267: Managing Self-Doubt to Tackle Bigger Challenges with Tara Mohr

By February 28, 2018Podcasts

 

 

Tara Mohr offers deep insight into how our fears and inner critic operate–and how to optimally respond.

You’ll Learn:

  1. The key drivers behind fear and self-doubt
  2. A handy Hebrew distinction for thinking about fear
  3. How to consult your inner critic–and inner mentor–wisely

About Tara

Tara Mohr is an expert on leadership and well-being. She helps people play bigger in sharing their voices and bringing forward their ideas in work and in life. Tara is the author of Playing Big: Practical Wisdom for Women Who Want to Speak Up, Create, and Lead, named a best book of the year by Apple’s iBooks and now in paperback. In the book, she shares her pioneering model for making the journey from playing small–being held back by fear and self-doubt–to playing big, taking bold action to pursue what you see as your callings.

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Tara Mohr Interview Transcript

Pete Mockaitis
Tara, thanks so much for joining us here on the How To Be Awesome At Your Job podcast.

Tara Mohr

Thanks for having me.

Pete Mockaitis

Now, I learned something fun what about you, which is that as a child your dreams were analyzed each morning with your parents along with breakfast. What’s the story here?

Tara Mohr

Yeah, I think I was very fortunate to grow up with a mom who was very interested in psychology and self-improvement, and believed she could start conversations about those things with me as a young child. And so, at a very young age she would say, “Did you have a dream last night?”, and then she would ask me about it and she would explain to me that the different characters in the dream could be different parts of myself, or they were symbols. And she would get out a yellow pad and we would diagram it, and she talked to me about architypes. And that’s how I grew up; that was just one example of how she brought the kind of conversation you have on this podcast. I was really lucky to grow up with that as an everyday matter in my house.

Pete Mockaitis

That is so cool. Tara, last night I dreamt that I got shot by a gun twice in different places. One was in just a value priced hotel, and the other was in my childhood home, recovering from the first gun shot.

Tara Mohr

Okay, that’s very interesting. We could really dive into that. And how did you feel in the dream after that?

Pete Mockaitis

Well, I didn’t like it. Actually I woke up at 4:30 am against my will, and I was a little riled up. It took a while to calm down and fall back asleep.

Tara Mohr

Yeah. Have you ever heard the Buddhist phase “the second arrow”? Have you heard that?

Pete Mockaitis

Ooh, no. Tell me about it.

Tara Mohr

So it sounds very much related to what happened in your dream. So there’s this idea of, in life there are things that wound us, or there are feelings we have that are hurt, and that’s the first arrow. But then we often impose the second arrow of our reaction or the story that we make up about what happened, or the shame or guilt we have, or the self-judgments we have for having the feelings we have. So, that whole idea of being shot twice is interesting, and of course I would ask did something that hurt or wounded you, and then you went back in your literal childhood home or kind of in your family self? Was there something in the recovery process that wounded you further? That would be the first place I would look.

Pete Mockaitis

Well, nothing is leaping to mind, but I’ll definitely chew on that and see what happens as I explore, because we could spend a full conversation on that alone.

Tara Mohr

We could. And that’s actually dream interpretation, although part of my childhood is really not the center of my work now.

Pete Mockaitis

Well, tell us about your most recent book – Playing Big. What’s the main idea here and why is it important?

