How a mirror saved my co-worker’s life and helped an Olympian compete.

! Warning !
Not for the faint-hearted. Includes description of a suicide attempt.

Last month I got a picture from Pat (not the real name), my former coworker. In the picture, his beautiful wife hugged him and in his hands was his newborn son.

Four years ago, Pat called me.
When I picked up, he said:
“Lubo I’m not going to make it. I am going to kill myself.”

It was a month since Pat previously attempted suicide. His flatmate came home early and found him unconscious in a bath with open veins. The paramedics saved Pat. Afterwards, he was confined in a psychiatric unit for a month and released only a day before this call.

During that last month, I spoke with Pat a few times. I understood him. A year ago, I was too ready to die. But my plan didn’t work out either. Mentally, I was now in a different place. I started to build a new life for myself.
But he wasn’t in the same place as me. Not yet.

I had to do something radical. Something that would change the direction of his thoughts.

“Do you trust me?” I asked.
“Yes.” I could hardly hear him. His voice was faint and resigned. I needed to keep him responding.
“OK, I want you to do something. Will you do it?” It worked.
“Yes,” Pat said a bit louder.
“Good. Do you have a mirror? The bigger the better.”
“Yes, I do”.
Pat said more words this time. Great! He’s engaging.

“I want you to stand in front of that mirror and look at your reflection. Put me on loudspeaker, so I can talk to you,” I said.
He did what I asked.
“Now I want you to look that guy in the mirror in the eyes and tell him, that you ARE gonna make it. He’s trying to kill you, but you are stronger than him. I want you to tell him that.”

“I am going to make it.”
As I expected, Pat’s voice was meek and unconvincing. But it didn’t matter. He was speaking. I knew, that we are making progress. My confidence grew.
“No Pat. Not like that.” Before, my voice was soft, but now I used my commanding voice.
“You have to show him, that you mean business. That YOU are in charge. Not him. If you need to, hit the wall with your fist. You are the strong one. Show it.”

Pat’s voice grew stronger.
“I am in charge. I will make it. You cannot control me!”
I joined Pat, shouting, “Yes, tell him, man! You are the boss! You’re gonna make it. You have what it takes! YES!”
Suddenly, I heard glass shatter.
“What happened?” I asked.
“I broke the mirror. I had to punch him in the face.”
Pat was breathing heavily, but his voice was happy.
“I feel good. This feels so good,” he said.

His hand was bleeding, so he bandaged it and after he cleaned the shards. We talked all that time and continued talking for two more hours. While we were on the phone, he made plans for his life. From the moment he broke the mirror, we spoke only about his future. I guided him with questions. Explained to him different principles when he wanted clarification. But the plans he made that day were all his.

Afterwards, I spoke with him weekly for the next few months about his progress. We lost touch when I moved away a year later. We had no contact for three years, until that day when he sent me the photo of his family.

What happened on that call? How did I came up with this solution?
I copied it.

In the week before that call, I listened several times to Success Principles, an audiobook by Jack Canfield.
In the book, Jack describes the story of Ruben Gonzalez.

Ruben wanted to quit the first day after starting Olympic training. But over the phone, Ruben’s friend used the mirror method to talk him out of quitting.
That story came to my mind when I was on the phone with Pat. I used it and it worked.
Since that day, this method of getting out of the quitting mindset has been an integral part of my success toolbox.
I urge you to copy it for yourself too.

How does it work?

To change behaviour, we have to interrupt thought patterns. Thus getting up and standing in front of the mirror engages us in different behaviour. The thought pattern is interrupted.

Standing in front of the mirror allows us to blame that other person.

Hey, it’s not me who is in the wrong. You see, I am the good guy. The villain is the reflection in the mirror. That reflection becomes the enemy I can fight. It’s a call to arms, a call to action —a call to do something good. But shouting at the enemy is not enough. If nothing follows, the pleasing feeling will wane in a few hours. A clear and specific path must be laid to follow —a war plan.

I must show myself that

  • I am the good guy
  • I am strong enough to follow through
  • and I know how to follow through

And the plan must be followed by action.

We want to prove ourselves right. If we think about suicide or quitting, we want to be right. If we take action in the opposite direction, we want to be right too. However, action has a stronger pull than thoughts. That’s why action must follow a plan immediately. (But that’s something for a different newsletter.)

So that is it. The tool I use when I feel like quitting.

It works best when I have someone to cheer me up while I dress down the guy in the mirror. But it works well even when I am alone.

Was it a coincidence that I listened to Success Principles several times right before this call?
Nope, I don’t believe so. There are considerably bigger things playing out in our lives than we can imagine. And you reading this is not a coincidence either.

I believe that either you or someone around you needs this message. If someone’s name popped into your mind, please forward this newsletter to them.

And I would suggest checking out Success Principles by Jack Canfield as well.

What you can do next:

If you aren’t already subscribed to the ‘Growing Tree of Life’ newsletter and if you want to do so, here is the newsletter subscription form. I will send you one every Thursday.

Interested in this topic? Find more similar posts: , ,

Image sources: