Bold goals, big ambition, dream big, play big

Big and bold is everywhere

This summer I decided to consciously take a step back and make time for in-depth reflection and conversations – is it bold? is it big? You tell me!

The topic of big goals, big plans, often summed up as “playing big”, kept coming back. So I delved a bit deeper under the glossy, insta-worthy image that would want us to believe that if you’re not playing big there is little hope for success.

I started with a pros and cons list – you got to start somewhere and the old + and – list is usually a good way to get the creative juices flowing.


There are plenty of advantages in “playing big” but quite a few drawbacks too:

More stress, play big = fail big in most cases, being waaaay out of one’s comfort zone can become a bit …well, uncomfortable. And last, but definitely not least, not everyone fancy the whole hoolaboolah that comes with BIG.

And “playing small” is not that bad:

More ease, expertise is often already acquired, it’s likely to be within your comfort zone, more time and energy for the rest of your life. Little risk of spreading yourself thin and delivering what you consider to be sub-par work (I know I know, that’s the perfect excuse for the perfectionist-procrastinator in all of us).


So I wasn’t much further forward as both lists were appealing in their own way. That’s when my beloved pragmatism kicked in:

“you don’t want to play small and you don’t want to play big either, you want to play smart”

– imagine that being said with a finger-wiggling Beyonce-swag, cool right?!

So what is “playing smart”? it’s playing to YOUR strengths, according to YOUR rules to achieve YOUR ambition. Because whether it’s big or small a sure way to fail is to go for something that you *think* (or are lead to believe) is what you want and to try and achieve it using someone else’s framework.

Let’s play smart, shall we?

I’ve kept this a simple framework so you can take it and make it your own and if you find some other great ways to “play smart” do share them.

Play to your desires:

  • Be crystal-clear on what you want
  • Not what you are expected to desire or what you should want
  • Big, small, short or tall, it doesn’t matter as long as it is what YOU truly want

Getting crystal-clear is not easy. I thought it was just me until I started coaching and realised that answering this question often required several sessions to answer: “What do you really want?”

This is so worth it though, it will save you a ton of time in the future, will make decision-making a much more straight-forward process, especially for those big (sorry!) career and life decisions.

And an important note: you can change your minds.  What was your goal a few years ago has changed, it’s ok life has happened, it’d be kind of strange that our goals didn’t evolve with us.

Play yes, but with a plan:

  • Create a framework: your Dos and Don’ts, your absolute YESes and absolute NOs
  • Put a plan in place (here’s my method), it doesn’t have to be THE plan carved in stone but it gives you a start.
  • When you start, it’s a matter of putting one foot in front of the other. New job, new career, new XYZ, just keep going. It’s not sexy, it’s not rocket-science but it does get you there.

And you can change your plan. As for your goals, life will happen and your plan will need to be revised so be flexible and open to opportunities

Play for growth

– This flows directly from the previous point.

  • You go from small to big, it’s a natural process that is called experience. I know it’s obvious but in our world of instant gratification we often forget it – and it’s human to want to get our desired outcome at the click of a finger
  • Keep on learning: formal and informal learning, learning from your errors. If you adopt a “growth mindset” your days and your experiences will be filled with learning opportunities that will take you to your desired outcome. It may not be faster but it will be richer and more enjoyable (and probably faster, I cannot guarantee it)
  • If you truly want to play smart you’ve got to be prepared to ask for help. It may not be easy as it could bring up some old stories of impostor’s syndrome or of not being “enough”: good enough, intelligent enough, strong enough. Remember that they are “stories” and your desired outcome is far too precious and important to let old and untrue stories stop you.

Play the long game:

  • Playing smart requires patience, not sitting on your hands kinda patience but an active patience where you learn and grow (see Play for growth)
  • Playing smart needs commitment to your goal – which is why you need clarity. It also requires commitment to the plan you have put in place and the growth needed to achieve it.
  • Flexibility and keeping an open mind are paramount. There will be twists and turns along the ways and that is fine as long as you stay flexible and view them as opportunities rather than obstacles. In career terms that could mean taking a job that may not be a straight step up the ladder but a lateral move if that is what you need today. It could help you jump two rungs on that same ladder in the future.

And don’t forget to play nicely!

  • Be authentic: playing smart to get to your desired outcome will help immensely in being and staying authentic. There will be times when you’re tempted to bend your own rules, be wary: it’s not good for your self-esteem and your risk losing sight of what really matters.
  • Be in integrity: always respect your values and others’, recognise when you have fallen short and if necessary take steps to make it right. When you make agreements do respect them, if you know you cannot keep an agreement then have the courage to say no, if you do break your agreement do come clean and make it right or explain truthfully why you can’t keep this agreement.
  • Be responsible: you are fully capable of achieving your goals however it means taking responsibility for your decisions and actions, not waiting for anyone to do it for you and as such not fall in the trap of the victim-blamer vicious circle that leads you nowhere.



So what do you think? Ready to play smart? I am! I know it will not be easy, I know it will require uncomfortable conversations and u-turn decisions but playing smart feels right in supporting me achieve my goals.

Let’s start a conversation around this topic, this is leadership in action so I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Happy playing!

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