Do We Really Have to GO BIG On Our Dreams?

Photo by Renee Fisher.

Have you heard about the concept of playing bigger?

As a woman who is into wellness, marketing, art, writing, feminism, and business, I feel like the "play bigger" mantra gets repeated around me quite a lot.

Dream it and do it!

Go big!

Make it happen!

I'm supposed to have a vision for where I want to be and then go to that place, and it is supposed to be a BIG place.

What does big mean? Influencing large groups of people. Selling millions of copies (or very few copies at a coveted high price). Being visible. Being sought after. It means massive email subscription lists, network television, TED Talks, Shondaland, Cheryl Sandberg, Instagram Influencers, and six figures.

This is, it often seems, the right way to live a meaningful life as a feminist: to go BIG. Which is too bad, because BIG also seems to mean that nothing is ever good enough. Because once you get to your first BIG place, you can see other, bigger places and need to go there.

Don't get me wrong. I like working hard. I like having a project or goal and pursuing it. I like developing productivity and organizational systems and working at them every day, seeing incremental growth that sometimes leaps ahead.

I get a lot of joy out of that.

But you know what I don't get a lot of joy out of?

The sense that my accomplishments are what define me.

The push that there always has to be more.

The need to monitor and tally up engagements, followers, likes, and sales to measure success.

Comparisons to others who are hustling harder, doing more, or who just started in a more enviable position than I did.

I know what the "play BIG" response to this is: your goals while playing big should be your own. Big is what you want it to be. Playing big is about YOU and no one else. It's about following your heart and just going for it. Just go for it! DO IT!

You're supposed to track the things you can control, not the things you can't. Have process goals, the work is the reward.

Except for the implicit, or often explicit, statement that follows, "and then when you are truly living your mission and doing the work, the people and the money will follow."

Which is just not true. If simply clicking into your mission in life led to money, power, and fame, we would live in a very different world.

Also, why do I want money, power, and fame?

Literally, the only reason I may want those things is that I live in a world that prizes them. That more money, power, and fame are ultimately supposed to give me some kind of freedom and happiness.

We all know that's not true. We know that pursuing freedom and happiness through money, power, and fame is a trap. But it is a trap that comes with room service, high thread-count sheets, speeches that sound very empowering, and the ability to be taken care of when we are very old, which are all very appealing.

The problem is that whenever I set out to pursue a goal that could lead to any of those things, I might start off feeling jazzed to work towards it, but I very quickly am left feeling insecure, comparing my "numbers" to others and waning in motivation.

The play BIG mindset would say that I am letting others define success for me and letting fear get in the way of my true work.

Honestly, this is possible. I have always waffled on really laying it all on the line and going for a dream. Instead, I tend to do just enough to get into it without actually risking anything.

Sometimes, this seems like enough. I don't need to go big on one particular dream. I am happy to have a life that lets me dabble without pressure or expectation while also having the stability and satisfaction that comes from my other, more steady work. It seems like the best of both worlds.

Other times, it seems like I am selling myself short, letting fear drive, and missing out. Or even just like I have a full-time job and then another job and that's a lot of working.

Usually, the second feeling strikes when I have seen someone else's life and compared mine to it. The first feeling comes when I am feeling the need to simplify life or feeling particularly secure in myself.

I'm sure there is a middle ground here. Or maybe there's a radical way to live that rejects the premise entirely.

What do you think? Is the "play big" mantra the capitalist patriarchy disguised as feminist empowerment? It is the real deal and shying away from it means shying away from your true potential? Or do you just take the parts that you like and ignore the rest?

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