The clean up continues this week as I prepare my house for sale. Yesterday I spent much of the day pulling all of the stuff out of the garage, sweeping out an amazing amount of spiders with eggs and webs (I have a slight arachnophobia - not fun) , and then putting all the stuff back in. What stuck me in the process is how much I love manual labor. Not that I could make it my life's work, but I really enjoy seeing a finished project. Whether painting, building a wall, digging a garden, or any project, I can see the progress and I can see the completion. The same thing happens when I write. But what's the marker or end game in personal development? How do we know we are making progress?
Most of us can't see ourselves as others do. That's pretty obvious. Yet we really don't see ourselves as we are. Studies indicate that even looking in a mirror (now there's a dose of reality) that women typically see themselves as 5 pounds heavier than they actually are and men see themselves as 5 pounds lighter than they are. Our self perceptions are not very honest because they contain all of the biases (social and otherwise) that people have heaped on us all of our lives. So when we move toward being our best self part of the challenge is understanding how to determine that we've made progress.
If you really want to develop personally one of the best ways is to get a friend, a coach, or just someone you can trust to give you honest feedback. Tell them what area of your life you are developing and let them be your mirror. Working on personal development over the past year I continually ask my partner and best friend how I'm doing. They know what I'm working on. They know how it manifests itself and they are honest when I miss the mark and when I'm doing well. It's not easy to hear sometimes, (okay, it's not easy to hear most of the time) but it's real. They are the true mirror for me. And they can tell me when I am progressing toward my personal goal. So pick someone who can be an honest, authentic mirror for you.
Additionally aside from our own personal development, we can help others. I've always love the holiday classic "It's a Wonderful Life" in which Henry Fonda plays George Bailey, a man who has no idea of the positive effect he has had on others. I think most of us are like that. People have no idea how they connect with those around them for good or for bad. So we can be the mirror for other people. When we've been affected by those around us. When they've helped us in some way, given us advice, or just a helping hand, we've got to tell them. People need to learn when they've done something wonderful for others. Perhaps then more of the world will realize that we are mostly good people striving to make a difference.
Mirrors are not pretty because they reflect reality. They show us (for good or bad) how we are progressing toward a goal. But very often they reflect the mindset of the person looking into the glass. Personal growth is difficult to see unless we have people act as our mirrors. We need them to help us see how we've developed or not. But we can also be the mirror for others. They can learn what they have meant to us and how they've affected our life. That is a great way to see progress. That is a real mirror.