The man in the mirror…it all starts here (Part 1)

Back in 1987 Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror” topped the Billboard Top 100 for two weeks in a row.  It was a smash hit with some of the most meaningful lyrics ever to grace a pop song:

I’m starting with the man in the mirror
I’m asking him to change his ways
And no message could have been any clearer
If you want to make the world a better place
Take a look at yourself, and then make a change


1987 was also the year my wife graduated from high school (sorry to out you Sandi, but yes, that was 31 years ago!).  I was a junior in college studying abroad in England that same year – and as I look back on my time in London I realize now why it was such a transformative experience; I finally began to really look in the mirror.

My first two years of college were a big disappointment.  I didn’t like the school, so I transferred (twice!).  I didn’t like my major so I changed it 2 or 3 times.  I didn’t like being in a committed relationship, so I broke up with Sandi (for 18 months).  I became an expert at looking at the people and circumstances around me with a critical eye.  The Christian college I attended was “full of hypocrites”.  A long distance relationship made me feel “suffocated”.  A ministry degree felt so narrow, so “limiting”.  So, I bounced around feeling more miserable with each new turn.

So, I ended up in London, a city of over 6 million people in 1987 (now over 8 million).  I unpacked my bags, looked around, and realized that I didn’t know a soul.  I have never felt such deep loneliness.  I had no one, so I spent a lot of time with myself.   What began as homesickness and depression turned a corner for me after about 3 weeks.  I can’t put my finger on it exactly, but the day came when I took a good look in the mirror.  I didn’t like the person I had become in college.  Everything had turned inward, it was all about me and what I wanted.  And I was finally ready to face it.

Realizing I was in over my head I simply came to God and asked for help.  Humbled, I reconnected with God at a heart level once again.  And, it felt like something inside of me clicked.  Hope was stirred.  Change felt possible.

If I could just start with me, taking ownership for my life, my choices, and my feelings, then I could change my reality.  There were tendencies undermining my contentment, my relationships, and my studies.  And, like broccoli in your teeth, everyone can clearly see those tendencies except you (but you are the only one who can remove the broccoli).

At the ripe age of 20 I was determined to make a change for the better – but how exactly does that work?

Here’s a visual tool called “Know Yourself to Lead Yourself” I have been using just about every day in my new role as Senior Consultant for GiANT Worldwide:

We all have tendencies that are baked in to our personalities.  Like our fingerprints we were born with them and they aren’t going to change much over our lifetime.  These tendencies shape how we make decisions, how we get energy, how we learn, and how we interact with the world.  However, like a fish unaware of the very water it swims through, most of us are unaware of these inborn tendencies.

In other words, we don’t realize what it’s like to be on the other side of us.

These tendencies result in patterns that drive our actions (and reactions).  Those actions have consequences, both good and bad.  And, those consequences strongly influence our reality.

So, if you want to change your reality for the better, where do you begin?  Since you can’t change your tendencies you must begin with your actions.  If you choose to speak, act, and think differently you will change the consequences and your reality.  Easier said than done!

Here’s the secret: if you can understand the WHY beneath your tendencies you have a better chance of figuring out the HOW to changing your actions.

My next post will walk through the steps I took to do just that, both as a 20 year old struggling to find his way in England and as a 50 year old struggling to find his way in marriage, parenting, ministry, and career.

If you want to make the world a better place, first take a look at yourself.  Turns out Mike was right.

Here’s a great (free) resource for your journey of knowing yourself to lead yourself.  Enjoy!

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