Tara Mohr

Yeah. Well, I found when I went into the working world, I had come out of graduate school, I had had the benefit of a good education, I was an academically-oriented and achievement-oriented person, and I was very surprised to find that I didn’t feel confident in those first years in the working world, I didn’t feel comfortable sharing my ideas or my voice, and I also wasn’t really going for what I really wanted with my career. I was kind of in a job that was fine but not great, but didn’t really relate to the creative dreams or the entrepreneurial dreams that I had for myself.
And I was really curious about why I was getting so stuck around that. And then I knew I wanted to do work in the personal growth world, partly informed by how I grew up, and I got trained as a coach and I started coaching people just in the early mornings before I would go to work, or sometimes in the evenings, on the weekends, around my regular job. And I saw again and again actually at all stages of career my clients grappling with the same thing – self-doubt, not trusting their ideas and their voice, not really going for what they really wanted to do and believing there was some reason they couldn’t.
And I got really interested in this question of why do we play small and how can we play bigger? And my definition of playing big is it’s being more loyal to your dreams than your fears. So it’s whatever that means to you. It’s not necessarily anything that would look “big” in the eyes of the world, but you know it’s the real challenge, the real work for you to live that life or do that work. It’s an individual matter of discernment. And so I started to make that the focus of my coaching practice – how can people play bigger in that way, what are the tools and ideas that help us?
And I found there really were a set of things that made a transformational impact. And so that became kind of an arc that I would take my clients through, and then I started teaching large groups that all around the world, and then it became the topic of the book. And now for 10 years of really being immersed in working with people around defining what “playing big” means for them, and then most importantly doing the day-to-day practices and work to bring that vision into reality.

Pete Mockaitis

Okay, cool. Well, I like that simple distinction then – more so about your dreams than your fears. And it really kind of puts into focus in a hurry, in terms of what’s my thinking right now, the patterns, who’s sort of got the upper hand. And so, I’d love to get your view then, when it comes to these fears or lack of confidence and self-doubt, what are some of the key drivers behind it? Why is that there and what should be done about it?

Tara Mohr

Yeah. Well, I think that we all have a very strong safety instinct inside of us. And the safety instinct is a primal part of us that is a very deep part of our wiring to be on the lookout for any possible danger or threat, and make sure that we avoid it or we fight it, right? And our fight or flight instinct is there to make sure that if we see any possible risk to our survival, we go into fight or flight mode and we make sure we’re conquering in some way, or we’re avoiding.
And what we know now is that in our contemporary lives that same safety instinct gets misapplied to the emotional risks in our life. So, the safety instinct that should be very conservative and over-reactive if it’s trying to ensure the physical survival of people who are threatened by lots of predators or warring tribes or poisons, as our predecessors were – that instinct is now operating when we face everyday risks, like the risk of failure, the risk of feeling really uncomfortable, the risk of worrying.
We might feel like a beginner or feel clueless or be embarrassed or do something that really rocks the boat among our friends and family. And that safety instinct then tries to do everything it can to get us to stay in the comfort zone of the known or the familiar, and that includes making up a lot of narratives that feel believable but then aren’t true, like, “You aren’t qualified for that. Who do you think you are? You’re not enough of an expert in that. There’s too many other people doing that.” All those inner critic narratives we hear are really manifestations of the safety Instinct.
And the good news about that is it means that our inner critic is not going anywhere. And I know you have many listeners who are a little bit more in the earlier phases of their careers, and I think it’s so game-changing to understand early that confidence doesn’t actually come in an enduring way with experience.
There was just a study done through KPMG that looked at confidence levels among professional women, and they looked at how many women early in their career would say they’re confident, and then how many executive-level women, senior women, would say they feel confident in their work. And the difference between those two groups was only about 10%, in terms of how many indicated they were confident.
In other words, experience didn’t change it, because when you get into a new senior role – sure, you’re more confident about some things that you did a long time ago and you’ve been doing for a long time, but you have a new edge, and the voice of the inner critic and self-doubt comes up again because that safety instinct is perceiving more emotional risk, no matter what the situation. And so we’re really not looking to get rid of the inner critic or find some unfailing sense of confidence. The “playing big” process is in part about learning how do you hear your inner critic, let it be there, know it’s always going to be there when you’re doing important work, and just not take direction from it.

Pete Mockaitis

Okay, thank you. So that is powerful, to assimilate that really inside your psyche there. The inner critic, as you said, it doesn’t go away – the KPMG study is pointing to that. And in a way, that kind of unmasks everything.

