These Kick-Ass Strategies Will Empower You to Figure Out—and Go After—What You Really Want Out of Life

By Regina Louise, as told to Meghan Rabbitt


Recently, Maria Shriver asked me one of the most provocative questions anyone’s ever asked me:

Are you playing small?

Her question rocked me and prompted me to admit that yes, I often do make myself a little smaller—not because I feel less than, but so that I don’t blow out the container in which I feel I’m expected to fit. I make myself small when it’s suggested that I step back and make room for others, which is something I’ll gladly do but not if it means sacrificing my dreams.

To sit across from Maria and really think about the answer to her question was a beautiful gift, one that made me feel as if I was looking into the eyes of my fullest potential. In asking me that question, Maria reminded me of the permission I must give myself to be big on my own terms—as a woman, as a creative, and (icing on the cake!) as a Black woman.

Which is why it’s a question I’ll pose to you right now, dear reader:

Are you playing small?

Before you answer, know that you’ll probably be tempted to deflect. Oftentimes, the answers to questions like these are packed with wisdom that prompts us to look at what we’re unable to see in ourselves. And that’s hard! But now is the time to answer the tough questions. After all, we are at a crossroads of sorts—a spiritual and emotional renaissance where we are waking up to the truth of our capacity to live life on our own terms. For all of us who sat with the difficulty and uncertainty of the global COVID pandemic—and faced the many complex adversities this tumultuous time brought with it—it’s important to recognize that coming out the other side is a spiritual revival. There’s a brilliant way that people are stepping into their own permission to know their worth and go after what they really want in this life, whether it’s leaving a relationship, refusing to go back to “business as usual,” or reassessing priorities. After this experience we just came through, we gained an enormous amount of resilience—and it’s inspired us to take more risks and live life on our own terms.

It’s empowered us to play bigger.

As you consider all of the ways you may be playing small in your life—and think about the changes you might make to play bigger—here are some strategies to help you figure out what you really want out of your life and go for it.

Surround yourself with people who inspire you. It’s a beautiful thing when you see the bigness of your own possibility reflected back to you in another human being. I’m willing to bet that there are people in your life who can do that for you—people who can help you recognize when a gateway is presented to you and remind you to give yourself permission to step across the threshold and answer the call.

Take the 18-inch journey from your head to your heart. To step into our own permission is to step into what we believe to be true about ourselves. It’s to remember what is meaningful to and for us, and what it feels like to be on purpose. No matter who I meet—whether they are billionaires or dogwalkers—at the end of the day, the consensus is: What is the meaning in my life? What is my purpose? What kind of impact do I have on others? What legacy will I leave? We can talk a big game when the answers to these all-important questions come from our heads. Yet to know what it feels like to live from a place that’s connected to freedom, purpose, and meaningful contribution? You can’t think your way to this place. You’ve got to feel the spectrum of all that you are, and you can access that when you make that a journey into your heart.

Give yourself a permission slip to play. For me, playing means engaging with joy. It’s letting go of the shoulds and the have-tos and the rigidity that our modern-day schedules all too often require. These things put a chokehold on our joy and freedom and spontaneity. To counter this, I suggest you design a permission slip—yes, just like the ones you used to get in school—and sign off on three things you’ll do to reconnect with your joy this week. To play is to be in relationship with our innocence. It allows us to amuse ourselves against our adult-like inclination to defend against that innocence. It allows us to take part in something outside ourselves as well as reconnect with the purity inside ourselves.

Remember you need permission to live your life—and that permission needs to come from you. You are worthy of flipping the script on your life. You are worthy of finding love or getting a new job or starting fresh no matter how old you are. You are worthy of making changes in your life, even when (especially when!) they feel scary and uncertain. You are even worthy of your own loneliness and abandonment and feeling unwanted. This is a gigantic endeavor. But it is how we give ourselves permission to live the life we really want to live.

When you can step out of the expectations of others and into your own dreams and desires, it’s an initiation—a rite of passage that helps you play as big as you can get. I believe when you do this, you’ll find yourself at the end of your life, about to take that last breath, able to say to yourself: Well done, my friend. Well done.

Memoirist and motivational speaker Regina Louise has spent the last three decades advocating for what becomes possible when we give ourselves permission to live our best lives. After living in over 30 foster homes, group homes and psychiatric facilities before the age of 18, Regina put herself through college on scholarship and wrote two bestselling memoirs. Regina now works as a Hoffman Process teacher, as well as with individuals and teams. In her newest book, Permission Granted: Kick-Ass Strategies to Bootstrap Your Way to Unconditional Self-Love, she offers proven techniques to connect with your deepest desires, follow your dreams, and live life on your terms. To learn more visit

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