Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Power of a Mirror

I have always loved to dance, and over the years I’ve had my share of dance lessons. Most of them were ballet, and they occurred in locations that looked very similar. There was a large empty room with a wide expanse of floor, a barre attached to one wall, and a mirror on the other wall. The expansiveness of the room created a clear space where students could move freely. The barre was there to help us with balance.  The mirror was there to reflect the way our bodies looked as they moved or stood still.

The mirror was an important tool as we developed deeper awareness of our bodies. When we could see what we were doing, we could decide if it matched the aesthetic we were trying to create and adjust our positions accordingly. Over time, we learned how it “felt” to be a dancer. After many rehearsals with the mirror, we could recreate that feeling on stage – confident that what we were now able to perform would faithfully represent the vision of the choreographer.

I’ve been thinking about mirrors lately, and the power that they have. Sometimes when we look in the mirror, we don’t like what we see. But unless we are at a “fun house” we can trust that the mirror is showing us what is actually there. How we use the information mirrors give us is where the power comes in. It isn’t helpful to judge what we see, or to wish it were different. It is very powerful, however, to notice what is “so”, decide whether that matches what we want, and choose whether or not there is an appropriate action for us to take.

Among the other skills that professional coaches develop, we are particularly trained to act as “mirrors” for our clients. We listen deeply and then reflect what we hear. Whether we reflect our clients’ words verbatim, or paraphrase them, we are careful not to add anything extra. It is astounding how something so simple – paying attention to one’s speaking – can create breakthroughs. Clients often find moments of great clarity when a coach uses reflection – honing in on what is most important to them, or where they are getting stopped in achieving the results to which they are committed.

The “a-ha” moments that clients have during coaching are exciting and satisfying, but powerful listening and reflection also have longer-lasting rewards. As I work with clients, I have also noticed that it is common for them to begin to develop greater awareness and ability to listen to themselves. Just as I found a physical mirror helpful in honing my ability to dance on stage, my clients seem to use my reflections as a tool for increasing their mindful awareness in their day-to-day lives. 

Mirrors are one way to notice what is “so”. A physical mirror may help you notice that piece of spinach caught in your teeth, or that you appear tired and need rest.  A "coach mirror” may help you identify the vision and values that give your life meaning, and the daily choices you make that help create the life you have.

Are you using your mirrors to their best advantage?