Yesterday the family (five us) spent some time just being together and sharing what we were happy to share about our lives. I found myself laughing when my younger son was sharing his encounters and experiences at school: it was not the content that ticked me, it was the way he was being and how he was expressing himself. At one point all of us were laughing and I could see that my younger son was enjoying the relationship – our laughing had him laughing. Then the laughter died – at least inside of me. How? Why?
My son mentioned that he was going to the taking the foundation course in English. There is nothing to that statement – it is just words. Yet, that is not what the mind (I hesitate to call it my mind as I do not own it and I do not control it, it controls me and in that respect i belong to it) made it mean. Straight away my experience was that of disappointment and anger. Given that was the case, what do you think I said? I found myself listening to the following: “I don’t care, do whatever you want, it’s your life!”
Reflecting on that experience I am present to the fact that I lied. I made that statement to persuade / convince myself that “I do not care, do whatever you want, its your life!”. Why did I need to convince myself? Some part of me cared deeply about what my son studies and how well he does. And that part was disappointed that my son had not stayed with the original course: it listened to the foundation course as a lesser course and listened to my son as someone who does not have high standard. Once I got what had occurred and that I was the source of my experience all of my disappointment and anger just flew away (instantly) and I was left with “What a jerk I am when I am playing small!”
If I was ‘Playing BIG’ I would have owned my experience and been truthful. I’d have said: when you said “I am doing the foundation course in English” I noticed that disappointment and anger were present in my world and I noticed that my stomach tightened up as if I was going to be sick. That tells me that I have a point of view on what course you should be taking in English. It also tells me that I have a stake in what you are doing and how well you are doing.
If I had been ‘Playing BIG’ I would have owned by story and been truthful. I’d have said: “I know that you have extremely high standards. In fact sometimes I think your standards are too high – unreasonable. It just does not strike me that you have to play to get A* in all of your subjects. I know that you are on track to do well. I also know that you struggle to do well in English and realistically you expect to get a B. Will the foundation course allow you to get a B?” Most likely he would have said (which he later did say) “My teacher and I are aiming for a B and the foundation course will allow me to get that without all the stress I am putting myself under trying to get an A/A*”. And I would have said “I wonder what it is about me that I am or was disappointed and angry when you mentioned that you are going to switch to the foundation course?”
It strikes me that a core part of ‘Playing small’ (which is what I have been doing for the last 10 years) is lying to myself and others. It also strikes me that another core part of ‘Playing small’ is not taking responsibility for ‘my story’ (what I tell myself about how I should be, people should be, the world should be) – noticing it and owning it. Not using it to beat up others even if the beating up is indirect through statements like “I don’t care, it’s your life, do what you want!”
So if you are up for entering into the game of ‘Playing BIG’ full out then you also need to adopt these practices: own your story, own your experience and be ruthlessly honest with yourself and with people you are in relationship with.