How playing small hinders our lives.
Do you ever feel like you're not giving something your all?
Are you scared of being judged if you put yourself out there?
The feeling that we're holding back can be crippling for us. We desperately want to impact the world, but fear leaves us in the starting blocks. We're consumed with anxiety about what people will think or, worse yet, that we will fail!
I recently worked with a male client who wanted to change his career path. He knew what he wanted to do and how to do it, but he felt paralysed when taking action.
We spent a lot of time getting to the route of his fear, and he said something compelling:
"I used to be the little boy in the playground that got picked last for everything, and I feel like I'm still there".
For context, this guy is in his 40s, and he's a very successful businessman (and yes, I have asked his permission to share this story).
What may be surprising to you is that this is not an uncommon story. Many of my clients are paralysed by stories of their past that hold them back.
Now, I'm all for releasing the inner child in us when it comes to being present and finding joy. However, it's a different story when we're a 40-year-old kid still in the playground hoping not to get picked last.
If your decisions are constantly being made through that childhood mentality, then no wonder we freeze, get confused or overwhelmed.
Imagine if we let a 5-year-old drive us in a car. I'm sure they'd give it a good go, but it's not going to end well!
I'm not saying your past experiences aren't important. What I am saying is, let's let the adult drive whilst the kid is in the back seat shouting at us. We can choose whether or not we listen but ultimately, the kid doesn't have a say in how or where we drive.
So how do we step into our adult self, get off the warm-up bench and start playing the game?...regardless of what anyone thinks!
1. Have empathy - listen to what the childlike voice says as it will tire out. Like a child, if you keep ignoring it, it will just keep getting louder until you give it attention. It doesn't mean it's a source of truth. (My 6-year-old thinks he's The Hulk, it doesn't mean I let him shout at me and smash up the living room).
2. Acknowledge - where you're hiding out. Where do you only dip your toe in the water rather than demonstrating your best cannonball?! Where do you want to step up and have more impact?
3. Reflect - and ask yourself, "what would it look like if I really went for this?". Allow yourself to dream of the positive impacts this will have on your life. Your inner critic's voice will show up and tell you why you shouldn't do it, and that's ok. Again, have empathy and give that voice some airtime until it gets tired.
4. Micro action: Now, scale back and look at the first small step you can take towards stepping out of the shadows. Hopefully, those crippling negative feelings aren't so strong as it's a minor risk we're taking.
5. Do it! - Take action and then check in with yourself. How did it feel to step outside your comfort zone? It's likely to be a mixture of judgement and pride. Something like, "I could have done better, but it wasn't as scary as I thought, and I feel empowered." (Don't forget to congratulate yourself for doing it, no matter how minor the step feels. This is the first step on a big journey!)
If you seriously commit to being in the game, you will look back in a relatively short time and see a fundamental transformation. People think that radical change means radical action, and that's not the case; continuous intentional micro-action will get us there.
Let's agree to stop hiding out and playing small playground games. Let's call our inner child forth when we need fun and play but don't give it the keys to the car. The only question I have for you is; where are you going to drive?
If what I've shared has landed with you and you're struggling to take bold action in your life, I want to help you with that. Please visit this link to book a free 30-minute session.
Here's to your journey.