Tara Mohr

It does. And there are so many lies we tell ourselves. We tell ourselves, “Well, when I get to this stage in my career, then I’m going to feel confident.” We also tell ourselves, “If I get that additional certification or degree, then these uncomfortable feelings of self-doubt or uncertainty or fear will go away.” We tell ourselves, “If my weight changes and it’s this amount, then I’m going to feel confident getting up and sharing my point of view in front of a group.”
We fill a lot of things into that blank, and what we’re really doing there is making it convenient for ourselves to put risks on hold, put playing bigger on hold, put really stepping into our gifts and using our natural talents and gifts more, which is actually a very vulnerable thing – put that on hold thinking something is going to come along that’s going to bring confidence. But it doesn’t. And what we want to do is really learn to work effectively, live effectively with the voice of self-doubt, letting it be there but not taking direction from it, not letting it make our decisions.

Pete Mockaitis

That’s so powerful. And so then the implication is that you’re going to feel some lack of confidence and some self-doubt till the day you die, right?

Tara Mohr

Hopefully, right? And I say “hopefully” because it comes up most strongly when you are on the edge of your comfort zone. So for those who might be sitting there right now thinking, “I don’t really hear my inner critic that much”, I would ask you two things. One – make sure you’re looking across all areas of your life, because sometimes people think, “I’ve kind of got it down at work”, but then they’ll realize, “Oh my gosh, in my dating life, or in my parenting, or my body image” or, “I’d love to play music again but I have that voice in my head saying…” So look across all areas of your life.
But second – notice where that lack of inner critic is just kind of a dead-end part of your life, where you are not pushing yourself to an edge, you’re not doing what really matters to you, you’re not being loyal to those dreams. The inner critic will come up when there’s vulnerability, and so if you’re doing something that is 100% in your comfort zone and routine to you and not very important to you, you might not hear it, but that’s not a good thing.

Pete Mockaitis

Okay, I’m with you there. And so then, I also want to get your view – now, there’s a bit of a postponement factor – the way that the inner critic can sound, in terms of, “Hey, if this changes – if I lost the weight, if I got the certification, if I had a certain preparation – then I would feel confident.” And so now, for the most part that seems like that is often a lie. It is a deception that is destructive, but at the same time there are times in which no, you really are not prepared for that opportunity or that dream that you’re thinking about, and some action, some preparation is necessary to get there. So, I’d love your view on, how could we prudently discern the difference, and what’s a wise means of thinking through that, so that you get the valid prep steps done but you don’t delay yourself till it never happens?

Tara Mohr

Yeah, yeah, and it’s so funny that you are asking that specific question, because I just got off of our course call and we were exactly talking about this piece today. So there’s a few things I’d offer around that. One is, pay attention to the evidence that you’re getting from the world. Are you getting clear repeated information from the stakeholders that matter to you, that you need more preparation? In other words, maybe you want to offer a support group for moms, and you do a trial day where you invite a few moms in your community to come together, and you put together a great little program for them or whatever.
And then you hand out feedback forms and you notice there’s really a theme on the feedback forms, that people felt like they wanted more content or more expertise. And you hear again and again that your audience is asking for a different level of preparation and knowledge for you – okay, then you have some evidence. But most people never get to that stage of even asking their intended audience for information. They make up a story in their head and it’s usually a convenience story that allows them to hide a little bit that they need to do a lot more preparatory work. So that’s one piece – is it coming to you in real information and evidence from the outside world?
A second is, what’s the energy that you have or the beliefs that you have around that preparation? If you notice that in a very sort of joyful, light, abundant kind of energy you feel like, “I’m going to go learn more so I can do even more here, and this is going to be an enriching process for me” – that can be a great thing to follow. But if you notice that you’re feeling, “I don’t know enough until…” or, “There’s no way I could contribute any value until…” – the sort of like “This will complete me.” It’s like the equivalent of the romantic “He or she will complete me” feeling. Notice that, and that’s kind of a clue that you’re probably putting a story there that is more about fear than about the external thing itself.
And then a third thing I would offer is… A real issue in our culture is that we tend to put all the emphasis on expertise, and have a kind of cultural narrative that the people who contribute value around a topic are the “experts”. And that’s a view that’s really enforced by our educational system, reinforced by our educational system that says if you want to do something in X topic – if you want to do something around history – go get your degree in history. If you want to do something in serving kids, go get X degree. We’re looking for, what information do I need to absorb to be able to contribute value on that topic?
And that is certainly important, and you’re talking to someone who really values education and has a graduate degree and I believe it’s very important that we have those places to get expertise and we have experts in our culture. But on any given subject there are people contributing value as the expert. Let’s take for example breast cancer. So we have our experts who have PhDs in breast cancer treatment and prevention and rehabilitation and so on. And they’re playing a certain role.
But then we have other people – we have people who are survivors, who have different insights and a different sensibility and can contribute something different, in terms of sharing a message, inspiring people, improving upon services, innovating. The experts can never bring what they can bring.
And we have other people who I would call “cross-trainers”, who come from a completely different type of expertise – maybe they come from the design world or the business world or the activism world, and they can take their lens and their expertise and look at a new topic. And because they don’t have formal training in it and they’re bringing a fresh lens, they add value in a different way. And I think we really deemphasize those things.
So that’s another question when you’re discerning, as you’re asking, Pete – do I get more training? Part of it is, who do I want to be? Is my calling to be the expert on this, or is my calling to contribute value in a different way? And really we can’t discount how significant the value is that people contribute, who are coming from that cross-trainer or survivor perspective, not from the formal expert perspective.

