Thursday, November 12, 2009

Mirror, mirror

Mirror, mirror on the wall, who's the greatest of them all? Probably none of us if we are looking in the mirror. Self-focus, even self-consciousness at key moments can inhibit attaining our best and letting our greatest gifts flow. It is important, in the middle of using our gifts and talents, not to be focused on what others might think of us, but only on the moment itself. Besides, there is new, fun research that indicates few people are looking at us anyway. This is bad news for the cosmetics industry, but good news for the rest of us.

Let's face it. When we learn a new skill, or take what we know to a whole new level some form of self-focus is necessary. We have to be aware of our body if we are practicing a new physical skill, or our mind if we are learning something new. However, once we have moved past practice we have to focus only on the task so we fully engage in the moment and bring out our best abilities. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Ph.D. is a world renowned expert in "flow." "Flow" is "the state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter." (p.4, Flow). Recently I had the opportunity to hear him speak about flow. He emphasized how important it was to be totally in the moment to experience flow and unleash our abilities. Self-consciousness, he noted, was a major deterrent to flow experiences and in all of his studies no one was able to attain flow when they were self-conscious.

How do we move from focusing on ourselves to focusing only on what we are doing? We need to move from the societal concept that everyone is looking at us. A recent study indicates that even when we do something that really makes us stand out, for example, making an entire room wait 10 minutes for us to show up, when interviewed afterward, only 20% of the group will remember anything about us. The other 80% are probably worried about how they are being perceived.

The key to moments of greatness is to remove the over-abundance of mirrors in our lives and set aside our worries of what others will think. By doing so we unleash the best of our abilities in that moment and move toward our greatness. Besides, in the fairytale, the mirror on the wall was really lying.

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