.

Soak up more Marianne goodness at http://marianne-elliott.com. And check out the next round of 30 Days of Courage, an online guide to bravery in action, starting on 4 August. Find out more about the course here.


giving yourself permission to learn

My son is learning to use his hands. Yesterday, we were sitting on the big green rocker, with Goodnight Gorilla before us, and he was working to get his hands to touch the page. He missed and tried again dozens of times, occasionally plopping his palm clumsily — but intentionally — onto the page. There were shouts of effort and whines of exhaustion. There was lots of trial and error. Over the past few months, he’s learned to do dozens of things this way.

I’d forgotten — or maybe never fully realized — how much effort and failure is involved in learning anything. It’s hard to remember that after years of school, when we are typically “taught” something by a teacher — but not necessarily by practicing it–and then, from our first attempt, assessed for how good we are at it. We come to think about whether we are “good at” writing or “good at” math or “good at” sports – rather than seeing ourselves in a process of learning. Wouldn’t it be interesting to get to write 5 practice term papers – with feedback but no grade that “counted” – before we got to write the one that did?

Many of you know that I’ve been very impacted by Dr. Carol Dweck’s work, and her book Mindset. A Stanford University psychology researcher, the big idea of her work is this:

“In a fixed mindset, people believe their basic qualities, like their intelligence or talent, are simply fixed traits…In a growth mindset, people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work—brains and talent are just the starting point. This view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment. Virtually all great people have had these qualities.”

I personally spent too many of my years living in a fixed mindset and now try to remember that growth, learning, skill development, mastery from practice are possible. And at the same time, I’d qualify that with the caveat that we all have natural aptitudes and abilities that make learning more easy or speedy for us in certain areas.

What’s new for me now is getting to watch a baby learn and see how undeniable it is that:

1. Learning is a process. It takes time.
2. The beginning steps are awkward and clumsy.
3. Learning takes effort, and tires us out.

I want to give myself permission to learn like that – with a novice stage, with awkward, clumsy moves, with lots of failure and with lots of time — whether I’m learning how to download podcasts onto my phone (still working on that one), learning a new dance in dance class, learning how to manage a team well, or learning how to craft a beautiful chapter in a book.

I offer this to you today. Where in your life or work would you benefit from remembering how learning really happens-and that it happens? Can you give yourself greater permission to be a learner?


Want to share this post on twitter? I’ve made it easy for ya. “Give yourself permission to learn.” Click to tweet.

Take the break before you need it

The other day, my husband and I were out walking with the baby. I had been carrying our little guy in the carrier (one of his favorite places on earth) for quite some time. And we live in a very hilly neighborhood.

“Do you need a break? I can take him,” my husband said.

I thought about it for a sec. I didn’t need a break. I was doing okay.

“No, I’m okay.” I said.

So we kept walking. And then, maybe twenty minutes later, suddenly I really, really needed a break. And I was also exhausted and cranky.

Now I’m telling you, it has honestly taken me decades to finally have the thought I had next, which was this: “You can take the break before you need it.” You can take the break, replenish, stop whatever you are doing – when you still have fuel in the tank.


A few days later, we were out with the baby again, this time on the train. We were exploring, hanging out, and everyone was having a fine old time. I decided that was so fabulous that instead of getting off at our intended destination a few stops away from our home, we should ride the train out to the end of the line.

It was really great for the first 15 minutes or so. And then we all started to get tired, bored, and fussy. It was too much.

It’s hard for me to end anything – a work session, a conversation, an outing – while still energized and up for more. It’s hard for me to take a break before a break is non-negotiable.

It has something to do with my passion and exuberance for life, yes, and I appreciate that in myself. But it also has something to do with how exhaustion numbs me from the present. If I stop doing whatever while I’m still alert, energized, then, by definition, I continue being alertly-present to my moment-to-moment experience. And sometimes I want to run from that.

Last week some friends were visiting us, with their toddler son. The little guy loved to watch our dog eat and would yell “more! more!” when our dog was done with his food. My friend, his wise mama, would explain, “He’s all done. He had enough. It was enough.” I got to watch his two year old mind contemplate this abstract concept and try to take it in: enough. And I wanted to teach myself, just like that, with a patient, loving, maternal voice, “Tara, that is enough honey. It’s enough.”

I think I am still learning what enough is, and that it is. That you can declare yourself having worked hard enough for the day before your brain has slowed to a total halt due to exhaustion. That you can declare it enough hours doing childcare and take a break even while you are still enjoying yourself and have the stamina to do more. That you can declare it enough of a lovely evening with friends before all your energy for conversation expires. That you can quit while well-resourced, still alert, still enjoying, eager for it all to happen again.

So I’m going to try this for a while, and I invite you to try it with me: to take the break before you need it. To quit while you are ahead, in a sense. To experience the mysterious side of life I know little about – doing things lightly, in moderation, with buffer.

Right now, I have twenty minutes before I have to pack up the computer and head home from this cafe. The old way? Spend the next twenty minutes polishing this post or doing a couple more tasks. After all – I have a teeny bit of stamina left. I can.

The new way? Pack up now. Stroll for a bit, and give myself some extra buffer time for getting home before my next appointment.

I like it.

Do you take the break before you need it? Do you want to? Tell us in the comments.