Tara Sophia Mohr | Playing Big

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

What I’m learning in London…


It’s such a privilege. That’s mostly what I feel, being here in London. I keep thinking about how rare it is to get to travel abroad, as a writer, and talk about one’s work.

It takes a lot to get a family with a one-year old to London. Getting everyone free of colds at the same moment, coordinating two grown up’s work schedules, and checking off a three-page packing list. I’ve learned that traveling with kids requires not only bringing a ton of extra stuff but also bringing a whole lot of flexibility, lightheartedness and creative problem-solving.

Some snapshots of my time here…

  • Standing in a brightly lit school auditorium and talking to a room of parents, teachers, and girls at a girls’ school here, being flooded with memories of my own early experiences at school…
  • Flying up to Edinburgh, Scotland, to speak at the Inspiring Women conference and falling in love with the beauty of the place. Watching the castle and steeples and wind from the hotel ballroom windows. Being moved to tears by the stories of the women entrepreneurs who spoke there…
  • Listening to three young people – in their early twenties – talk politics in the most insightful and witty way for a five hour train ride, and getting quite worried about our education system here in the US…
  • Going to the Women of the World Festival, and talking to the sweetest local chocolatier before heading into my session. Participating in a hilarious and delightful panel about the self-help genre, and then giving a talk to about 300 women about Playing Big. The festival was so woman and mama friendly – there were about half a dozen babies in my session, gurgling and breastfeeding throughout. Loved seeing how a conference could be so inclusive.

I’ve also been working on developing the Playing Big Facilitators Training while I’m here, and I’m so excited about it.

I have a few more events to do in the UK, and then I’ll be making my way home. I think I could stay much longer here…

Whenever I write a blog post, I write with a question in mind: how can this be of service to the reader? What’s the takeaway, the lesson, the point?

So what do I want to say about this trip in that vein? What comes to mind is how I couldn’t have imagined it. And I don’t exactly mean because it’s more wonderful than I could have imagined, but just that I never could have imagined the specifics of it. I couldn’t have imagined the personalities I’ve met – whether the train conductor or the people from my publisher here or the student journalist I spoke with yesterday. I couldn’t have imagined anything like what this street we are staying on looks like. I couldn’t have imagined this particular book, what ideas it would contain. I couldn’t have imagined any of it.

And of course, I could never have imagined the people that surround me now in my life who weren’t a part of it a few years ago – most remarkably the little red-headed boy that is so full of spirit and whose distinctiveness just keeps carving its way more deeply into my heart.

This is one of the mysteries we live with every day and so always forget to be in awe of. That life brings us experiences and relationships in wild specificity and unpredictability. Whatever is happening in your life right now, it is not something you could have imagined. That is something to be made speechless over, I think.

Sending love from London,

facilitators training 2

If you missed my last note about it, click HERE to learn more about my new Playing Big Facilitators Training for Coaches, Therapists, Leadership Development professionals and other practitioners who want to integrate the Playing Big model into their work.

the change in perspective that helps me

What is my soul here to learn-

“What does it mean to you to live a good life?”

Earlier this year, Jonathan Fields posed that question to me. It’s the very last question he asks his guests on his Good Life Project podcast.

I’d forgotten entirely that he would be asking me that question, and I hadn’t given any thought to what my answer would be. So in the moment he asked it, I had to stop and consider, “Hmm, what do I think makes “a good life”?

When I repeated the question back to myself, I heard an answer, fully formed, right away.

But I didn’t want to say it. I knew that the words I’d just heard in my mind weren’t very palatable or understandable.

I wanted my answer to be something like, “A life of loving and being loved,” or “A life of serving others while being true to oneself” — a definition everyone could agree upon and admire, something just mainstream enough yet just countercultural enough to be cool.

I considered giving one of those substitute replies, but of course, I did not.

I said what was in my head.

“A good life is a life in which your soul learns what it came here to learn.”

I know. It’s a bit opaque. It is disturbingly free of words like love or freedom or abundance or fulfillment or pleasure or connection. That’s what’s troubling about it, and what’s radical about it.

A good life is a life in which your soul learns what it came here to learn.

That is the deepest “good life” truth for me; that the real good life goes beyond the personality’s experience of ease and difficulty, wins and losses.

What I want to propose to you today is that there are two rooms in the house of your life, and in each of them a different play goes on.

In one room, there is the play of your ego. In this play there are things you hope for and want, and you celebrate when you get them or worry or complain or try harder when you don’t. There are events you deem positive and events you deem negative, often according to a rather narrow story of what’s supposed to happen, or our collective norms around what good and bad events of life are.

In the other room, it is as if a different set of characters are experiencing the same drama. They experience the same plot events of your life, but these entities experience it through the lens of the soul. In that room, it’s not about things being positive or negative. It’s not about wins or losses. It’s about the lessons being learned. It’s about the core questions being wrestled with. It’s about the polarities (self/other, order/chaos, active/receptive), being danced between, the balancing points between them being sought.

