Tara Sophia Mohr | wise living

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

a thousand times before

I have always been afraid of giving birth. I was afraid of it before I became pregnant. I was afraid during my pregnancy. And I was very afraid.

I’ve always thought of myself as someone who was competent in the realms of the mind and the heart but not so competent in the realm of the body. I saw labor as part of that physical realm — the ultimate challenge of corporeal endurance, courage, and acumen, something that other women (athletes, mountain climbers) could cope well with, but not me.

Over the course of the pregnancy, the fear diminished a little. It got better because I talked about it and listened to friends’ labor stories. I trained in labor breathing and relaxation techniques, and that helped me feel a little more secure. And it got better as I found a balance point — learning information that helped me feel more empowered, more safe, but not overwhelming myself with too much of it.

By the end of my forty week term, I was less afraid, but still afraid, still feeling that labor was something that other women could pull off but that I, for sure, could not.

Needless to say, it’s more than a little stressful to get to the end of a pregnancy feeling that way.

I was sitting on my purple yoga mat at the pregnant-lady-yoga-class I’d been attending for months. First let me say, I had come to have tremendous admiration and respect for the teacher. She was a midwife and had delivered hundreds of babies. She’d raised two of her own. She’d taught yoga to tens of thousands of pregnant women and new moms. She was extremely knowledgable, and she was hilarious. Her pre- and post- natal yoga classes were institutions in San Francisco. I always got a little flustered and quiet around her because I thought she was just so cool.

While we were all in our poses, she stopped by my mat. Quietly she said to me, “Is this your first baby, Tara?”

“Yes,” I said.

“I can’t believe that,” she said. “It just seems like you’ve done this a thousand times before,” she said.

I was immediately blushing, and on could nine.

And then I had the thought, “You can act as if that’s true.” And suddenly, then and there, I decided I had done labor a thousand times before. And the minute I thought that, I found a part of myself who had done it a thousand times before. It was like she raised her hand and said, “Here I am.”

I can’t tell you what part of me that was. Perhaps it was the part that is connected to every other woman on earth. Perhaps it’s a part of me that is older than my thirty-some years, a part that has, in other times, given birth. I don’t know what part of me it was but I can tell you that part was right there to say, “Yes, you have done this before.”

For the next few days, I kept feeling what became a soft, energizing, accessible sense of “you’ve done labor a thousand times before. This isn’t new to you at all. You aren’t a beginner, you’re old hat at this.” It was the precise opposite of how I’d ever thought of myself in relationship to labor.

That was my last pre-natal yoga class. Two days later, contractions began. And it turned out, yes, I could do labor, and did. All through the experience, I called on the part of me that had done it many times before.

There were, for me, three lessons in this:

1. It’s worth it to tell other people the goodness that you see in them. On the right day, at the right moment, your words might change how they see themselves. Click to tweet.

2. Act as if. Most of the time in life, we are in the process of becoming. We want to become more brave, or more forgiving, or more grateful or more confident or whatever it is. Instead of waiting to be that, we can simply try on the thought that we are that, and then act as if it were true. “I’ve done labor a thousand times” or “I’m totally qualified for this role” or “My artwork has an adoring fan base.” It’s not about being delusional, it’s about changing your behavior, upping your game, by giving yourself a new frame within which to operate.

3. And third, perhaps most mysteriously, if there is something in your life you feel lost about – maybe you feel like a novice, or like you have no idea what you are doing – maybe it’s labor or marriage or shepherding a loved one through the end of life – or maybe it’s something in your work or creative life – find the part of yourself that’s done it a thousand times before, the part of you that is bigger than your body and older than your life. I don’t know what to tell you as to how to find her but I know it has something to do with calling on her, and feeling around inside for her.

When you let her lead, I learned, she’ll take you just where you need to go.

Love,

Tara

what’s your threshold?

First things first, I’m excited to tell you: The Playing Big book is written! It’s in to the publisher. Advance copies are making their ways to magazines and media outlets now. Publication date, October 14th, 2014. It’s so damn exciting. I’m proud of it, I love it, and I can’t wait to share it with you. More soon.

***

So here’s my question for you today: how often do you say, “I don’t know”? And when do you say it? And why?

