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Has anyone seen my sense of perspective?

It’s good to laugh at yourself occasionally and right now I’m finding myself hilarious. What makes me so funny is that I have lost my sense of perspective. It’s like being in the hall of mirrors at the local fairground; nothing looks its proper size and place. Maybe you’ve had the same experience?

Here’s how it happened. I was working with someone important on important things and I started to think it was important. Worse than that; I started to think I was important. What a joke! It was like a virus. Everyone came out in the same symptoms. It was a plague of self-importance. Every hand you shook had the same blisters on it. I’m surprised someone didn’t walk around ringing a bell crying ‘Unclean! Unclean!’

Then I noticed something else. When the important people walked out of the hall of mirrors they suddenly weren’t important any more. They shrunk to their real size and everyone started to ignore them. In fact, some people started to despise them because they felt let down. ‘How come you didn’t make me more important when you were important?’ they screamed. Meanwhile, back in the hall of mirrors, new people appeared important and everyone rushed towards them with outstretched and scabby hands.

hall of mirrors

I am sure that by now you’re finding this as hilarious as I am. From this perspective, it seems like we’ve missed an important point. And that is this: there is a difference between real life and a life of importance. Real life is populated by people who don’t have scabs on their hands, who know that you are as flawed as the next man or woman and yet, despite that, find themselves liking you or loving you. On the contrary, a life of importance is a convenient and temporary illusion created by a loss of perspective on the part of yourself and others. It is a mirror that does not tell the truth (‘Mirror, mirror on the wall who is the most important of them all?’).

A perspective is a point of view. It is about seeing a situation in a different light and through a different lens. Being able to change that light and that lens in your own mind is a critical leadership skill. The more we zoom out of a situation the less important it seems. As we do this our hysterical hall-of-mirrors laughter starts to fade. First, it becomes a lively murmur in the distance and then it just buzzes quietly in our minds like a lost and lonely bee. Finally, it all goes quiet and a faint smile passes across our face. Has anyone seen my sense of perspective?

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[Check out John’s session at theĀ Coaching at Work annual conference on July 1st]