A window and a mirror are both made of glass, have a frame around them, and are used for seeing things.
But they have two totally different functions. You look through a window to the world outside, and you look into a mirror at yourself.
I have found that there are two totally different kinds of people when it comes to life and leadership . There are externally focused people, window people, who look outside at others passing them by; and there are internally focused people, mirror people, who look inside themselves for the solutions they need to move forward.
Which of these two are you? Answer the following four questions:
1. Do you assign blame or find solutions?
The first characteristic of a window person is that they look to the world outside and critique it. Rather than participating in the toss-and-tumble of real life, they stand on the sidelines and find fault. Window people are professional critics who see problem after problem and ask, “Who screwed up here?’”
A mirror person, on the other hand, takes a totally different approach. Rather than passing the buck onto someone else, they accept responsibility. If they participated in causing a problem, they own it and fix it. If they didn’t, they help find a solution. This question is never far from their lips, “How can I help?”
2. Do you give up power or do you become self-empowered?
The great irony of being a window person is that you think you’re so smart, sitting smugly on the sidelines cynically criticizing the work of others. But that’s a position of powerlessness. Quite simply, when you’re not involved in finding solutions, you give up your power to others whom you have no ability to control. You are at their mercy.
By looking into the mirror, internally focused people see the one thing they can control: themselves. And by controlling their response in any situation, they become self-empowered in every situation. Few things can stand in the way of a self-empowered person.
Lack of power and control, then, makes a window person a victim, and all victims, by definition, have villains. Instead of working with other people just like you who are trying to do their best, you view yourself as working with sinister people who are out to get you. This point of view poisons your relationships.
Mirror people bring confidence and strength to their relationships. They don’t play the victim, but approach others as respected peers, an equal to an equal. Even in a bad situation, they believe the best in others, withhold judgement, and ask questions for clarification (as opposed to making accusations).
4. Do you take input personally or receive it as useful information?
Finally, window people take a totally different approach to input and feedback. Because of their victim mentality communication is always personal, seen as an attack on them. As a result they feel compelled to fight or take flight. That’s what we do when under attack, right? The villain is either attacked in return or withdrawn from completely. Both destroys communication.
A mirror person, approaching issues as a peer to a peer, an equal to an equal, doesn’t assign emotional meaning to a conversation. Input received, even if it’s about them, is a way to become more knowledgeable. And knowledge is power. As a result, a mirror person is able to communicate calmly and collaborate effectively because it’s not personal. It’s just information.
How do you become a mirror person?
Okay, how do you become a mirror person and not a window person?
Recognize that we’re all born window people. We come out of the womb pointing our finger at others and assigning blame. It’s part of the human condition. We become mirror people by the choices we make. Here are two.
In every circumstance you face, first ask and answer this question: Who am I? That is, look deep inside yourself and discover the values you embrace at the very core of your being. Define those values personally and live by them uncompromisingly. They are your moral center. Your rock. Your anchor.
Secondly, ask and answer this next question: What do I do well?
From your moral center flows a functional capacity for excellence. This is the unique ability you possess that allows you to thrive. It’s your personal tool box, a set of gifts and talents you can access at any time to solve pressing problems.
These two dynamics, character and competence, are the choices you can make to become a mirror person. Character, your core values, and competence, your unique ability, clearly defined and consistently deployed allows you to control the one and only thing you can control in any situation: yourself.
In this way you’ll be ready for anything that life and leadership throws at you.