Having the skill to reframe experiences, perspectives, and statements is a powerful skill to have. It can help you get the most out of life, and it’s a critical skill to have as coach, teacher, or leader.
Like any skill, though, it has to be used in moderation. When it’s underused, we get fixated on one particular view of the world, but when it’s overused, we become unable to see the world as it truly is. True wisdom comes from being able to see the world as it is — not as we’ve made it to be or as we’d like it to be, but as it is.
At a certain point, excessive reframing becomes a sophisticated smoke and mirrors operation. The real concern is that what’s distorted is not how we see the world, but how we see ourselves.
Pivoting Away From Yourself
Reframing allows you to pivot quickly, since what often gets us stuck is a particular belief or perspective. Once we let go of that belief or perspective, we can shift those bottled-up energies to something that helps us make the changes that we’d like to see.
However, it’s possible to pivot too quickly. Even when we’re Stuck, there are things to learn. Understanding why we’re hurt or scared, for instance, can help us work with and through the hurt and fear instead of developing a coping strategy that’s just another form of hiding and running from those feelings. Since we’re not addressing the cause and instead pivoting away from the effects, those effects will come about again. There are times to defer dealing with the internal challenges, but that debt has to be paid sometime – and it does acquire interest.
Not only does the debt acquire interest, but there’s also a lack of acknowledgment about how you truly feel. Reframing and pivoting away too quickly can keep us from learning to listen to those emotions that start as a whisper one day but become a Big Deal three weeks later.
If your feelings are hurt, they’re hurt. If you’re sad, you’re sad. You aren’t your feelings, and they don’t have to control you; in fact, they can help you. But they can only help you if you acknowledge them for what they are.
Reframing the Lessons Away
Similarly, sometimes we set goals and just don’t meet them. Reframing and pivoting away from the reality that we didn’t accomplish our goals keeps us from asking the really good questions that may help us accomplish the next goal we set. What could we have done differently? What were the external factors that made it challenging, and can we mitigate them next time? Failure can be an opportunity; but if you don’t acknowledge that the goal wasn’t met, it’s hard to learn those lessons.
Furthermore, the more you break commitments to yourself, the harder it is to trust yourself. And, since respect is built on trust, it’s easy to get into self-defeating patterns that lead to a lack of self-respect and self-acknowledgment. Accomplishing meaningful goals takes a lot of showing up and hard work sometimes, but if part of you knows that it doesn’t really matter if you meet your goals, Resistance and the hard parts of life have a much easier time winning.
Sure, you didn’t lose 25 pounds in three months, but you lost 5. That’s good, right? Nevermind that you worked out four times during that period, ate whatever you wanted, and set an unrealistic goal to start with; you can always try again!
You Need Lemons To Make Lemonade
This post started with moderation, and it’ll end there.
Focusing solely on the negative components of life makes you blind to the new possibilities and presents of the present. Reframing and pivoting from the negative too quickly keeps you from learning, growing, and acknowledging your real challenges and strengths.
Lemonade is sour and sweet; without lemons, all you have is sweet water, but without sugar, all you have is a diluted acid. When life hands you lemons, don’t reframe them away.
This is a great article. I’m impressed with your insight. Thanks for sharing it with others. Your sincerity always shines through. Best regards from Canada.
Jeanette LeBlanc says
Charlie, impressive and very timely article – implications far beyond business and productivity….this goes right to the heart of life.
thank you for sending a reminder that I very much needed to hear.
.-= Jeanette LeBlanc´s last blog ..Featured | Swatchbook Weddings | Phoenix Wedding Photography =-.
What a remarkable post and I love the analogy of the lemons. Good food for thougth…. and one of the many life learning lessons ….
.-= Fatibony´s last blog ..Two People,Yes, Two Lasting Friends =-.
Paul Cornies says
I really like your central image about lemons being both sweet and sour – so too is life. Work with the full potential of that reality.
.-= Paul Cornies´s last blog ..Empowering Teens to Serve =-.
Archan Mehta says
Thanks for this post, Charlie, enjoyed it.
To be realistic is to see the world as it is.