The research finding is this: women hold themselves to a higher threshold of certainty before offering an opinion on a topic, as compared to men. In other words, in order to share an idea, information, a guess, women tend to think they need to be fairly sure they are right, in order to speak up. Men hold themselves to a lower certainty threshold.

Maybe this is one of those things we didn’t really need a study to tell us?

But it’s good to remember. And it’s especially important to remain aware of the second research finding: Because of that high certainty threshold, women will often say “I don’t know” if they aren’t sure of the answer, or sure what they think. They will often pick the “I don’t know” option on a multiple choice test.

But…here’s where things get really interesting: When there is no “I don’t know” option that women can choose and they are pressed to give an answer, they are right just as much as the time as the dudes. If the “I don’t know” option is available, many more women than men will choose it, and so both they and their audience will never find out that the women really did know the answer.

When I first wrote about this, a couple years ago, the finding had shown up in a study about women and men’s financial literacy. The initial study gave men and women a multiple choice quiz about finance, and the results showed men had higher levels of knowledge about the topic. But in the second version of the study, when the “I don’t know” option was removed from the multiple choice quiz, the gender gap in performance significantly narrowed.

Now the same finding is showing up in regards to political knowledge, and is even skewing political poll results, according to this recent New York Times article.

Sometimes, of course, being conservative when we aren’t sure about something is a good idea. We are mitigating risk, being conscientious of how flippantly offered opinions or faulty assumptions might negatively impact others. But, the findings tell us, overall women underestimate how often their uncertain leaning, is right.

So, next time you feel tempted to retreat into “I don’t know,” go with your hunch instead. Click to tweet.

Love to you,

Tara

have you had a day like this?

There are a thousand things I am learning from motherhood, but most of them, I am nowhere close to having words for yet. It’s all too new, and coming at me too fast.

But there was a lesson this week I think I may be able to wrap some words around. It was a day when my whole day was with the baby. No calls for work, no childcare helpers coming over, and papa-bear was busy with some other stuff. It was a gorgeously long stretch of the little one and me.

A million times that day, things didn’t go according to my (even very loose) plan. Feedings and sleeping didn’t happen when I thought they would. Crying, explosive-outfit-ruining pooping (you get the whole truth here, people) and fussiness happened when I didn’t expect it.

About midday, I had the blessed thought: “the point of this day is just to have a nice, peaceful day. That’s it.”

Oh my gosh. When was the last time I’d really been able to say that to myself? Not for a very long time. Because in the past, even my fun days, my relaxation days, had some sort of agenda attached to them. A vision of how I wanted it to go, or a thing that was supposed to happen: we were going to go here and do that, to cook this meal or check out that new cafe.

But on this particular day with the bebe, it became clear to me that if I did no more than one or two yoga poses in mom & baby yoga because yoga time turned out to be baby “lunch” #3 time, and if we didn’t make it to the park I’d imagined us going to, and if bedtime happened way too late because evening nap ran way too late…none of it mattered. At all.

The point of the day was to make each moment as connective and smooth and easy as possible, and that required some serious going with the flow. It was truly a day about being, and that was a little disorienting for me, because I rarely, rarely live days like that.

Days with no outcome other than than quality of the moments they were made up of. Letting go of expectation and sense of accomplishment, or at least really changing what accomplishment means.

It felt really good to release myself from so many plans and visions and shoulds, and do the day in the simplest way. And I realized that any day for any of us can be spent this way. A baby just gives you a kind of boot camp in detaching from outcome: you learn quickly that that if you are attached to a rigid plan, there’s going to be a lot more struggle and frustration in your day. But we can all learn that lesson at any point.

So I invite you to spend some time that is not about achieving any outcome. Spend a day focused on making each moment as smooth and sweet as possible by letting yourself yield to what is actually happening, internally and externally. Create a day that has no agenda, only moment-to-moment flow. Click to tweet.

Have you had a day like this in recent memory? Tell me about it in the comments.

and..since many of you have been asking – baby update below!

