What is your play safe team?
You know it as a persistent, shrinking feeling. It’s gnawing at you, causing self-doubt and unrest. How and when it shows up is intensely personal, but it always seems to happen when you need to be at your best. You may break into a sweat, or your heart may race. Maybe it’s a tightness, or a burning sensation in that familiar place in your body. It might be a throbbing, or a stabbing feeling. For some of us, our guts go wild. For all of us, there is a clear message: Retreat! Withdraw! STOP!!!
You may ask yourself, “What is this?”, “Why do I feel this way?” or “What is wrong with me?”
Allow me to introduce you to your Play Safe Team. Like it or not, we all have one.
As uncomfortable and counter-intuitive as it feels, your Play Safe Team is here to serve you – if you know how to respond with awareness.
The #1 imperative of your Play Safe Team is your survival.
This powerful mechanism is often triggered by dream-killers like overwhelm and frustration, or when we muster up our courage and step out of our comfort zone. Linked by fear to our sympathetic nervous system, the reaction prompted the Play Safe Team is either fight or flight.
The fight or flight response to fear makes a lot of sense observing wildlife, and it must have served our prehistoric ancestors well, or we wouldn’t be here. If only it were so simple for the modern-day entrepreneurial human! We’ve been taught to handle our fears by hiding them, avoiding them or powering through, aka “Feel the fear and do it anyways!” The problem is that none of these responses to fear is sustainable over the long-term.
Imagine a modern-day entrepreneur whose guts go to mush and back gets up every time she needs to make a big move in her business. She powers through (fights) and has some measure of success, but she knows that she could be more effective if she wasn’t battling her intestines and feeling defensive in front of her clients and employees. Despite all her goals and planning, she always manages to come up a little bit short, leading to lackluster results and crippling disappointment.
Or, what about the business owner who is experiencing overwhelm because of time commitments to his career, his partner and his children? He knows there are only so many hours in the day and has to prioritize his time, keeping as many commitments as he can. He has a supportive business partner, wife and children, but is so frustrated about what he knows he won’t be able to do that he becomes resentful, reducing the quality of what he is able to do, like fitting in a workout. He goes out to grow the business, but he consciously or unconsciously knows that if his business grows, he will face even bigger challenges getting it all done. He knows he is not doing his best and the seeds of the fear of being a fraud take root. When he is challenged, a chain reaction of avoidance (flight) begins and he starts “keeping himself busy” on social media and watching TV rather than attending to his former top priorities.
Your Play Safe Team is a chameleon, affecting you in many ways.
The captain of your play safe team is fear, born of inner conflict. There is nothing wrong with inner conflict; it is a natural and necessary part of personal growth. What is wrong is the amount of suffering and failure that happens as a result of not being able handle inner conflict effectively.
Learn how to play big in life, and bring the wisdom of your Play Safe Team along for the ride. Becoming aware of the fears of your Play Safe Team and its desire to keep you safe is the first step. The second step is to learn not to judge your fear as a negative thing. Yes, playing safe keeps us from playing BIG, but sometimes it is the right move. We don’t want to be eaten by the lion, but we can’t stay in our cave and thrive. Learning how to tell the difference takes time, patience and wisdom.
As intelligent, rational, human beings, we often think we can figure this all out on our own. Sometimes we can, but more often we can’t because the fears of our Play Safe Team are living in our unconscious mind. It’s important to have regular conversations that shine a light on your Play Safe Team. Learning how to play big and understanding the urge to play safe creates a new level of awareness in your business game.