Social Smoke and Mirrors

The social mirror is what Dr. Stephen R. Covey called it: how dangerously impactful the opinions of others are on the opinions we have of ourselves. Ask yourself, “How important is what others think of me? How do others’ opinions shape my decisions? How much of what I do, say, and buy is based on what others will think of me?”

If you’re brutally honest with yourself, I bet it’s a shockingly high amount.

If the only vision we have of ourselves comes from the social mirror—from the current social paradigm and the opinions, perceptions, and paradigms of the people around us—our view of ourselves is like the reflection in the crazy mirror room at the carnival.”

Forgive yourself; it’s called being human, and we all struggle with it. Especially when it comes to “keeping up with the Joneses.” Our homes, mountain bikes, purses, cars, vacations—it’s endless. We see what someone else has and associate a level of stature with it. I certainly do and am very comfortable admitting it.

I get a fair (massive) amount of flack about the cars I buy and drive. Mostly quite expensive and luxurious. I like cars. I have zero idea how they operate, how gasoline allows the pedal to move the car forward. I know nothing about what’s under the hood and don’t care. I couldn’t find a spark plug (or tell you why it’s important), but I love sitting in handstitched leather, warmed (and cooled) seats, almost as much as I love a fine glass of champagne (by the way, it’s all about the temp and the rim of the glass).

I love really nice cars. I don’t care how fast it can drive or how many cylinders it has (I have zero clue what a cylinder even is or does.) I just want to push the button, put down the top, and drive around feeling like a king.

I don’t own a vacation home. I don’t fly first class. I don’t buy cigars, play golf, gamble, heli-ski, or engage in other hobbies that when tallied up cost a lot more than my car.

But when I ask myself really, truly why I like nice cars so much and not nice chainsaws, I realize it’s because nobody can see an expensive chainsaw. It doesn’t give me social stature. It doesn’t fill a need for me. It might for you, but it doesn’t for me. Cars fill that need for me. Why does my wife want to carry a Louis Vuitton purse to lunch with her girlfriends? Why do you buy top-of-the-line Calloway golf clubs?

We all face and struggle with the social mirror. All of us.

Dr. Covey included.

When I first joined the company twenty-five years ago, Dr. Covey had a private office at the Covey Leadership Center, and one day he pulled up in a stunning new Range Rover. I loved it. I wanted it. And obviously so did he. He was “my people.”

Great for him. Great for me. Great for you….If we can afford our luxuries and also come to terms with why we want them. I am quite comfortable acknowledging I feel slightly better about myself when I drive my luxury car, as opposed to a more sensible model.

Live your life for yourself, while also recognizing the mirror is always there, taunting us. Come to terms with your why, and then enjoy it.

The best leaders are curious. But they don’t just ask a lot of questions. They ask the right questions—the kind that focus their team’s brainpower on the right problems.

About the Author

Scott Miller

Scott Miller is a 25-year associate of FranklinCovey and serves as Senior Advisor, Thought Leadership. Scott hosts the world’s largest and fastest-growing podcast/newsletter devoted to leadership development, On Leadership. Additionally, Scott is the author of the multi-week Amazon #1 New Releases, Master Mentors: 30 Transformative Insights From Our Greatest Minds, Management Mess to Leadership Success: 30 Challenges to Become the Leader You Would Follow, and the Wall Street Journal bestseller, Everyone Deserves a Great Manager: The 6 Critical Practices for Leading a Team. He lives in Salt Lake City, Utah, with his wife and three sons.

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