Pete Mockaitis

Oh, so much good stuff. Okay, so we’ve amassed a big lie, we’ve got a nice distinction here associated with, is preparation necessary, and some indicators how the inner critic can be a useful indicator, in terms of maybe pushing harder toward the edge. So, that’s a lot of great stuff. So now I’d like to zoom in sort of in the heat of battle. You’re trying to do some bigger things, and tell us, what are the particular fears that arise and your pro tips for responding to them?

Tara Mohr

Well, I’ll share a little bit about how I look at fear. And in the book I call this “a very old new way of looking at fear”, because I’m drawing here on two terms that are actually Old Testament, ancient Hebrew terms. These are two words that are used in the Old Testament to describe types of fear. And when I came across these I kind of fell off my chair, because I felt like they were so illustrative of what I was seeing with my coaching clients, but I had never heard about them before. So let me walk you through the two.
So the first word is “pahad”. And pahad is defined as the fear of projected things or imagined things. So this is when we imagine the worst case scenario of what could happen. It’s when we project the movie of how things might play out. And most of the fear that you and I and our friends and colleagues experience on a day-to-day basis is this, right? We are imagining a potential outcome and feeling afraid. It’s an anticipatory feeling; it is not usually about what’s happening right now, in this moment, but about what we fear could happen.
We know – not from the Old Testament but from all the biological and neuroscience research that has come since – that this kind of fear is generally over-reactive and misleading. We know for example that when we learn to fear a particular thing through conditioning – let’s say we get bitten badly by a dog and then the way the human response to that works is we learn to fear being bitten by a dog. We also know that we have a very generalizing response to that experience, so we won’t just become afraid of that dog; we might become afraid of dogs in general.
And in the foundational experiment that was done on this in the 1920s, they could actually see how by priming a baby to be afraid of a small white mouse… The baby initially was not afraid of the white mouse, but then they paired it with a very loud startling noise, and so then the baby started to associate the two and would see the mouse and would have a fear response. But then the baby also became afraid of a white rabbit and a white cotton ball and a man with a white beard.
This is what we’re also doing in our adult lives, right? Whether that’s you had one negative relationship experience and now you’re generalizing that a certain type of relationship or a certain type of person – you’re going to fear that. Or maybe you did something in one professional environment that was met with really painful feedback, and then you come to fear a whole set of associated things. So that associative quality of our fear response means that fear misleads us, because of course that white rabbit and the white beard and the cotton ball are harmless, as are many of the things we come to fear.
Another way fear misleads us is that we learn what to fear not just from our own experiences but also by watching what the people around us fear. And that of course happens in early childhood for a lot of us, and happens in problematic ways because many times the fears that those around us have are based on their own false stories. So all to say when we have pahad kind of fear, we do not want to believe it or let it be in charge; we need to know, “Okay, I’m in pahad, I’m in that anticipatory fear. It is probably not accurately guiding me and I want to shift myself out of it.” And you can do all kinds of practices, whether it’s calming your nervous system through meditation or shifting into another energy. I like whenever I’m afraid to just focus on, “What can I be curious about in this situation? What can I get really interested in?” Because if you’re in curiosity, you can’t simultaneously be in fear. So we always want to be looking at shifting out of pahad.
Okay, the second kind of fear that is mentioned in the Old Testament is something we really don’t talk about in our culture, and the word for that is yirah, is the ancient Hebrew word. And that has three definitions. Yirah is what we feel when we are inhabiting a larger space than we’re used to. It’s what we feel when we suddenly have more energy, when we come into possession of more energy than we normally have. So think about in your life, like what lights you up, what fills you with energy, your passions, using your gifts, telling your truth – whatever gives you that infusion of energy. That kind of exhilarated, scared feeling that can come with that – that’s yirah. And the third definition is this is what we feel in the presence of the sacred. So in fact when Moses is at the burning bush, yirah is the word used to describe how he feels when he’s at the burning bush.
So this was very significant for me to see as a coach and as a human being, because I understood that when I was working with people and they really told the truth about what they wanted, or they made a momentous decision that really resonated with the core of them, this was the feeling they felt. And it did include fear; it also had awe and exhilaration in it. And yirah is really different that pahad. We don’t need to shift out of yirah; we kind of need to learn to tolerate it and breathe into it and not find it such an electric infusion of energy that we block it or numb out or avoid the things that bring it. So that is the framework we use in the “playing big” model for working with fear.

