Leaning in or leaning out. Opting in or opting out.
Something has been missing from our collective conversation about women’s careers.
It’s the foundational step upon which everything else depends.
It’s the step in which a woman courageously sets aside what mom, dad, Aunt Sue, her boss, her thesis advisor, and the lady down the street think of as success. It’s the step when a woman asks herself what she really wants.
It’s the step when even if she hears “I don’t know!” she doesn’t turn away from the question, but listens to the whispers and follows the clues to find the answer.
It’s the step when she defines her dream for her life.
I don’t care if she plays big on the world’s terms. I want her to play big in going for that dream.
The answer might be, “I want to leave corporate life and become a therapist. It might be, “I want to close my therapy practice and work for a business.” It might be, “I want to take the kids on a year-long adventure abroad.” It might be, “I want to mentor a young person who really needs support.” It might be, “I want to take the crumpled pages out of the file drawer, and this year, write that book.”
True playing big can be defined only from the inside out. It might look like something the world recognizes as “playing big” or it might look like something other people would mistake as playing small. What defines playing big is not prestige, title, salary or even size of impact. It’s about going for your real dreams.
In a world where definitions of success were developed without women at the (conference) table, it’s no surprise that a woman’s playing big will not always align with those traditional images.
I’ve worked with women for whom playing big is getting the promotion, and I’ve worked with women for whom playing big is turning down the promotion, to pursue the work that means the most to them instead. I’ve worked with women for whom playing big means becoming financially independent, and I’ve worked with women for whom the most radical playing big choice is not – for once in their careers – being driven by financial factors.
What’s fascinating is that the core process, the steps taken, are the same for these women. It’s always about learning which voice inside to listen to, how to sustain motivation and clarity, and how to take quick, experimental action that gets us moving forward.
So here is a question I invite you to think about today: if we define playing big this way, as courageously going for your dreams, what might playing big mean for you? What dream hasn’t been attended to or respected so much by you and could use some love?
In what area of your life would you love to play bigger?
The Playing Big book is available for preorder now. Learn more about the book HERE. When you preorder the book, you’ll get all kinds of bonus goodies from me: videos to support your playing bigger and access to live Q&A calls where you can ask your questions and learn from other women’s stories.
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