Are You Playing Big?

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It might sound like a small whisper, or perhaps like someone shouting into a megaphone, but whatever the pitch, is there a voice inside telling you that it's time to up your game? And, if so, where to begin?

Tara Mohr, women's leadership expert and speaker, can help you get started. Her new book, Playing Big: Find Your Voice, Your Mission, Your Message, offers sage advice that begins with first changing how you think about yourself, understanding the difference between paralyzing fear and motivating fear, visualizing the future you want, and ultimately how to take action.

Not next year or next month, but now.

Mohr's concept of playing big is about defining your own vision of success beyond climbing the ladder to more promotions and money. Playing big is both professional and personal. Mohr believes that instead of listening closely to our inner wisdom (which is always there), we tend to second-guess or even tune out this wisdom, letting obstacles like fear, and making way too much time for our inner critic, get in our way.

While all chapters deliver helpful insights, one of my favorites focuses on attachment to praise and avoidance of criticism. When asked about how to receive negative feedback, Mohr told AOL Jobs "First, remember that the feedback tells you about the person giving the feedback; it doesn't tell you anything about yourself. Feedback is useful information that tells us about the people we want to influence, reach and engage."

She then gives the example that if "...your boss tells you that you were unprofessional when giving a presentation, that doesn't tell you anything about yourself, but it does tell you about what your boss sees as unprofessional. Knowing the feedback tells you about your boss, not you -- you can listen to it, reflect on it, and incorporate it, without getting defensive or going on an emotional roller coaster with it."

There's also a great chapter on communicating with power. Mohr gives great examples of ways in which we diminish our impact when trying to say what we need to say. Using disclaimers such as, "I'm no expert," or "This is just an idea" are no-nos. Why not say it straight out and see what happens? Another is using "Does that make sense?" at the end of your thought. And, of course we can never (ever) fall into the "uptalk" trap, when a rising tone is used instead of simply stating what you want to say. Period. No question mark.

Mohr wants her readers to stop waiting for the perfect moment and take a leap. This means inviting a little vulnerability into your life and playing bigger right now. She recommends committing to a simple task that can be completed in 1-2 weeks. It should get your adrenaline flowing and put you in contact with your intended audience. The key is to put yourself out there, get some feedback and, most importantly, interpret your feedback to help you keep moving forward.

And, hopefully, start playing big.
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