As the Forrest Gump-inspired bumper-sticker reminds us, “Shit happens.”
That’s just one of the many ways we can reframe a situation by turning an apparent negative into a powerful positive. Reframing, quite simply, is the process of shifting our perspective and finding the silver lining in every cloud. Since we tell ourselves a story about everything that’s happening all around us, we may as well tell ourselves a positive story, right?
Does reframing really matter? In a word, yes. Very much. Here are three benefits to engaging in reframing on a regular basis:
- Resilience building: Reframing helps us develop resilience by training our minds to see difficulties as opportunities for growth. Instead of succumbing to adversity, we learn to adapt and thrive.
- Stress reduction: Reframing can reduce stress levels by changing how we perceive stressful situations. When we see them as challenges to overcome rather than insurmountable problems, stress becomes more manageable.
- Improved problem-solving: When faced with a problem, effective reframing allows us to view it from multiple angles, leading to better, more innovative solutions.
You may have heard advice like this before: “Instead of saying, I have to…, reframe it as, I get to…” If only it were that easy. I find it hard to believe anyone might say, “I get to have a root canal today!” There’s more to it than just painting it with rainbow paint and adorning it with unicorn glitter. So let’s examine a couple of keys that may help prepare us to engage in authentic, helpful reframing:
- Mindfulness: Stay present and aware of your thoughts and emotions. Mindfulness helps you catch negative thinking patterns and replace them with positive ones.
- Positive language: Use positive language to describe situations and challenges. Instead of saying, “I can’t do this,” tell yourself, “I will give it my best shot.”
- Perspective shifting: Try to view the situation from another perspective. This can provide valuable insights and lead to a more positive outlook.
Before you start accusing reframers of practicing toxic positivity, let’s address the elephant in the room. Does reframing negatives into positives mean we are dismissing our authentic emotions?
What we’re really talking about here is shifting your perspective to see a situation from a different angle. We still acknowledge and validate our feelings. If “This sucks” pops into your mind, take the time you need to honor the suckiness of it, connect with your emotions, and, when you’re ready, look for an alternative viewpoint. This helps you manage and cope with your emotions by finding constructive ways to deal with them.
For example, if you’re feeling disappointed about not getting a job or promotion you wanted, reframing it as an opportunity for personal growth doesn’t mean you deny your initial disappointment. Instead, it allows you to channel that feeling into motivation for self-improvement, future endeavors, and another pathway to success.
Reframing allows you to channel your emotions into motivation for self-improvement. By taking another perspective, we can make better decisions.
Often, the source of our frustration, anger, or irritation is an event, a circumstance, or something out of our control. If that’s the case, when we listen for the story we’re telling ourselves, consider the Lurking Benefit. Ask yourself, “What’s the positive silver lining in this negative cloud?” Here are a few examples of how this might play out in your mind:
- When you fail a test, reframe like this: “This is a chance to learn from my mistakes and improve for next time.”
- When you experience a relationship breakup, reframe like this: “I can take this time to focus on my personal growth and self-discovery.”
- When you have financial struggles, reframe like this: “This is an opportunity to investigate budgeting, financial management, and an appreciation of the simple things.”
- When you are stuck in traffic, reframe like this: “I can pause my hurried life and practice patience and tolerance.”
- When your computer crashes midway through a project, reframe like this: “Re-doing some of the work can help me with clarifying my thinking, and now I’m inspired to learn more about the Cloud.”
At times, it’s other people that grind our gears. Human behaviors can be really exasperating, and when they invade our minds, it can be hard to shift the story to be more positive. In these cases, it can be helpful to consider the *Noble Intent. Ask yourself, “Why would a reasonable, rational, kind person act like this?” This allows you to approach the situation with empathy and a more positive perspective, which can lead to better understanding and communication with the offending person. Check out these examples:
- When another person seems over-critical, reframe like this: “Perhaps this is some thorough feedback I hadn’t considered.”
- When another person acts bossy, reframe like this: “It appears this person has a need for control. Perhaps I can offer some choices to help out.”
- When another person makes passive-aggressive comments, reframe like this: “It’s hard to express yourself sometimes. I might need to ask for clarity on what this person feels and needs.”
- When another person interrupts often, reframe like this: “These stories are important to this person. Maybe it would help if I asked more questions.”
- When another person yells at you for something, reframe like this: “Wow, this person is having a bad day. I’ve got to stay calm and help diffuse all this energy.”
Remember, reframing is a powerful tool that can help us navigate life’s challenges with a positive mindset. When shit happens, reframe it as an opportunity to honor our emotions, cleanse our thoughts, and find the silver lining. It might just become a bumper-sticker.
*Credit to Dr. James Alexander and the Functional Family Therapy model for the term “Noble Intent.”
Pete Hall is the President/CEO of Strive Success Solutions. You can reach him via email at Pete@StriveSS.com.
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