“There is no passion to be found playing small — in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.” — Nelson Mandela
“Your playing small does not serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.” — Marianne Williamson
“A champion is afraid of losing. Everyone else is afraid of winning.” — Billie Jean King
“Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.” — T. S. Eliot
How do I know you’re playing small in your life?
Because, we are all playing small somewhere in our lives.
Your circumstances will constantly encourage you to play small.
Social pressure will constantly encourage you to play small, even after you’ve started playing big in one area of your life.
Maybe you finally stopped playing small with your finances.
But now, you’re playing small with your health.
Or, maybe you started playing bigger with your health, but now you are playing small in your relationships, or in your career, or in your spiritual life, or in a key hobby you love.
So, the question becomes…
Where are you playing small in your life right now?
How do you stop playing small?
By speaking up.
By stepping up and challenging yourself — over and over.
I will tell you how to *keep* playing small…
You have to learn to be less agreeable.
You have to see yourself as the person that you can be, and know inside yourself that you can and want to be that person.
What It Takes To Stop Playing Small In Life
Figuring out how you are playing small, and then changing your behavior, requires honesty, self-reflection, and taking action.
This is harder than you think.
Humans are terrible at recognizing weaknesses in themselves.
A study from Stanford University reported that people rate themselves as significantly less susceptible to biases than an average population.
Even when confronted with the fact that they are just as susceptible to biased judgement as the larger population, people insisted that they were better than everyone else.
It’s tough to evaluate yourself honestly.
But, to see where you are playing small, you need to self-reflect without being self-serving.
When you are playing small, you are limiting yourself.
You are limiting the expression of yourself to avoid conflict or to fit in.
The Solomon Asch experiment is a great example of how limiting yourself is harming your life and keeping you small.
In this experiment, every participant except one was a planted actor who knew the true nature of the experiment.
The actors were instructed to give incorrect answers to very simple questions that involved matching black lines on white cards.
The real subject, who was the only one not aware of the real experiment, was asked each question after hearing the planted actors’ answers.
The real subject consistently and knowingly answered incorrectly, against clear visual evidence, in order to fit in with the group — up to 36% of the time.
That means up to 36% of the time, the subject was willing to compromise their own judgement and agree with others who they knew were wrong.
This is what playing small does.
When you are playing small, you are trusting the judgement of others over your own.
How To Stop Playing Small And Start Getting Big Wins
So, how can you figure out where and how you are playing small in your life?
How can you stop playing small?
How can you get those big wins you want?
Here are 3 steps for learning how you are playing small and putting it to a stop…
1. Ask yourself, “Where are you playing small?”
You are playing small in your life.
So, the question is, where are you playing small in your life?
That’s what you need to ask yourself.
Remember: questions direct our focus.
If you ask this question, you will find where you are playing small.
What do I mean by playing small?
Maybe playing small means being quiet when you know you have an answer.
Or, maybe there’s a time when you want to speak up, but you don’t and you think, “Well, I’m just gonna be quiet because I don’t really want to address the issue.”
Or, maybe you don’t want to get into a conflict or think things are better left unsaid.
How do you get promoted at work?
By speaking up during meetings, by disagreeing with the boss, and by not agreeing.
Study after study shows that people who are agreeable fare worse in life and fare worse in business — especially in business.
You have to learn to be less agreeable.
This means not playing small.
This sounds a little bit fluffy, but all of us have seen somebody do something on TV or in sports and we feel a certain emotion… a powerful emotion.
We don’t quite know where to put it, and we think we’re just inspired for the moment.
But really, what we’re feeling is a desire to do something like that.
Don’t censor that feeling.
You’re feeling your desire to be seen for who you really are.
This is your desire to reach greatness in some area of your life.
Instead of trying to suppress this feeling, recognize it as a place where you are playing small.
2. Be a little bit belligerent.
We are conditioned to being agreeable in everything that we do.
Sure, you don’t want to be a jerk for no reason.
You don’t want to be completely belligerent.
But — how about maybe being just a little bit belligerent?
Maybe if you were just a little bit belligerent in your life, your life would be a lot better.
Where could you be a little bit belligerent?
Where could you speak up or afford to mouth-off just a little bit?
(Obviously, with substance to back it up.)
Where could you speak up at work?
Where do you know your boss has no idea what he or she is talking about and you could add something to the table?
Where can you give them a different perspective, but you’ve been keeping quiet?
Maybe you have a colleague or somebody at home that is just negative all the time, always complaining — blah, blah, blah.
Why don’t you put them in their place?
Maybe a little bit gently but, again, just be a little bit belligerent.
Being a little bit belligerent can go a long way.
3. Achieve integration of yourself into all aspects of your life.
A lot of times, when we rise up in one area of our life, we shrink in another.
This doesn’t have to do with prioritization.
It has to do with limited thinking.
Many people think that in order to be successful in one area of life, you have to give up on something else in another area.
They think you can only play big in one area and that you have to play small in another area.
Because, you don’t want to cause conflict in too many places at once.
You can, and should, go big in all areas of your life.
Never play small.
It’s not a trade-off like you have been made to believe.
You want to achieve perfect integration of yourself, perfect expression of every side of yourself, in every area of your life.
But, as soon as you start being yourself and playing big, by expressing yourself in one area of your life, you tend to shrink in another area of your life.
Play big and integrate your actual self into all the areas of your life.
Remember — chances are, you are playing small with your life. Here’s how to stop. First, ask yourself this question: Where am I playing small? Next, get belligerent — just a little bit of belligerence will go a long way. Finally, play big and integrate your actual self into all the areas of your life.
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