Reframing is a way of viewing and experiencing events, ideas, concepts and emotions to find more positive alternatives.
Life was difficult when I was young, but this was a good thing. That experience taught me a valuable lesson that I have used ever since. I learned that you can decide how you will be affected by events; that you do not have to be a victim of circumstance, but you can choose to use the situation instead. I accidentally learned the art of reframing.
In reframing, you choose what an event means to you. When things go wrong, you search for what is good about the situation and give that the most attention.
- You had planned a day out with a friend who has cancelled at the last minute. Instead of being frustrated by the situation, you do other things: catch up on phone calls to friends, or just relax and take time for yourself.
- You’re stuck in a traffic jam and are going to be late for an appointment. Instead of worrying and getting angry, use the situation to your advantage. Relax and listen to the radio, plan how you will catch up on things over the course of the day or mentally rehearse for the forthcoming event.
- A close relationship ends, which can make you feel sorry for yourself or angry with the other person. Or you could choose to use the opportunity to make a new start, to become healthier, or to just focus on yourself.
The aim of reframing is to shift your perspective to be more empowered to act, particularly if you feel stuck. Many times, merely reframing your perspective on a situation can help you change how you feel about the situation as well. A reframe needs to be felt; the new frame needs to be more emotionally compelling than the old one if it is to be accepted.
“Success is going from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.” Winston Churchill
Viktor Frankl the famous neurologist, psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor gave this excellent example of reframing:
“Once, an elderly general practitioner consulted me because of his severe depression. He could not overcome the loss of his wife who had died two years before and whom he had loved above all else.
Now how could I help him? What should I tell him? I refrained from telling him anything, but instead confronted him with a question, ‘what would have happened, Doctor, if you had died first, and your wife would have had to survive you?’ ‘Oh,’ he said, ‘for her this would have been terrible; how she would have suffered!’
Whereupon I replied, ‘you see, Doctor, such a suffering has been spared her, and it is you who have spared her this suffering – to be sure at the price that you have now to survive and mourn her.’ He said no word but shook my hand and calmly left the office.
In some way, suffering ceases to be suffering at the moment it finds a meaning, such as the meaning of a sacrifice.”
Many fields regularly use reframing, including therapy, coaching and even marketing and sales. Techniques of reframing can also be used to cultivate critical thinking and creative skills.
The inventor of Velcro noticed how difficult it was to get burrs out of his clothing and decided this could be useful for attaching things together. He reframed the situation and used it creatively.
“Wise people learn not to dread but actually to welcome problems.” M. Scott Peck
In life you will get problems – that’s accepted. You will be better at facing them, solving them, becoming less depressed and upset if you learn to embrace the challenge.
It is unlikely that many people would welcome problems, but we can learn to do so by getting in the habit of seeing problems as ‘opportunities in disguise’. We can learn to welcome problems by deliberately trying to see what’s good about them.
I personally use this technique on a daily basis whenever I am faced with negative situations. This helps me greatly to keep a positive mindset most of the day thereby bringing more positive things into my life.
I was made redundant
I was working for an advertising agency and I was informed that I would be made redundant in the near future. This was initially a shock, but as I processed this, I discovered that this would actually give me the opportunity to finally achieve one of my dreams, which was to run my own successful business.
I had been employed for most of my life, apart from a two-year period 30 years ago where I ran my own business that subsequently failed.
The great thing about a failure is that, if you learn from it, then it’s not a failure but a learning experience, and that is exactly what happened to me. I learned a great deal about how not to run a business, so this time round I am not making the same mistakes and the business is growing nicely.
During my time at this agency, I had two outstanding years where I was the top performer in the company, bringing in record amounts of revenue. On the back of this I could have comfortably been successful in securing a position with another agency following redundancy, but because of my re-frame I realised that there was a better option.
I chose instead to let the redundancy materialise and use the money to set up my own business – and JD Mindcoach Ltd was born.
“A person who never made a mistake, never tried anything new.” Albert Einstein
Thoughts for the week:
- How do you respond to negative situations?
- Do you simply follow the usual path of negativity?
- This week whenever you face something negative see if you can find the positive in this situation.
- Work hard at this as I have yet to come across a negative situation which doesn’t contain a seed of something positive.
- Your job is to find this positive, focus on it and be inspired by it.
If you have found anything positive over the past 12 months during the pandemic please respond to this blog and let me know I would be very interested to see if any of you have been reframing without knowing it.