And this can help in our progress, but it can also limit our progress.
That’s because imagination can take us beyond mere realism–and we need to go there. Life would be boring without the gift of imagination. “Imagination is more important than knowledge,” wrote Albert Einstein.
Society tends to focus too much on reality and too little on the imagination. We are taught to be realistic from nursery school.
It is indeed strange that we have to rely on artists, scientists and entrepreneurs for the gift of imagination. Imagination is a faculty that can be cultivated and it should be openly accessible to one and all.
Imagination can be a good antidote to the trials and tribulations of life and it can provide a source of relief too (catharsis).
Many creative people have used their imaginations to escape from trivial and petty concerns. The invention of our telephone (Alexander Graham Bell) is a good example of using one’s imagination to figure out a novel solution. Reality orientation is necessary, but not essential.
I thank my lucky stars that Vincent Van Gogh and Robert Frost were unrealistic!
I recently got some hate mail via my contact form, and the hater was talking about how we (philosophers, thinkers, dreamers, what have you) spend so much time in the clouds when what we really need is realistic thinking.
Funny that most of his comment failed to address that what was an imaginary possibility to him is my daily existence.
“Realistic” thinking is often just a shorthand for “only seeing the world as it has been.” But each moment is a beautiful combination of what has been and what could be.
Hans Hageman says
Great point about breaking trust with yourself and how it makes it more difficult to trust yourself in the future. I pride myself on being self-reliant and when I break trust with myself I have no one else to blame.
Journaling helps me to reflect on the proper balance between the lemons and the other ingredients.
Wow! This is my first visit to Productive Flourishing, and I love what I see.
Actually, the core concept behind this post of getting at truth above all else, is identical to what I posted a couple hours ago on controlling the imagination. Our minds would gladly have us pivot ourselves to death, without ever looking at the truth- but that truth is always what we need to see to understand the situation.
Welcome to the party, Travis! As a philosopher, I wonder sometimes about the whole “truth” thing. All too often we think we’re seeing the way the world is, but the reality is that all observation is theory-laden. Without going the route of the skeptic, we can admit that there may be different consistent interpretations to same observation. While this may seem to contradict the thrust of this post, it doesn’t, really; admitting that there are different perspectives doesn’t mean that we should choose the positive ones by default.
Tim Brownson says
I’m always happy to tell anybody that is prepared to listen I hardly read any ‘self development’ blogs because the vast majority are crap offering poor ill informed advice at best and dangerous suggestions at worst.
You’re not crap, this blog isn’t crap and this post isn’t crap.
In fact all 3 are rather excellent. Good work fella!
This means a lot to me, Tim. Thank you!
Dan @ Anxiety Support Network says
Just another great post about doing the best you can with what you have at that given moment. Every dead end can be used to create some form of good in the world. Didn’t Thomas Edison fail something like a 1000 times (maybe more?) before he finally created a working light bulb? Opportunity is always there; it’s just that we have to reframe things so we see it. Good post!
I have to be careful here myself because it’s hard for me to see things as a true failure. Missteps, mistakes, setbacks – sure; but true failures are hard to come by because theirs always something to be learned. It seems that the only real failure is not learning from experience.
So, yeah, Edison found 1,000 ways that didn’t work, but each way gave him the parameters for what would work eventually.
My Happimess says
Charlie, I absolutely love this post! I’m a big fan of reshaping perspectives, but agree that settling into our emotions is not a step that can be bypassed. If it is, we only end up feeling more uneasy, as if there is something we haven’t quite dealt with before moving on. And there is – our emotions!
It’s often the difficult ones we want to cut off for fear that we’ll never be able to shed them. But the more we avoid them, the more we’ll never be able to shed them. And as all emotions are – even the easier ones like joy – they are fleeting, ephemeral guides to help us figure out where we are so we know how to move forward.
Thank you thank you thank you for sharing this message!!! Loved it!
I’ve always loved the name of your blog. That “m” catches me every time.
I love your comment about how our emotions serve as guides. What I’d like to add is that they’re guides, but they’re not the driver.