An example from my own life. A few weeks ago, I learned that, for some unpredictable logistical reasons, my carefully crafted childcare plan for the coming months was not going to work out. I was upset. I had my vision of what was supposed to be. I had my plan, people! And of course I had my beliefs about why the plan, as it was, was very important for myself and my family.

From my ego’s perspective, I had a problem.

A few days into worrying and complaining and holding this as a problem, I asked myself, “What if I look at this from the soul perspective?”

The ego experience of worry and “I don’t like this!” didn’t go away, but I could see a second view of the situation: that this particular problem was really forcing me deeper into questions of my mother vs. writer identity, of self vs. other, of consistency vs. change – questions my soul was already grappling with and is clearly here to grapple with this lifetime.

Remarkably, when I considered each other person involved in the situation, I could see how it, for them too, it was providing a kind of intensive curriculum in just the core issues I already knew them to be grappling with in this life time.

And when I think of the greatest tragedy in my life – a painful, ongoing issue  – from the ego perspective, I’m filled with frustration and pain. When I think about it from the soul perspective, I feel all that it is teaching me about compassion, acceptance and the costs of fear.

When we touch into the soul-room of the house and see the drama being played out there, the oddest thing happens.

We experience the difficult in our lives without the feelings of difficulty, even if just for a moment.

There is a gorgeous neutrality that the soul offers, instead of our comfort and discomfort.  That doesn’t make it all easy and smooth. The soul’s territory is one of wrestling, of layering and layering on experience to turn it into wisdom. That is gritty, rough, dense work.

But asking ourselves to see any situation from the soul’s perspective takes us out of the shallow story of life as a series of triumphs and misfortunes. It takes us into the richly dimensioned helix of experience, through which life teaches us the most important lessons our soul is here to learn.

You know you’ve tapped into the soul perspective when:

  • you see the connection between the experience and the big questions you have been grappling with for long time
  • you see the learning and growth purpose of the experience
  • you feel some distance on the pain and pleasure the experience is bringing you
  • you feel a sense of mystery, larger picture, and even the sense of being loved through the experience – even if it’s difficult

How to see the experience from the soul perspective? Start by asking the question, “What does this situation look like from the soul perspective?” or “What does this have to do with what my soul is here to learn?” See what comes.

Click to tweet, “Shift from ego perspective to soul perspective.”



goop, Senator Booker & Marin book event this Thursday


Last week was a super fun & energizing one for me – out of town friends in for a visit, a trip to Sunday morning dance jam with a group of my dear ones, and a lovely conversation about Playing Big, hosted by local journalist Lisen Stromberg, that raised funds for the Journalism & Women Symposium.

I woke up on Wednesday to the surprise that Senator Cory Booker had posted one of my poems on his Facebook page. I have no idea how my work got into his hands, but it was a delight!

Later in the week, goop, Gwyneth Paltrow’s lifestyle publication, published a Q&A article with me about the Playing Big book. I have been reading and enjoying their book features for years, and it was really sweet for me to get to be part of one.

You might have seen from my social media that we also did a live Q&A taking people’s career questions on the goop Facebook page on Friday, and I loved that! 30 minutes of intense, immediate question-answering. Kinda like a coaching lightning round. You can check out the goop article here.

For those local to the San Francisco Bay Area, I want to invite you all to come over to Book Passage in Corte Madera this Thursday, February 5th, at 7pm. I’ll be doing a short talk about the book, Q&A and book signing. I would love the chance to meet you and say hello. Hope to see you there.



Instead of Advice

I hear women say the word “advice” all the time. We want mentors who can give us advice. Advice-gathering is one of the first steps we take when starting a new project. In the women’s online discussion groups I am a part of, in the vast majority of the posts, a woman asks the group for advice, rather than for other kinds of support.

What’s wrong with that?

Women have been told a million times and in a million ways that the answers lie outside of them – in the right book, degree program, expert’s opinion. The subtle message is that the answer comes from a canon of knowledge developed largely by men, based on a man’s experience of the world.

Because we’re relationship oriented, we also often reach out for advice when a new calling feels scary or is outside our comfort zones. What we are looking for isn’t really advice, but a kind of reassurance that we aren’t crazy, that the path we are on is okay.

I don’t mean to beat us up for that. When we get scared, it’s natural to look into the eyes of others for reassurance. When we don’t want to make the wrong decision, it’s natural to look for guidance from those we respect. But maybe there’s a better way to honor those longings within us.

When we ask another person for advice, we’re essentially asking him or her, “What do you think I should do?” But no other person, no matter how brilliant or successful, knows what you should do. They’ve got their own path in life, their own unhealed disappointments, their own subjective view. They might know a good solution for you, but not necessarily the one that you are ready for or that fits with your particular makeup.

Today I want to share with you a few alternative kinds of conversations, ways we can honor our desire to engage with others, but that are – in my experience – more respectful to yourself and more helpful than advice:

Ask for their story & lessons learned. That means saying, “Here’s my situation. Have you faced anything like that? What did you do and what did you learn?” That way, what the other person is sharing is contextualized appropriately as what it is: their experience, not a prescription for yours.

