How to know if you’re playing small?

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Do you want to be a winner? Hey, so do I! I guess that means we have something in common with about a billion other people. I mean, who doesn’t want to be a winner? Do we dream as children of failing or not getting what we want out of life? Of course not.

We dream of winning Olympic gold medals or being famous ballerinas. We picture ourselves in mansions driving fancy cars and having a butler bringing us a peanut-butter jelly sandwich on a silver platter. Ok, maybe that last one was just me…

But what happens when we grow up? Do we stop dreaming? No, our dreams just get more sophisticated. We want a house in Aspen or to build a multi-million dollar company. Everybody has dreams. Why is it that some people succeed at achieving their goals while others have to settle for less?

There are many ingredients that go into achieving greatness, hard work and intelligence pop straight to mind, but there’s another key. It’s called taking up space. In her new book “The Way You Do Anything Is the Way You do Everything”  Suzanne Evans says that success takes space. What this means is you must be willing to put your stake in the ground, claim your turf, declare your intention and make room for the results.

It is something I used to talk to my voice students about all the time, especially my middle-school girls. They would come to me wanting to learn how to sing so they could win an audition or get a part in a school musical.  At the first lesson, I would have them sing something they liked so I could get a sense of their voice and musical ability. It always surprised me how quietly they would sing.

I would be sitting less than 3 feet away from them at the piano and I could barely hear them. They would contort their bodies into funny positions to look small, legs crossed over, arms folded in front, head down etc. Their bodies were literally saying “Don’t look at me.” I would then spend much of our time together just getting them to open up their posture.

In order to produce a powerful sound, you need to have a body that will support that sound which means opening up your rib cage, keeping your chin up, feeling like your head is being pulled up by a string and most importantly, feeling like your feet are growing into the floor. Essentially, you make yourself bigger to sound bigger.

Being big is not just about supporting the sound, it’s also about projecting  the energy of the performance. You need to feel big to have a big presence. There is no way to feel powerful all crumpled up in a ball. Believe me, getting a 15 year old girl to own her space is a HUGE achievement. But the results are miraculous.

The confidence she exudes is palpable. The impact she can make with her performance is moving and strong.

You cannot sing loudly with a concave chest and you cannot play big in your business keeping yourself small. But here’s the catch. Many of us don’t even know we’re playing small. We think we’re out there going hard, making big dreams happen, but really we’re just busy. We’re staying safe and as a result, we are not seeing the spectacular results we hoped for.

If you’re not sure you are playing small, here are some clues:

1. You feel extremely confident and comfortable with your offers. Of course, you want to be confident in your ability to deliver value, but if you do not feel stretched in your ability to offer bigger, bolder programs as you move forward, you may be playing small.

2. You have not raised your prices in a long time. You may think confidently selling your services or products over and over again at the current price is great, but if worry about rejection over higher fees is why you have not raised your prices, you may be playing small.

3. You have not felt the urge to re-brand. Successful businesses are not stagnant. They grow and evolve. Entrepreneurs should be growing and evolving. If you have not considered rebranding to reflect any growth, you may be playing small.

4. Everyone loves you. Feeling loved is great, however, getting a warm, fuzzy feeling from being everyone’s friend is not the point of business. You are here to transform lives. If you are not making at least some people uncomfortable some of the time, you may be playing small.

So what should you do if you are ready to stop playing small and start fulfilling your dreams?

Do something that scares you. Make a new decision.

This is where most of us get stuck. We don’t want to make the WRONG decision. What if I raise my prices and no one buys from me? What if I rebrand and I don’t like it? What if I accept an invitation to speak and I fall on my face?

Let’s play this out, shall we. What if? What if those things happen? What if you out price yourself and customers stop buying? Well, then you could lower them again and increase incrementally. You could add more value to the program you are offering to match the price better. Or you could fish in different waters for better clients.

What if you rebrand and 2 months later you change your mind? Do you sit there for the next 10 years with a crappy logo? No, you fix it, you tweak it and if you can’t afford to fix it right away, you make a plan to get the money to change it as soon as possible.

And if you do fall on your face speaking in public, well, I guess you just better pack it in and never show your face again. What? Hell no, you go home and rewrite your talk so it’s more compelling, you join toast-masters or you get a speaking coach. You do what you need to do to improve.

You see, we all get so worried about failing, we don’t give ourselves the space to succeed. Does it take courage to take up space? It sure does. But if you don’t own your piece of turf, someone else will stake claim and steal your victory.

Your dreams are right on the other side or your fear. So, plant those feet, lift that rib cage, open those shoulders and sing full out.

I love to hear your voice! 

What is holding you back from taking up the space to succeed?

Post your answers below in the comments or find me on Facebook.

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Heather Poduska is a brand strategist, business coach and opera singer who helps entrepreneurs and small business owners create client attractive brands, polished brand images and brand communication strategies to increase their visibility and impact in the marketplace and grow their businesses.