Photo by Charles on Unsplash
Photo by Charles on Unsplash
Many of us enter a new year with a sense of desire for change. We want things to feel different, and we set resolutions, intentions, or goals in order to make it happen. That’s all well and good, but no change will truly take hold unless we take a good hard look at the narratives we believe (and repeatedly reinforce in our minds), about the world, ourselves, and other people.
After all, the reality we live is completely shaped by the words, or stories, that we create.
In both your personal life, and in your role as a leader or business-person, you can use reframing to finally create the reality you desire.
What is reframing?
When we talk about reframing, we’re specifically referencing the unique way that each person views their world, and how that can be changed. This viewpoint includes each lived experience, as well as more intangible things: ideas, concepts, emotions, and more.
Each of those elements is a key piece of the reality that you personally live each and every day. And according to the work being done with reframing, you can re-examine each of those elements and literally reframe them to create a new reality!
Ideally, you’ll take the time to consider positive, useful alternatives to your current reality, then use reframing to bring them in to being!
Too good to be true?
Try thinking of reframing as seeing the world (or a specific situation) through a different pair of glasses.
In the same way that simply changing the tint on your sunglasses can flood you with more light, leave you in the shadows, or give everything a rosy hue, reframing works by helping you see the world in a new way.
As I had shared on my website, “Reframing, mentally and linguistically, does the same thing. It changes the story you tell yourself about something.”
If it sounds powerful, that’s because it is! Rather than continuing to live the same old storyline again and again, reframing insists that you have the power to begin reshaping your reality.
Changing Your Business Story
Scholars from Harvard have done the research needed to prove that we truly do have the capacity to shape our worlds with the stories we tell ourselves.
Clearly, this is a power that can be used for better or worse. If you’ve ever felt trapped, unhappy, stuck, or even angry about your life, it’s quite likely that stories you’ve created for yourself are playing into that.
Rather than remain there, you can actually reframe those stories and start to see changes. And these shifts don’t have to be only in your personal life!
For example, imagine a job applicant who is 50+. They have experience, skills, and desire a new job — but they also know that the market is saturated, their age isn’t always seen in a positive light, and competition is stiff.
It would be easy for them to start telling themselves that there is no place for them in the job market, that they’ll never be given the role they desire, and that they’ve somehow passed their prime.
And sure, they could choose to believe that.
But what about a reframe?
Couldn’t they just as easily choose to recognize that they have knowledge, experience, and depth that makes them a stand-out candidate?
They could put together their resume in such a way that they highlight their vast store of related experience, and reveal why they are extremely qualified for any position they desire. They could even recognize that their ability to negotiate, bargain, and draw from comparative experiences has been honed in ways that a younger job applicant couldn’t yet dream of.
The vital piece here is that nothing changed…and yet everything changed.
Rather than create a story of defeat, despair, and discouragement, with a bit of a reframe they were empowered, excited, and enthusiastic about taking on their job search.
Changing Your Personal Story
In the same way that a job applicant or employee can tell themselves negative stories pertaining to their professional life, we can create personal narratives that leave us feeling disempowered and fragile.
People who do this tend to feel disengaged, apathetic, or frustrated with the way their life is. Little do they know that they have the power to reframe and create change!
For example, consider a young person that grew up poor in a small, rural town. They eventually realize that they didn’t have the same access to cultural experiences, travel, education, or personal connections that many of their similar-aged peers have had.
They feel isolated, and constantly have a sense of having “missed out” on important things.
Here’s the Reframe
This person could choose to release all the ideas about everything they missed out on or didn’t have. After all, they have strong, enduring relationships with their family. They got to exercise their imagination in wildly creative ways, were mostly unhindered by the rules and regulations of city life, and can now revel in the chance to explore a world they used to only dream of.
It’s the same childhood, but the reframe strives to recognize the power, joy, and strength that were created from the experience, rather than mull over all the ways that it was less than ideal.
With just a bit of a shift, both of our case studies were able to move into a world of empowerment and strength. By choosing to recognize truths beyond their initial stories, they changed their lives for the better.
When should you reframe?
Although you may leap to reframing some of the bigger things in life (which you can definitely do!), you can also choose to practice reframing throughout the regular bumps you face in everyday life.
For example, imagine your child “helped” out this morning by making their own breakfast. They’re cheerfully munching away, with apparently no concerns about the cereal that’s now all over the counter and floor.
Do you roll your eyes, emit a loud sigh, and start chastising them for creating such a mess that now has to be cleaned up (most likely by you)? Well, that is one option. But as someone who has the power to reframe any situation, you recognize that that is all it is: one option.
Here are two others –
This type of reframing asks you to find ways that any behavior or incidence could be considered helpful or positive. By changing the context, we “change glasses” and have an opportunity to see things through a new lens.
In the case of the spilled cereal, we might use context reframing to say “I am incredibly privileged to have a healthy child who is growing into an independent young adult.” or even “Our family is so fortunate to be so well fed that we don’t have to worry if a bit of cereal goes to waste.”
Rather than focusing on the inconvenience that’s been created, you take a moment to realize the privilege inherent in being able to experience that annoyance in the first place.
In this type of reframing, you actually alter the content, or meaning, of the behavior itself. If we consider our cereal again, a content reframe might have us saying something like, “That spilled cereal isn’t about you being clumsy or taking me for granted. I recognize that you’re actually trying to save me time and energy by making your own breakfast.”
Here, you realize that it’s just as possible for the reframed version of this story to be the truth, and you can decide if you’d rather feel annoyed and inconvenienced, or proud and hopeful for the growth that is to come. It’s your choice!
- You have the power to change any story that you tell yourself about your own life and experiences; as the story changes, so does its meaning
- You can create new meaning quite rapidly when you use reframing regularly
- Shifting your perception of yourself, as well as the world around you and the people in your life, is practical
Enjoy this article? You can listen to more like on the podcast, Crack the Behavior Code.