Pete Mockaitis

Well, it’s so interesting when you say yirah, if I’m pronouncing it correctly. When you say “inhabiting a larger space”, this is kind of both literally and figuratively?

Tara Mohr

Exactly, exactly. So certainly when people step onto a bigger stage, speak to a bigger audience, maybe stand at the front of a bigger conference room, or whatever that might be. There’s literal spaces and then there’s the figurative, like I am reaching more people or I am being willing to take up more room. You can look at it that way as well.

Pete Mockaitis

That is so cool, because I really do find if I have a speaking engagement and I arrive there early, I actually love it. When I’m in the room and it’s completely empty but there are hundreds of seats there, there is a sensation – and now I’ve got a word for it, thank you – and I love it. It’s just so full of possibility. And it’s interesting you say “presence of the sacred” because it does often prompts me to pray – not because I’m terrified, but it’s just like there’s a bigness to it, and that’s just sort of a natural response for me. And that’s so cool and I think really eye-opening, because maybe my personality is I’m just like, “Oh yeah, I love that. Bring it on! I want some more of that in my life!” But you’re saying that for many of us, “Oh no, that’s just too big and I can’t even sort of abide there for very long without getting into maybe like a freak out type of sensation.”

Tara Mohr

Yeah, that’s what I find, that it’s both wonderful and it often feels wonderful when we’re in it, but there is a quality to it of, it’s a heightened state, it does take us out of our comfort zone a bit, it does have that component of fear or almost breathlessness in it. Sometimes it asks us to change, right? Like you could imagine that if you were in a different career and you were only doing speaking once a year or every 18 months and then you felt that feeling when you were speaking, when you were doing public speaking –that’s telling you something about your life and your career, which you may or may not want to hear at that point, because it might ask you to make some changes that require courage or trade-offs and so on. And so we do sometimes try and block the yirah or turn away from it.
I think also yirah, for a lot of people there’s kind of transcendence of the self that comes with it, and you may find when you’re doing that public speaking, you get into the zone, you get into flow state – you kind of lose the sense of Pete and you’re one with the words or you’re one with the audience. And then at the end it’s like, “Oh, where did I go? I went fully into that.” And that happens for a lot of people. The things that bring them yirah – they lose their normal sense of self while they’re doing them, and that’s that flow state, that kind of immersion, what Martin Seligman calls our “gratifications”. And that can be a little bit threatening to our ego sometimes, because our ego likes to be, “I’m Tara”, “I’m Pete”, “I’m in my mundane sense of self.” It doesn’t really like that transcendence of self, and so that could be another reason we resist it.

Pete Mockaitis

Okay. Excellent, thank you. So then you say that’s kind of the different prescription then, in terms of with the projected things and fear. It’s a matter of, “Hey, slow it down, calm it down.” And with yirah the big stuff is being able to hold on for a bit.

