The results from last week’s survey – “What Was Your Greatest Money Lesson From 2017” – are in. As you might imagine, the lessons shared were as varied as the people who completed it. (If you’d like to take it, you still can – click here.)

While the details of the lessons learned were diverse, there were a few similarities:

  • For starters, when it comes to the nature of the lessons learned, the majority of them were described as skills-based, followed next by emotional. Financial was last (not unsurprisingly).
  • Second, the answers to “What’s a close second?” really provided a glimpse into the current state of each person’s relationship with money.
  • Third, some of the answers reflected a tendency we all have to play it small from time to time.

Interestingly, two respondents (whom I presume don’t know one another) explicitly mentioned “playing it small” in their answers. But, as I reviewed all of the responses, it became clear fairly quickly that this sentiment was present in other people’s answers, too.

In truth, it’s a challenge we all bump up against occasionally. And it reminds me of a portion of a quote from Margie Warrell…

“…Playing small means playing safe—avoiding risk, failure, criticism, and the list goes on…”

Of course, no one ever wakes up in the morning and says, “Today, I’m going to play small and let my fears rule my day!”

Yet each day, you can probably trace a money choice made (or not made) back to some degree of fear – to some degree of not wanting to take a risk; of not wanting to fail; of not wanting to seem like you don’t know something; of not wanting others to see just how much you don’t have your act together, etc.

Where are you playing small?

When was the last time you came face-to-face with that reality? Not even certain you can discern this for yourself? Then, here are a few questions to contemplate:

Are you waiting?

Are you waiting for your boss to recognize your good work and give you the promotion you want, instead of lobbying and making a case for why you deserve it? If you work as an entrepreneur, are you operating with the belief that people know what you have to offer and if they want it, they’ll ask? Are you waiting for better circumstances before you make a move that you know is needed?

Sometimes, waiting is wise. At other times, it is a sign that you’re good with settling for less.

Your challenge is to discern when waiting is prudent versus being a delay tactic that you’ve tied to self-worth. Because as one of the respondents discovered, playing small has a profound and measurable affect on your bottom-line.

Are you afraid of running the numbers?

Fear of what you’ll see is just as strong as the fear of what you won’t see. But you can’t change what you’re unwilling to look at. You can’t know where you are; you can’t evaluate and measure your progress; you can’t know what tweaks might be helpful if you don’t “run the damn numbers,” as one person responded.

Yes, sometimes running the numbers is uncomfortable. However, there is tremendous power in feeling the fear and running them anyway. It positions insight as being of greater value than fear.

Are you afraid of saying “no?”

Saying “no” was a lesson learned by one of the respondents. As they described the difference doing so has made in their life, it made me wonder if there’s a correlation between one’s ability to say “no” and how they react when they are told the same.

Could it be that the more self-possessed and clear you are about your boundaries and why you have them, the less you view being told “no” as an affront – against you, your ideas, what you have to offer? (I’m hoping some of my therapist friends will weigh in here.)

Are you open to extending the edges?

“Being prepared for the unexpected” was another lesson noted in the survey. When I read the other comments this person shared, it occurred to me that in so doing so, they probably had to go beyond their comfort zone. Because what you typically do to navigate and negotiate the demands of life may not be sufficient when you are responding to an unexpected surprise – even a good one.

You might discover that you need a shift in mindset; an even deeper sense of self-awareness; new habits; new commitments; maybe even a new perspective about your situation.

Your lessons don’t just benefit you

The above is a recap of some of the themes that emerged as I read and re-read the responses. And I am really grateful for those who shared the biggest money lesson they learned (or re-learned) this year. Not only was it fun for me to read what people had to say (thank you for your candor), it was pretty cool to notice the common threads amidst the diverse responses. Additional proof regarding the duality of personal finance: yes, it’s personal, but it is also universal!

Plus, the responses challenged me to check myself and see where I’m holding back and playing small. And to not only commit to doing better for myself, but to bring that enhanced vitality to my body of work.

There’s a saying in sports: “Are you playing not to lose, instead of playing to win? The difference is subtle, but is a great analogy for why “playing small” is so insidious. You often don’t notice when you’re doing it or its effects for what it is.

Here’s my big takeaway from reading the survey responses and my clarion call: The world needs you to stop playing small.

It really, really does! It needs you to live a bigger, bolder and more beautiful life. And if you don’t know what that looks like for you, I am asking that you please spend some time this holiday season figuring that out. Start with the lessons you learned because they contain some awesome clues and nuggets of wisdom. And then share those lessons with others.

Because we will all be better for it!

p.s. If you want some help putting together your financial game-plan for your big, bold and beautiful life, let’s have complimentary chat – click here.

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