Love,

Tara

**

A baby update: Thanks to all of you who have been writing to ask me how things are with the baby! The answer is: they are so sweet. We have a thriving four month old boy now. He’s giggling, grabbing, and delights in putting anything and everything in his mouth. He loves being out and about walking around town. He’s a voracious eater and he’s been growing very fast. I’ve decided not to share pics on social media for now, but trust me, he is very, very, very cute. I’m actually getting a decent amount of sleep, and generally trying to learn how to take care of him and of me, and experimenting with how I want the balance of my time and schedule to work. Overall, yes, my heart has been fully captured. xox Tara

see it through

When I showed up at my first workshop to get trained as a coach, I was a dried up soul.

Honestly.

I had just come out of two years of business school, followed by a few years doing work that wasn’t what I really longed to do. A quiet voice inside had grown less quiet, reminding me about the creative, entrepreneurial career I really wanted. That voice had said, “Tara, just go get that coaching training. No matter what you do with it or don’t do with it, it will be good for your soul.”

It was. The very first workshop I took was led by two veteran women coaches. It had been a long time since I’d seen anything like the passion they had for their lives and work, or since I’d heard people talk about crafting their lives so intentionally.

In that coaching workshop, I learned to ask new question about my life. Questions like:

What do I really want?
What are my big dreams?
What would bring me joy?
What decision or choice feels most “resonant”?

It was liberating to ask these new questions. It was exhilerating to realize one could create one’s life around the answers.

And yet…there’s a shadow side to getting stuck in these questions.

I’ve begun to notice something I call the resonance trap. It shows up particularly among women who have done or are doing a lot of personal growth work. The resonance trap is thinking that what we do in our careers or in our creative lives always has to feel resonant. That it has to feel right, good. That it has to feel current.

This so gets in our way.

When I met Kim, she had just finished writing and recording an album of music. But, she told me, the songs just weren’t feeling resonant for her anymore…a new (yet unwritten) music project on the theme of motherhood was. She was so excited about this, she told me, and just couldn’t wait to dive into this project. The other album was about to get left behind. It no longer “felt right.”

Now, perhaps the traditional “coach” approach would be to encourage Kim to follow this burgeoning passion. But I was skeptical. Why? Kim had this sudden switch in interests just as she was coming to the point of getting her album out into the world. This is usually exactly when brilliant women sabotage themselves with the resonance trap: when things are starting to succeed, when they’ve finished the most difficult part of a project, or when their work is ready for greater scale and reach.

We get scared of the visibility. We get scared of success.

We have trouble reaping what we’ve sown. This is important: brilliant women like to sow, and sow, and sow, and then go find a new field to sow in…without ever reaping what we’ve sown. I know hundreds of women who have done it and I’ve done it a million times myself. We have trouble receiving the return on our investment, leveraging our work.

It drives me crazy, both because I want you to get to live the success you dream of, and because our world needs brilliant women’s ideas, creations, innovations, businesses, books, art, organizations AT SCALE. Click to tweet.

So please stick with it long enough to scale yours, my dear.

A part of us that is comfortable playing small wants to reinvent the wheel again so that we never actually have to step into success. Fear blocks our passion for whatever we are up to, and a fantasy of a new pursuit takes hold.

If you recognize yourself here, I invite you to make moment-to-moment resonance a low priority for a while, just as an experiment.

Commit to being a fabulous steward of the time and energy you’ve already invested, the direction you’ve already chosen to pursue. Click to tweet.

Make the most of that, rather than beginning again. Stick with it even though you feel resistance.

That’s what Kim did. She dug back in, fear and resistance and icky I-want-to-run-the-other direction feelings and all, and she finished the album she’d invested in. And you know what? Once she walked through the fear, she had a blast sharing it in the world, performing concerts, meeting her listeners, and stepping into the new identity of being a successful musician – not a musician dreaming of a hoped-for success.

Work through the fear rather than chasing the fantasy. Get to know the part of yourself that is not the creator of something new, but the excellent manager and amplifier and optimizer of what you’ve already created.

In other words, yes, stick with it. See it through.

Love you,

Tara

where are you in this story?

For me yesterday was one of those days when difficult thing piled upon difficult thing. I already felt challenged and then something happened to challenge me more. And then something else happened to challenge me more. Life was not conforming to my desires or expectations.