Tara Mohr

Breathe into it, lean into it, notice what brings you it, pursue those things. Yeah, exactly.

Pete Mockaitis

Okay. So now thinking more a bit about self-doubt and it popping up – you say that confidence is not the prescription or the answer to self-doubt appearing. Tell us a little bit more about that, and what is?

Tara Mohr

Yeah. Well, just as we were talking about before – if confidence isn’t coming and if the inner critic is always going to be speaking up when we are on the edge of our comfort zone, we certainly don’t want to wait on confidence to do our most important work. And instead of looking for aiming for confidence, I believe we need a new relationship with our self-doubt. And so that has a couple of components. The first is being aware when you are hearing your inner critic.
For so many of us the inner critic is the background noise that we live with, it’s the music that has been playing in our head for a long time, we don’t even hear it anymore, it’s the water that we’re swimming in. It’s like, “Oh yeah, yeah, yeah, I’ve never been good at that kind of thing”, “Oh, those people over there are the ones who have it going on and I’m the outsider, “Oh, my body this and that” – whatever your inner critic lines are, many of them become just so habitual you don’t hear them anymore, or you hear them as those are true facts.
So step one here is starting to be able to notice and name your inner critic, so that in those moments you can say, “I’m hearing my inner critic right now.” Now, a lot of times that’s enough; it’s just like a mindfulness practice. That’s enough to let you go, “Oh, if I’m hearing my inner critic, then that’s certainly not the part of me I’m going to listen to.” But sometimes we do need a secondary tool, and there’s a whole range of things that can be effective – sometimes for people creating a character that personifies the inner critic so they can actually see, “Okay, my inner critic sounds like the perfect housewife”, or the stern old mean professor, and really getting a visual, so that when you are hearing your inner critic line you see it as coming from that character. And all of a sudden then there’s humor and you can have perspective on it.

Pete Mockaitis

What are some names that you’ve heard given to inner critics?

Tara Mohr

Oh gosh, all kinds of things. I feel like there was a year there where everywhere I would go and speak, the inner critic was always a Downton Abbey character. I’m trying to think of the name. The evil folks downstairs in Downton Abbey, and Harry Potter characters, and sometimes it’s a random name that comes to people and then I always have to hope there’s no one else in the class with that name. Sometimes they won’t write it down because it’s their colleague from down the hall and they don’t want that their worksheet from the program is seen by anyone later. So yeah, creating a character can be useful.
I really like using another tool, and I’ll share an example of how I used it for myself. When the Playing Big book was coming out, about six weeks before the publication date, I got an email from my editor at Penguin and she said, “Oh Tara, great news – we’ve piqued the interest of the editors of the Sunday Review section of the New York Times. They’d like you to write an essay based on Chapter 6 for their consideration for the Sunday Review.
So I see that and my mouth kind of fell open because I didn’t even know they were pitching them, or I had no idea that was even on the table. And my very first thoughts were, “Oh no, this is going to be a huge waste of time. I have an actual book launch to prepare for and a lot to do, and now I’m going to have to spend all this time writing this piece, which we know is never going to be published, because people who write for the Sunday Review section sound very grown-up and articulate in their writing, and Tara, you know you’ve never sounded that way.”
That was what the voice in my head said. And that voice and those thoughts pretty much stayed cycling that way for a few days. And then there were some other ones that got added in, like, “You can’t write about this for a co-ed audience because the book had been directed at women”, and, “There’s no way you can translate that chapter’s topics into an op-ed; it won’t make sense.” I had piling on every problem and excuse.
And on about the fourth day of this, somewhere there was a little graced thought that flew into my head that said, “You know, Tara, maybe that’s your inner critic talking.” Now, this is like a primary subject of the book that I had just written, but it took me four days because in our own minds the inner critic always sounds like truth. But on the fourth day… And that’s what I think we can get with practice – it might not be immediate but it didn’t take me six months at least. On the fourth day the voice said, “Maybe that’s the inner critic.” And of course internally my response was like, “No, no, no, it can’t be the inner critic. There’s no way you can pull off this piece. Your writing and your voice is just not mature enough.” But another voice said, “You know, this kind of sounds like an inner critic.”
And then I used this tool, which I love, which is to say, “Well, what does my safety instinct not like about this situation?” Because I know that my inner critic is always going to be a strategy of my safety Instinct. So, when I asked myself that question: “What does my safety instinct not like about this situation?”, the whole picture looked so different to me. I could suddenly see, “Wow, this is basically the worst nightmare of an emotional safety instinct”, because in one scenario here I’m going to write a piece that my editor thinks is not good and I’m worried she’s going to write back and be like, “It’s not good enough; I can’t pass it on”, and that’s going to be painful. Another scenario is the New York Times editors say that, and that will be painful because that will make me feel like I don’t measure up.
And even in the best case scenario, what’s my big reward? It’s that 3 million people are going to judge what I write and have opinions about it. And that’s scary for a part of us, for sure. And it can be especially, I would say, even more so often for women, because we are really socialized to not rock the boat and not do things that bring criticism. And I knew if I write an op-ed about some of these issues in the New York Times, they’re some controversial topics, there’s going to be a mixed reaction.
So then I could see, “Okay, I get it. I get what my safety instinct doesn’t like here.” And I’m going to lovingly parent that part of myself and say, “I get it. This feels really big and scary to you. We’re going to be okay. I’ve got this, and you’re allowed to be here with all these fears, but there’s another part of me that wants to be in charge here – the part that loves writing, that wants to get these ideas out, that likes taking a seat at the table in this way.” And that allowed me to proceed.

