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A Reflection:

• Image, representation, counterpart…
• Fixing the thoughts on something, careful consideration…
• The return of light heat, sound after striking a surface…
• The bending or folding back of a part upon itself…

Since the beginning of civilization we have sought to see ourselves. We looked for mirror images in still pools of water or polished metal shields. We sought to see our inner selves in our heroes and our gods. Then we started creating images and ideals that reflected our dreams, desires and aspirations.

So what did all that get us? Reflections of reflections? Distortions of our true selves? I had a stimulating email exchange with a dear friend about the way people interpret the advice given by Polonius to Laertes in Hamlet, “to thine ownself be true…” and he commented that the way the quote is understood is a study in how people see things based on their own belief systems. (I’d love to know how you interpret that quote – email me or comment below.)

Our understanding of culture, business culture included, depends on our self awareness and how we perceive ourselves. I think how we perceive art, philosophy, heroes, morals, religion, you name it, is a reflection of how we see ourselves and a key to understanding culture and how it evolves. Reflection requires distance and another surface on which to project an image, be it a pool of water or an idea. We PROJECT our own judgments, fears, hopes, experiences onto the other and then we REFLECT on them, often without recognizing ourselves in the reflected image.

If you are looking to your culture for a reflection of yourself you will likely be disappointed, cultural standards very seldom reflect attainable or even desirable goals. If you are looking to your friends you will find the image distorted by their history with you, by their desire to build you up, by their perception of what you want to hear. And so it goes, we see the world around us through our projected emotions and expectations.

To a large extent that is what people ask of a coach; to reflect without distortion, to give you back a clearer, truer image - of yourself, of your situation, of your goals, of your patterns, of your roadblocks, of your opportunities. To be that surface that reflects truly and without judgment. The next step, of course is exploring change, supporting change and then again, reflecting the progress so you never lose sight of how far you’ve come or where you want to go.

And as a coach I would say the first step is to be aware of what colors the way you see your world. When you see an opportunity do you look for the catch? When you see your own work do you see it as less excellent and valuable than the work of your peers? What are you projecting onto the things you believe reflect you? And do those filters serve you? Do they make you more willing to move forward or do they keep you mesmerized like the Gorgon (or like Narcissus looking in the pool?)

Unlock your gaze my friend. Forward momentum certainly depends on seeing yourself clearly but it also depends on not becoming so focused on that reflection that you can’t take the first step.

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