But I had just been reading about the hero’s journey and I heard myself think, “So yeah, I’m in the trials and tribulations phase of the hero’s journey.” That thought helped, a lot. So I share it with you here. If you aren’t familiar with it, the “hero’s journey” is the basic architecture of the story under most of the movies you see and the novels you read. It shows up so ubiquitously and is so compelling to us, the theorists believe (and I agree) because in some sense we’re all on a hero’s journey, or many hero’s journeys, in our lives.

Sometimes, it’s helpful, calming, healing even, to simply remember that, and put whatever you are experiencing in that frame. Here are the stages of the hero’s journey, with commentary from me on the life phase I associate them with:

THE ORDINARY WORLD. When life feels routine, when the status quo feels stable, but also a little dissatisfying, empty, or shallow.

THE CALL TO ADVENTURE. As Christopher Vogler puts it, “Something shakes up the situation, either from external pressures or from something rising up from deep within, so the hero must face the beginnings of change.” In our lives, this might be a call to an external adventure (“I feel called to run for the school board” or “I feel pulled to move away from this place.”) Or, it might be a call to a more explicitly inner journey, to finally heal the wounds of your past or change old behavior patterns.

REFUSAL OF THE CALL. This is important! The next phase of the journey is that the hero refuses the call! This is the part when you doubt, deny, fret, want to run away, say “no not me there’s no way I could do that,” and so on. Isn’t it comforting to know that’s a normal, built-in phase of the journey?

MEETING WITH THE MENTOR. Then, the hero finds some kind of mentor. Maybe suddenly you notice that an acquaintance is ahead of you on the particular journey you’re on, and can provide a model and some guidance. Or maybe an author becomes your mentor through the books she’s written. I can think of so many women authors who have been mentors for my journeys over the years—Marianne Williamson for my first journey into having a spiritual practice, Geneen Roth for the journey into letting go of emotional eating, and so on.

Then, in the next phases, the heart of the journey happens, the in the trenches part. You cross the threshold, away from your familiar status quo and into a new and special territory of the journey. There are trials and tribulations and tests. The hero encounters many challenges and one peak challenge—”the ordeal” in which she confronts her greatest fear. We can’t skip the trials and tribulations phase, or the ordeal. It’s part of the journey.

And then, the final phases begin. There’s some kind of treasure or reward that the hero gains after overcoming the ordeal. If the adventure is a career change, maybe the treasure is the new job. If the adventure is reclaiming your long lost love of painting, the reward is your renewed painting practice. If the adventure is forgiving your ex, perhaps the reward is that relief and release.

In the hero’s journey, the hero then works to bring the treasure home, back into ordinary life. In our lives, this phase is about moving toward integration of whatever new experiences, learnings, or external changes the adventure has brought. Interestingly, this is usually a perilous mission during which there’s a risk that the treasure will be lost. Maybe in your first week painting again your self-doubt or crazy schedule causes you to almost stop. Or you show up at the new job and it’s not clear its the right fit, or that you can do it. There’s some sort of other test, giving the hero the opportunity to recommit, in some sense, to the new way. It’s like the gaining of the treasure has to be reconfirmed, underlined, restated.

And then there’s the return, back home. Back to everyday life, back to more of an equilibrium. The hero returns with, in Vogler’s words, “some element of the treasure that has the power to transform the world as the hero has been transformed.” I love so many things about that sentence. First, that sometimes we don’t bring back the whole treasure, but only some element of it. And second, that what we bring back—a lesson, an insight, a creation—can then be used in service.

We are all on the hero’s journey. Click to tweet.

I know for me, sometimes it helps to see my life through this lens. (Some people view the hero’s journey as a masculine journey, and there are some great thinkers like Maureen Murdock, Jean Bolen, and Clarissa Pinkola Estes writing about the heroine’s journey—a different map of growth and change. I think we take both kinds of journeys—that the distinction is more about inward looking vs. outward looking journeys than men’s vs women’s.)

Where are you in the hero’s journey now? Are you hearing but refusing a call to adventure? Are you in the thick of the adventure, facing trials and tribulations? Are you in the phase of the return, re-integrating what you’ve learned or what’s changed into your ordinary life, and letting it be of service to others?

Love, Tara