When we allow others to set our agenda, we tend to end up playing what I call “a small game”. What, even if those others set us huge, challenging goals? Yes: if we’re simply playing the game of following others, that’s still what I’d call a small game.
When you play your Big Game, you’ll experience the thrill of daring to stretch far outside your comfort zone, the deep joy of following your passion, the satisfaction of contributing to the world in ways that only you can, to projects that matter enormously to you. Others will be inspired just looking at you, though you’ll be so busy doing what’s important, you won’t in fact be terribly worried about what others are thinking of you.
As a coach, a big part of my commitment is to help clients see and get outside the box of their usual small games, to live richer, more exciting lives according to their own unique mix of values, dreams and abilities. And to live this satisfaction now – not in some far-off future.
I’d like to illustrate a bit, using the 9-dots puzzle you see above. The task of the puzzle is to intersect all 9 dots with just four straight lines! As I progress through trying to solve it – trying to fit those lines into the box – there are a number of predictable voices that crop up. In coaching, we call them Saboteurs or Gremlins, and they represent the small, safe, familiar agendas I am prone to succumb to:
I hear the task-master, urging me to “Hurry up! Get it done!” and the school-girl saying “Oh, I’ll never figure this out!” and the quiet voice (the one I’d never actually say out loud), “Oh, really. Who cares?” My chief Saboteur (I call him Horst) predictably says: “Just wait.” These are small agendas: Perform! Be smart! Conform! Don’t show weakness! – and there is certainly a time for all of these actions.
But the reason I use this puzzle as an illustration is this: it’s a trick. There is no way to draw four straight lines in that blue box, which traverse all nine dots! The puzzle is impossible when you work within the box! To solve it you must go outside the box! (there are actually several such solutions.)
Likewise, in my life, contentment will elude me as long as I play the High Performance game, the Supporting My Family game, or the Meeting Expectations game. As long as I see my fulfillment coming from these small agendas my true joy in following my passion, and my unique contribution to society, will suffer as I contort myself to fit into these boxes dictating what I “should” do and be.
The good news is that these “shoulds” are always self-imposed – we internalise these “sensible” voices and forget that they do not come from our place of passion. We sigh, and say “I have to” or “I know I should…” but these constraints are, in fact, self-imposed and self-accepted – and we are free to change our stance in these matters, starting right away!
Your Bigger Game is likely much simpler – and much more powerful – than what’s on your resume. It’s probably much, much richer than all your dry “shoulds” and so much more exciting than meeting expectations. There is no home-vs-office trade-off in your bigger game: there is room for everyone you love, and rather than competing, the elements of your life support one another, because they all stem from one deeply personal vision. Your bigger game is already in you – perhaps it goes by names like “I wish..,.” and “on a good day…” and “… maybe when I retire.”
How far outside your box must you go? That’s a good question… and one that makes sense only from inside the box. When you start to live from your passion, you become a citizen of a much bigger world and the boxes start to fade. There is no “inside” and “outside” because you are free to design all areas of life into a harmonious whole. Solving something small like the nine-dots puzzle presents fewer problems, because you have a whole world of possibilities to consider.
Our world is in trouble, in so many ways: from the micro level of individual health and family to the macro level of environmental shift. We simply cannot solve these problems while stuck in the safety of our familiar boxes. Albert Einstein said it well:
“You cannot solve a problem from the same consciousness that created it. You must learn to see the world anew.”
I invite you to see your world anew. Which voices are you allowing to call the shots? Do they keep your game safe and small? Do they support your heart’s desires, or defer your dreams?
In the end it is all simplified when driven by the answer to this question:
What is your passionate, courageous, and uniquely significant Bigger Game?
Your Bigger Game awaits – and once you get outside the box, there will be no stopping you! I can’t wait to see what you will create!