Ask for information. Ask them for relevant information. “Do you know anything about this market/employer/investor/industry (whatever is relevant in the situation) that I should be aware of as I navigate this?”

Ask for a brainstorming session. “Would you be up for brainstorming some different directions with me? I’d love an outside perspective on the possibilities to explore.” Engaging a fresh, outside perspective to generate new ideas and help you challenge assumptions is a great use of conversation – and it’s very different from asking your conversation partner to choose the right direction for you.

Ask, Can you help me clarify where I’m at with this? There are few relationship-blessings as great as those in which you can actually say to that friend or family member, “Help me figure out what I’m already thinking and feeling.” In these conversations, the other person is listening, reflecting back to you what they hear, and asking a few good questions along the way. “You sound really frustrated about this – what’s the frustrating part?” or, “Is the challenge really x or is it y? I’ve heard you mention both.”

Ask them for resources, introductions, or other forms of tangible support. Note: studies show men do this a lot more than we do. They are busy getting stuff done for each other while we are giving each other advice.

What about when you are on the other side of the conversation? When you are asked for advice, you can gently steer the conversation to a more fruitful way of engaging, one that (happily) takes you out of the position of having to know the right answer.

What’s your experience been with these alternative kinds of conversations? When have you followed others’ advice that didn’t really apply to you (you later learned…)? Do you share my sense that advice-focused conversations aren’t as helpful as these other kinds, or have you experienced the opposite? I’d love to hear – if an advice-conversation has ever made a huge positive difference for you, what was it that was so helpful?

Click to tweet: Women, what if instead of giving advice, we did this?

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Give It Words

In my last few posts, I’ve been writing about transition – what it is, what’s hard about it and what’s wonderful about it.

When I wrote that first post about transition a few weeks ago, I was steeped in the hard side of transition – the fog, confusion, the loss of an old self. Now, much of the time, I’m swimming in what is rich and exciting about transition – new ideas, new possibilities, the greater vividness and intensity of life that comes with phases of change.

One of the things that made difference – that made the exciting parts come to the fore, and the harder parts fade to the background, was taking care of myself in the little ways. I’ve been spending so much more time with people I love, and taking the time to get out and do my work in beautiful cafes – doing the little things that nurture me.

The second thing that has made a big difference happened right here. Writing about how I was feeling really helped. When I sat down to write that first post about transition, I didn’t know what it would be about. I wasn’t even yet using the phrase “I’m going through a transition.” I just knew I was feeling disoriented and sort of sad.

It was in the writing process that that idea – oh, transition - arose. It was in the writing process that truths about what I was experiencing came to the fore. Then I had some clarity, some concepts, to frame and understand my experience with. That helped.

Then remarkably, just a few days after writing, I shifted out of the state I had written about, and into the next phase of my transition. What had been stuck for a while finally moved.

Have you ever had the experience of writing something down, or speaking it aloud to someone else, and then feeling like as a result, it somehow lost its aliveness? Maybe you told a friend about a precious experience and then suddenly felt like it lost its magic. Or you told someone about a new idea you were feeling super passionate about, only to find afterward you felt inexplicably less passionate.

This is the negative side of how language can de-activate ideas and feelings, or cause them to expire. But there is a positive side too. As we find words for something, that something is changed by being named. It is moved from something formless and unprocessed in us to something processed, drawn out of the ether into form. It then takes a new shape in us, an evolved form, or simply moves onward, allowing space for the next energies to arise within us. From our perspective, this feels like we move through the thing, like what was “up” for us before just isn’t anymore, like we’re on to the next question, feeling, struggle, possibility.

It’s tricky, because we can also get in our heads with language. When we’re over-thinking, obscuring the truth, getting lost in intricate and irrelevant rationalizations or arguments, language is one of the star characters of the show. But that’s when we use language to try to declare our decisions, say what’s right, say what’s wrong, or define the future. When we use language simply to give words to our present moment experience, we tap its power as an accelerant of movement, a way of out of stuckness. It will never allow us to rush through or avoid what we need to experience, but it will us moving forward.

That’s not the only power of language during times of transition. For me, naming my experience, putting concepts and words to it, also gave my mind and ego enough of a foothold that I then could allow transition to happen in a different way. And it gave me a way to validate and connect with others around my own experience, which in itself was healing.

Sometimes we forget that language itself is a kind of gift for us human beings, a blessing, here to help us crystallize, draw forth, pieces of reality. It is hear to help us liberate what is inside of us, move it outward, and then let it go.

We can always remind ourselves about the gift of language, and ask ourselves: Am I fully using the gift of language – whether spoken or written – to help me move through your experience?

I think I’d make this one of my own top guidelines for transition: Talk about it. Write about it. Give it words.

When you sit down to write about it or talk about it you might feel like you don’t have any words, like you don’t understand a thing about what’s going on. That’s okay. Say that. And then see what words come next. The process is what brings clarity.

I’ve been loving thinking and writing about transition so much that I’m hosting a free call on Moving Through Transitions with Grace, this Wednesday. I’ll be sharing some of my favorite ideas and tools for times of transition. If you did not get to sign up last week, you can sign up to attend live or get the recording HERE.