Pete Mockaitis

Beautiful, thank you. That’s a great illustration, and talking about the second arrow – coming full circle here. You’re beating yourself up maybe, associated with, “I’m supposed to be the expert on this and I can’t even…” There may be a risk of some self-judgment even when you’re trying to apply the tools and are aware of this wisdom here.

Tara Mohr

Yeah, and luckily I do. That part I feel very clear on, and I would offer that to people too, that I never have felt I need to be an expert on these things and be flawlessly playing big in my own life. I feel the opposite – I feel the only way I can stay interested in these topics and have something relevant to say about them is if I’m really grappling with them and I am compelled around these topics, because I’m a fellow traveler. And so I proudly use all these tools myself and always try and work my own playing big edges myself.

Pete Mockaitis

Awesome, thank you. Well, Tara, tell me – is there anything else you want to make sure to mention before we shift gears and hear about some your favorite things?

Tara Mohr

I do want to mention inner mentor for a minute, because I think that’s such an important topic, and it’s really kind of the antidote to the inner critic; it’s the other voice in us that we talk about a lot in Playing Big. And the idea with the inner mentor is that rather than always seeking external mentors and looking for that person out there that has the answers for you, you come into contact with a sense of your own older, wiser self. And so in the book we do a guided visualization, so you can meet yourself 20 years in the future.
And what people find is they don’t just meet their older self, they sort of meet their elder, wise self, their authentic self. And then you can really consult and dialogue with that part of you as a mentor. And it is absolutely the best mentor you will ever have – all its answers are customized for you, it is always available to you. And so, that’s just been such a powerful tool and I want to make sure people know about it, because I’ve watched it be really, really pivotal for so many people now.

Pete Mockaitis

That’s so interesting, and I’m right now imagining an older, wiser Pete with a cane, sitting on a log on an autumn day.

Tara Mohr

Well, we can do that right now. Yeah, so one thing that you are finding a
dilemma right now – just ask him for his perspective on it.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, yeah. Well, so the silence there… Yeah, I was just thinking about, I just have a new baby. Yay! My first son.

Tara Mohr

Congratulations!

Pete Mockaitis

Thank you. And so, I’m just thinking about, what’s prudent, in terms of kind of growing business without spending crazy hours, in kind of a way that would be troublesome for a family living. And so, it was only a few seconds, but what I’m picking up is the notion that there’s no need to sprint, rush, rush, do more, is kind of a wisdom nugget I’m starting to unpack there.

Tara Mohr

Yeah, and it sounds like… So did he kind of give you a vibe or a perspective around this question that was a little different than what you were holding in your mind before?

Pete Mockaitis

Well, kind of, yes. Because my instinct is to, “Alright, strategize, let’s figure out what is our optimal point of leverage”, as opposed to having a bit more of a calm, spacious, patient view of the matter.

Tara Mohr

Yeah. So Pete, it sounds like you tapped in really quickly, which is wonderful. Even without doing a longer visualization you could just call up a picture of him and then connect with a voice that was different than that of your everyday thinking, and that’s exactly it. And usually that inner mentor voice is more spacious, it’s more calm, it’s more loving, and it does give us something really different. I can’t tell you how many times people will come with like, “I don’t know, is it A or B? Is it A or B? And I’m stuck between A or B.”
And they check in with their inner mentor for a second and there is a C option that comes that they didn’t perceive before, that feels really right and gives them kind of a new path forward. So, it’s an amazing tool and it sounds like you have it right there at your fingertips. For people who feel like they need a little more help or if you just want to have a deeper experience with that, there’s an audio that you can use and a written form also in the book. But it’s a great tool to tap into.

Pete Mockaitis

That is wonderful, and I’m glad you highlighted it before we moved on to the next phase. And it’s so funny, I’m tempted – you tell me, is this a good idea or a bad idea – when it comes to the visualization, one of my knee-jerk reactions was, “Oh, I bet there is a website where I can put a photo of myself and see what I look like when I’m old.” And it was like, “Hm, on the one hand that could be interesting and help bring about a picture, but on the other hand, maybe I won’t like the picture.”

Tara Mohr

Yeah. I would say, let your subconscious mind do it because it’s sort of going back to our dream conversation – you’re going to see where this person lives, how they live, how they carry themselves. You want your right brain and your intuition to bring all that to you, rather than some computer-generated literal thing. So yeah, I’d say let your mind’s eye dream it up.

Pete Mockaitis

Perfect, thank you. Okay, cool. Well, now could you share with us a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

Tara Mohr

Oh, sure. Well, one of my favorite quotes comes from Marianne Williamson, and it is, “Ask to be a representative of love.” So, in any situation that you’re feeling stressed about… And I have used this in professional situations, including before I was an entrepreneur – very traditional professional situations – with amazing success and results, like going into a tense meeting where there was a lot of conflict and my prayer and inner intention was, I want to be a representative of love in the room. And what that allowed me to do was get out of myself and my fear and my ego, and contribute so much more value and be such a more helpful, mature voice in the room. So that’s always for me like a mantra, a favorite quote, a favorite practice.

Pete Mockaitis

Oh, thank you. And how about a favorite book?

Tara Mohr

I have so many, but I just finished one that I think is outstanding and that your listeners will probably really enjoy. It’s called Einstein and the Rabbi. It’s by Rabbi Naomi Levy and it’s really a personal growth type book that is just very compelling and helpful.

Pete Mockaitis

Oh, thank you. And how about a favorite habit, a personal practice of yours that helps you be awesome at your job?

Tara Mohr

One of my favorite habits is surrender, by which I mean remembering that I’m not supposed to figure it out all on my own. So when I’m feeling overwhelmed or unclear, I can very consciously say, “I don’t know. I don’t know what to do in this situation.” I physically open up my hands to the world, the greater space and say “Help!” And then I kind of go through my day with a sensitive listening for the insights and answers. And I find that that surrender and asking for help really changes everything.

Pete Mockaitis

Excellent, thank you. And if folks want to learn more or get in touch, where would you point them?

Tara Mohr

I’m at TaraMohr.com. And the Playing Big book is available on Amazon and everywhere that books are sold.

Pete Mockaitis

Okay. And do you have a final challenge or call to action you’d issue to folks seeking to be awesome at their jobs?

Tara Mohr

I do. I would invite everyone to circle back to that idea we started our conversation with, and ask yourself are you being more loyal to your fears or your dreams? And what’s one thing you can do today to be more loyal to your dreams?

Pete Mockaitis

Beautiful. Well, Tara, thank you so much for sharing this. I wish you lots and lots of luck in your coaching and your book and all the cool things you’re up to!

Tara Mohr

Thank you! Likewise.

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