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  • Writer's pictureLisa Blair Fratzke

Engineering Smallness

Updated: May 3, 2020

I’m starting to find my voice again. For the past year, I’ve felt all clogged up and full of stories that I didn’t know how to share. Stories about wedding planning and marriage and our honeymoon in Santorini. Stories that I was worried I would lose if I didn’t share them fast enough.

And then I was reminded that we don’t lose our stories. They are a part of us. And time and distance give us perspective that sharing in the moment never could have. My stories still have value, even if they are told from a wide lens.

I think we have this way of placing limits on ourselves that don’t really exist.

I have to get married by this year.

I have to get a promotion by this date.

I need to have a family by this time.

I need to be successful by this age.

Those are the big ones and they are also the ones that we are most aware of placing on our lives. They are the ones we wrestle with the most when the clock strikes midnight and our fairy godmother still hasn’t shown up.

But, there are far more subversive limits that guide our lives and hardly ever see the light of day.

These limits are generated by false belief systems that guide our choices. Beliefs like:

I’m too tired to exercise.

I don’t have value.

I’m not enough.

These false belief systems act like a computer programming system in our brain. When we’re on autopilot under this operating system, we make choices that make our lives smaller and smaller. Brené Brown calls it engineering smallness.

We engineer lives with limits that were never meant to hold us back.

So, what’s the trick to expanding our lives?

I think the secret will always be action. Acting in opposition of the voices in our brain that tell us to choose comfort and safety before all else.

We need to push on our self imposed boundaries until they expand or even break.

This takes tremendous courage and vulnerability and risk. It may not always bare the kind of fruit or result we desire. We may not get the predicted outcome that we made up in our heads.

But, there is one outcome that is guaranteed when we choose to challenge these limits and break into the unknown: A life worth living.


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