There Are Two Ways of Spreading Light…
Here at Higher Performance Network, we strive to provide the best content in the realms of performance, sports medicine, training (both mental and physical), recovery, movement practices, and motivation. We spend a lot of time on, and take great pride in, developing our own original content and sharing it with the world. That being said, we also love being a conduit to awesome people and awesome information. Our goal is to connect the dots for people. Along the way we may add a few of the dots ourselves, but we also need to analyze and take into account everyone else’s dots. So when we came across this quote from American writer Edith Wharton, it really resonated with us. It goes as follows:
“There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.”
This is a brilliant quote. The idea that you don’t have to yourself be the flame in order to spread light is beautiful. And not only that, it might also be the exact message that we need in today’s society.
Now don’t get me wrong, we should all also strive to cultivate our own flame and shine it as brightly as possible for all to see. Finding something that you are truly passionate about, and cultivating it, is one of the most rewarding things you can do, both for yourself and for our collective tribe. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t play the role of the mirror as well.
We live in a culture where the pursuit of fame is encouraged more than ever before. We crave “attention points” in the form of followers, likes, views, etc, to the point that we actually become chemically dependent on them. That’s right. Scientists have found that the neurochemical response (flood of dopamine) that we experience from receiving these attention points is very similar to those of an addict after they receive their fix. We laugh at the idea of Pavlov’s dogs salivating at a bell, but aren’t we essentially doing the same thing with our social media “bells”?
We are conditioned to seek fame as a career and attention as a reward. There are a few problems with this for the light spreader. First, we can fall into the trap of spending more time trying to get the reward instead of focusing on cultivating the flame. It’s easy to become so concerned with becoming somebody of note that we forget about doing something of note. Additionally, when the recognition and reward becomes the main goal, it becomes easy to no longer only care about spreading the light. If “the dark” will get us the recognition, we’ll take that path instead.
I think the way to avoid this cultural trap is to make a conscious decision to spend more time being a mirror that reflects other people’s flame. By having a balance between the time that we spend as a mirror and as a flame, the focus shifts from us personally acquiring fame, fortune, and followers, to us spreading light.
Additionally, by searching for light to spread, we have a great opportunity to learn a lot of valuable things that end up being useful in our own pursuits. We live in an age in which the amount of information about any one particular subject is astronomical (particularly when looking into human health and performance). Learning from the information of others can save us a lot time (in some cases years), allowing us to learn more, and ultimately, become better at our craft.
It’s easy when first starting out to get caught up in a famine mentality and believe that you must get your stuff out there at all costs and everyone else’s stuff is only competition. It’s also easy when we do gain notoriety and success to think that what we say/do is gospel and there’s no need to look for, or recognize, other good stuff. Either way we are doing ourselves and the collective tribe a disservice. For the beginner, balancing flame and mirror roles allows you to connect and create a group of people who mutually respect each other’s work and help to spread each other’s light. For the people who have “made it”, you have a wide reach, which allows you to use your mirror to spread light to many different people and create a major impact.
So, fellow light spreaders, give some thought to Edith Wharton’s quote. And then, no matter what position you’re in, try becoming a mirror for others. We doubt that you’ll be disappointed in the results!
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