I had a chance to have a cup of coffee and share some wisdom with Tara Sophia Mohr, an expert on women’s leadership and wellbeing. A writer, life coach and personal growth teacher, Tara was in town from San Francisco preparing for “Playing Big” a 6 week online leadership program that is based on her lifelong passion for helping women’s voices be heard.
After going through her own lost period in her twenties, she reclaimed her interest in the arts, psychology and women’s issues and combined it for a new direction. While she had a Yale degree and a Stamford MBA behind her and was immersed in a satisfying non-profit career ….she had a nagging feeling she wanted more out of what was in front of her:
“I was coming up on 30 and I could see how the next 20 years could fly by. You can see that one next step on the ladder and the next raise and next promotion. I thought I could do this forever and it wouldn’t be horrible… but I could definitely get to the end of my life not doing what I wanted to do or what I came here to do. So I started the process of reclaiming all that things that had gotten lost — from spirituality to writing and theater. The things I could never really do in competitive academic environments because it was way too intimidating for me. I started to admit that it was important to me to take a step in that direction to getting at what was at the core of me.”
That first step led her to get certified as a life coach and embark on a career that includes writing and teaching personal growth based on the tools and principles that have worked for the women she coaches as well as what helped her change her trajectory.
I first became aware of Tara when someone sent me her 10 Rules for Brilliant Women. An awesome read and great advice for all 20-something women to start using now.
I love rule #6: Question the voice? that says “I’m not ready yet.” It’s about not turning down opportunities because you think you need more preparation, expertise, or training. That is something that I have certainly done. Just last year I was offered a last minute opportunity to participate in a panel at SXSW interactive when someone (with more experience than I) had to drop out at the last minute. My first reaction was, ”I’m not sure I’m the right person for that.”
Then Rachel Sklar of The.Li_st and Change The Ratio, and active supporter of women standing up for what they deserve, told me under no uncertain terms that I was ready. Period. I was doing it. Then I had no choice. Thank you for the push Rachel! To this end, Tara’s Rule #6 and her Playing Big Leadership Program are designed to help you question that voice that says, “I’m not ready yet.”
Tara also thought rule #8 was especially relevant for 20-somethings:
“Filter advice is a really important one. Do not assume that just because somebody is older or successful in their field that what they’re saying is right for you. You always have to check the advice internally. Does it resonate with you? You’ll know when something lands and you say, ‘Yes, that feels right’ versus something where your gut says, ‘I’m not so sure that is right for me.'”
She encourages young women not to swallow advice wholesale. Always question what is right for you. That rule resonated with me as it’s why I started this blog. I never set out to give advice per se. I always try to give multiple perspectives on a situation so women can get a better sense of what feels right for them. 40:20 Vision is a platform to hear different perspectives so you can decide what’s right for you rather than what’s expected. I think that is what Tara’s program is all about …it’s not giving you the answers but helping you find your own answers.
Beware The Voices in Your Head
The problem is when we let other voices rule our lives rather than listen to what we truly want. It’s easy to do with our parents, teachers, friends and the media all having an opinion…but the worst voice is often our own inner voice.
One tenet of “Playing Big” is to stop listening to our inner critic. Tara’s program goes beyond awareness that we have an inner critic to teaching the tools to silence our inner critic. I have to be honest I am not a big fan of a lot of the spiritual / self help programs that I see come across my radar (last week I was invited to join a online program that promised to help me live orgasmically …and they were not talking about sexuality). I’m sure their message is great but Tara’s philosophy spoke to me in a more grounded and empowering voice.
In the end, it’s about “getting to know yourself.” I would have to say that is the underlying gist of what most 40-somethings “know now that they wish they knew then”. Some women naturally begin to drown out their inner critic by their 40s but for many it’s a journey of therapy, relationships, and taking time to pay attention to yourself. Call it spirituality or what you will – it’s the ultimate me time.
Tara believes in a combination of inner work and tactical tools to get at your “playing big”:
“In the beginning of the Playing Big program, I have more of my life coach hat on and we’re talking about inner critic, inner fear and your inner mentor. Toward the end, I have my Stamford MBA hat on and we’re doing negotiation training and communication training and the tools you need to actually do it. If you give people the tactical without the inner foundation, they can’t use those tools because the underlying system is broken.
Knowing that both New Yorkers and 20-somethings share a tendency for impatience or instant gratification (who has time for spirituality someone once asked me), I asked Tara why it’s important spend some time on getting to know your dreams and how to know if you want to “play bigger”.
“It actually determines what happens moment to moment in your life. If you are being run by your inner critic; if you don’t have the compass for the woman you’re trying to grow into; if you don’t know how to deal with fear; you are simply not going to be able to play big in your career because playing big means stretching yourself. And whenever you stretch yourself, you go out of your comfort zone. Fear and your inner critic are going to come up and you need tools and skills to deal with both – if you want to be in-charge, rather than your fears or your inner critic being in charge.
Your ‘playing bigger’ can mean something different than the world’s definition of ‘playing big.’ The world’s definition may be about title, status and money. For women, Playing Big often means authentically going for your dreams. Maybe that means leaving your corporate job and becoming an artist where you will make less money and have less status but know that at a soul level that is absolutely your playing big.”
I found that Tara’s goals are quite similar to mine…getting rid of the negative “noise” in your head and amplifying your voice in both your professional and personal life. So enjoy the 10 Rules for Brilliant Women. If you are interested in her Playing Big program starting in April, check it out here.
Thanks Tara for a fun and enlightening conversation!
More about Tara here.