Reframing thoughts and decisions
To live an enlightened and productive life, learn to control your mind. You must control how you respond to the world around you. We have talked about several methods to help you do this in past blogs. One is to develop a meditation practice. A second is to become more mindful and aware of the life you are living. Reframing changes how you see and react to those things around you.
What is reframing
Reframing is a way of changing the way we are looking at something. When we change some aspect of the way we look at something, then we have changed the way we can develop an answer or our response. When we are driving down a road at night and we see flashing red lights. What first comes to mind. There is an accident ahead. We wonder whether it injured someone? As we drive closer, we see the lights are on the side of the road and the traffic light is not working.
In our first response, the lens through which we viewed flashing red lights was “accident, hurt people”. When we got closer our lens changed to see what really happened. They call this changing of the way we view things through the lens of our mind framing. And the changing of the lens to see something different is reframing. Many of us can learn to do this ourselves, but others may need help to learn the technique because of their background.
Why is this a valuable talent to develop? We as human beings are quick to jump to a conclusion, usually erroneous, in our mind. We must control our thoughts through reframing to live more fully and happily.
“My life has been filled with terrible misfortunes, most of which have never happened.” Said Mark Twain.
When we have negative thoughts or spiral down the rabbit hole of self-doubt. We need a way back to positive land. This reframing can give us. The first thing we must do is recognize that negativism is happening. We all have negative thoughts and self-doubts. The first step is to recognize it is happening. Then you tell your mind to go somewhere positive. You can think of this as replacement reframing. Replace the negative thoughts with positive ones.
Another negative thought pattern is exaggerating the negative impact. When I was working for a corporation, we had several downsizing events. In the first, we went from 6,000 to 4,000 employees. Nobody knew for about six weeks who would lose their job. You can imagine the negative thought patterns that arose. I will lose my job. I will have to live on the street. To reframe this exaggeration, force your mind to focus on reality. The chances you will lose your job are small. And if you lose your job, you would get a very lucrative lump sum payment. You would have time to find another job.
When we face a problem, and we have to decide what to do. We need to frame the problem in as many ways as possible and examine all solutions or choices. Usually, our problem involves risk and reward tradeoffs. How much risk are we willing to take to get a certain value in return. It amazes me that people will quit a job in one place, pack everything up and move to another without a job waiting for them. That is way too much risk for me. But let’s say the person is a doctor or a nurse who can easily find work anywhere. Then the risk for them is much lower.
When deciding you also have to understand what your inherent biases and assumptions are that affect the lens or framework you are using. The doctor and nurse have one set of assumptions. And a teacher might have another set. Each person frames the problem differently, which is why the world’s problems are so difficult to solve. We each see the problem differently.
5 ways to reframe anything
1. We understand that we only need to change one aspect of how we see something to get a distinct point of view. For example, if your lens doesn’t see people as having different colored skin, then it is easier for you to accept that we should treat all people the same.
2. Regardless of your negative thoughts, you can reframe them so they are no longer negative. Viktor Frankl lived through internment in the Nazi camps. He said, “In a position of utter desolation, when man cannot express himself in positive action, when his only achievement may consist in enduring his sufferings in the right way – an honorable way – in such a position man can, through loving contemplation of the image he carries of his beloved, achieve fulfillment.” He was an exceptional person to have survived the atrocities he saw. Our negative situations are usually not as dire.
3. When we think we are unable or need not act, reframe your views. Inaction is in agreement with what has happened. Not speaking up condones the behavior. Change your thoughts to be proactive.
4. If you are making assumptions about how others see you. You need to change your thinking about how you see yourself. If you think others see you as incompetent, shy, or reserved. Realize first that you don’t know what they are thinking. You are not a mind reader. Change your lens to how competent, outgoing, and chatty you are.
5. Which do you prefer the sure thing or the possibility of more or nothing? As humans, we most often prefer the sure thing. But if you change your evaluation frame, you might change your choice.
Reframing is a powerful tool
Reframing is a powerful way of using your brain to test things differently. By reframing you can move from sad to happy. You can move from inaction to action. And you can speak truth to power.