A Look in the Mirror
We have a cat. His name is Catso. Although he was named many years ago when our kids were much younger, his name still fits his personality.
He is a thin, striped tabby and, if you were to look at him, I am certain you would think he looks like an ordinary, standard house cat.
What you think, however, is not at all important to Catso because, when he looks in the mirror, he sees a lion. He sees a confident, fearless, king capable of achieving anything he sets his mind to and he is the absolute ruler of his domain.
Whatever predicament he gets himself into, he always looks as though he is exactly where he expected to be and however many of his nine lives he uses, he never displays an ounce of fear or worry. He has been at death’s door at least twice and, if not for my wife’s quick actions, would have walked through it, but you would never know any of that has bothered him or was even slightly on his mind if you met him today.
So, as I look at him lying in our dryer and at risk of going unnoticed as the next load of laundry gets piled on top of him eventually leading to the next catastrophe he will inevitably encounter, I wonder what our world would be like if each of us looked in the mirror and saw a lion.
As human beings, we face real issues. We experience a wide spectrum of emotions. We are clearly more complex than a simple house cat. This also means that we are capable of logical thought and that we can reason. We have effective tools to counter what can be daunting challenges. We have effective tools, but do we use them effectively?
In my completely amateur opinion, I think we overemphasize the complexities we face while simultaneously underestimating our ability to handle them. In other words, I believe that much of what keeps us from seeing a lion in the mirror is our own self-imposed limitations.
One of the reason Catso sees a lion staring back at him is because his mind is not capable of polluting itself with self-induced worry and unnecessary concerns. He has a short memory when he needs to have one and is, therefore, fully capable of living in the moment without being weighed down by his past or unduly focused on his future.
The closest equivalent I can find in the human world is the mind of a youth. The exact age and situation is obviously different for each kid or young adult. If the circumstances are conducive, a feeling of invincibility is apt to set in sometime after middle school, but before that young adult has been working for a living for at least two years.
At that magic age, you are aware of your own abilities and not yet burdened with the cynicism that can accompany heartache or a feeling of failure. You are aware of your surroundings, but your past is something that occurred when you were a little kid and you have no real idea of what the future holds for you, so you tend not to spend a lot of time thinking about it. Your energy level reflects your enthusiasm and your optimism is untarnished.
I don’t think youth is wasted on the young. I think wisdom is wasted on the elder.
The cynicism and worry that bounces off the young is often an onus to those of us who are old enough to know better. Just as life brings some disappointment and difficulty, it also includes take-your-breath-away moments and pure joy. While most of us have the tools to effectively cope with whatever comes our way and the ability to focus on the wonderful things that occur instead of just the tough times, rational thought often loses out to irrational fear. The wisdom gained through the living of life is wasted.
As I get older, I am more aware of my tendency to think in contingencies, sometimes even before a contingency is even necessary. I ask myself whether I am approaching a certain decision from a position of strength and wisdom or from a place of fear and worry. If the answer is that I feel confident because I am utilizing my well-earned wisdom, yet I am still aware of what may go wrong, and I proceed forward as a result, I know I am making a decision from a position of strength. If I were to look in the mirror at that moment, I may not see a lion, but I would very likely see a positive and competent version of myself.
If, however, I find myself choosing to sit out or to not engage, or in any way shrinking from that next challenge (or opportunity!) then I know that I am falling victim to my own self-imposed limitations. Were I to look in the mirror at this point, I know I would not like what I saw.
What you see when you look in the mirror is your choice. The lion within, or the most positive and capable version of you, exists. Whether you see him or not relies on your willingness to identify your strengths and your unique traits and to use them to clear and push past your own self-imposed limitations.
Chief Executive Officer
Chicago Patrolmen’s Federal Credit Union