Inspiration Friday: The House of 1,000 Mirrors

I came across this great little story from Japanese folklore and wanted to share it!  It feels like a great message for this week and I hope you like it!

Long ago in a small, far away village, there was place known as the House of 1000 Mirrors. A small, happy little dog learned of this place and decided to visit. When he arrived, he bounced happily up the stairs to the doorway of the house. He looked through the doorway with his ears lifted high and his tail wagging as fast as it could. To his great surprise, he found himself staring at 1000 other happy little dogs with their tails wagging just as fast as his. He smiled a great smile, and was answered with 1000 great smiles just as warm and friendly. As he left the House, he thought to himself, “This is a wonderful place. I will come back and visit it often.”

In this same village, another little dog, who was not quite as happy as the first one, decided to visit the house. He slowly climbed the stairs and hung his head low as he looked into the door. When he saw the 1000 unfriendly looking dogs staring back at him, he growled at them and was horrified to see 1000 little dogs growling back at him. As he left, he thought to himself, “That is a horrible place, and I will never go back there again.”

All the faces in the world are mirrors. What kind of reflections do you see in the faces of the people you meet?

Maybe it’s you?

I was waiting in line at the supermarket recently and was lucky enough to be in front of two people having an animated conversation that was difficult to ignore.  I was trying not to listen and wasn’t exactly sure what the discussion was about, but when one of them very loudly said “It can’t always be everyone else’s fault.  Maybe it’s you!”, I had to smile.

Most people don’t like to hear that particular phrase and the person behind me was no different.  It’s much easier when we’re in a situation that makes us uncomfortable to look at the people and circumstances around us.  If we can place the blame outside of ourselves, we become the victim and free ourselves of any responsibility.  Sound familiar?  I know it does to me, as much as I hate to admit it.

So what if, rather than looking outside, you look within the next time you found yourself in that place?  I’ve been trying that out over the past few weeks and I have to say, it’s been remarkable.  Every time I’ve asked myself that question, ‘Maybe it’s me’, the answer is always ‘Yes’!  That isn’t to say that I’m taking accountability for actions or behaviors of other people, but I am taking responsibility for my responses and feelings.  No one can make me feel or behave in a certain way, that’s my choice.  It may not always feel like a choice, but it is, every time, no exception.  That’s just the truth.

When we start to take accountability for ourselves, what happens around us has less of an impact on our well-being.  We stop looking for villains and conspiracies and start looking for the things within us that make and keep us happy.  The reality is, you can’t control what anyone around you feels or does.  Trying to only causes frustration and disappointment, so keep the focus on the only thing that really matters, you.  Before you know it you’ll find you aren’t asking ‘Maybe it’s me’, but knowing ‘It’s always me’.

Nothing is wasted.

I had an interesting conversation with a friend yesterday.  She made the decision a few months ago to look for a new job and did all of the right things.  She updated her resume, had it professionally checked, connected with people in her network  and scoured every source she could think of.  Still, weeks went by and while she did get the opportunity to interview and even received a few offers, none were quite what she was looking for.

So she waited and continued her search and yesterday she got the call she had been waiting for.  This opportunity was just what she had been looking for!  Her patience and willingness to find a situation that met all of her needs had paid off.  The interesting twist to her story was that this job wasn’t one that she had initially found or sought out.  It came about because of another opportunity that she had turned down.  That’s right, she found her way to what she wanted by saying ‘No’ to something she didn’t.  More specifically, it turns out that it was how she declined that offer that made all of the difference.

The first recruiting manager had been disappointed that she didn’t accept his offer,  but he was impressed with the professional way that she declined it.  She made enough of an impression that when he heard of an opportunity in another part of the organization that would have been a perfect fit, she instantly came to mind.  Every step she took in exploring that first opportunity turned out to be crucial to lead her to the one that she was looking for.

At times it may feel like so much of what we do is wasted effort with no visible results, but the opposite is really true.  Every step we take, every decision we make, alters our trajectory in ways that we may not ever be conscious of.  For my friend, saying ‘No’ in a gracious and professional way may have only felt like the polite thing to do, but that action sent her off in the direction of the ‘Yes’ that she was looking for.  She didn’t know that she was planting a seed that day.

What seeds will you plant today?  Today your life is heading in one direction and tomorrow if may be headed in another because of something you do today.  Everything you do matters and nothing is wasted.

Being okay with uncomfortable.

As I get ready to return to work after vacation, I find myself feeling like I want to fast-forward through the week.  Getting through the backlog of emails, phone messages and other work that has piled up is something I usually dread and would rather just be done with.  What has my finger poised about the fast-forward button is much more about my desire to avoid feeling like I’m behind and possibly out of control.  Feeling that way makes me uncomfortable and who wants to feel that way?

Few of us like to experience emotions that make us uncomfortable and many of us will do whatever we can to avoid people or situations that drum up those kinds of feelings.  Wanting to press fast-forward and get beyond the discomfort is a natural reaction, but might not always be the best one.  There will always be moments we would rather rush through to avoid painful feelings, but there is value in slowing down and experiencing the situation.  When we slow down and stop trying to find a way around something, we often gain the insight we need to help us work through it.  And having worked your way through something once gives you confidence and strength for the next time.   That’s how we grow and the little lessons of life have a way of popping up when we slow down enough to pay attention to them.

So, I’m going to be okay with the 1500+ emails that I need to go through and trust that I will get through them all in whatever amount of time it takes.  I’m pretty sure that the sun will keep on rising and setting whether I’ve returned a phone call tomorrow or it waits till next week.   After all, the only person putting pressure on me is me and this week I’m going to be okay with feeling a little uncomfortable with that number.  After all, it’s just a number.