Looking through glasses that brings everything into focusTake a minute to think about this past week, month or even the year. I’m betting there were times when you didn’t get what you wanted, things just didn’t go your way, or you felt stuck in a rut and not going anywhere. 

Maybe it was due to a negative reaction from a coworker or boss, the loss of a promotion or personal relationship, or a lack of progress on a big project. It could have been any number of things that left you questioning your abilities, and ruminating on what you could have done or should be doing differently. 

Believe me when I say, we can all relate. Once we go down that road and start playing the same negative thoughts over and over in our heads, we begin to believe them. “I’m a loser, this is all my fault, I should have seen that coming, obviously I’m not qualified for or good at (fill in the blank).” One of the most effective ways to deal with those types of situations is with a technique called reframing

Quite simply, this is when we learn to shift our point of view on any given situation. And while the facts of the matter remain the same, the way you we them do not. Incidentally, being able to reframe is important in being an effective leader and developing self-awareness. Let’s take a look at what that might look like.


Perceived Problems Versus Facts

I have a friend, Carrie, who recently received an out-of-the-blue call from a client she’d been working with for over a year. “I’m sorry, but we’re just not able to do business with you any longer,” he said. “We need to spend this money elsewhere. You’re great, we just need to make a change.” 

Carrie was stunned. Not only was it without warning, he gave no tangible reason for ending the relationship other than a vague reference to spending. He did not criticize her work, and while she asked questions to gain clarity, nothing more was offered. 

As a result, Carrie started hyper-focusing and identifying what she saw as the problems in this turn of unexpected events:

      • What a jerk … I didn’t like working with him anyway.
      • I should have seen the signs, how could I be so stupid?
      • I must have been doing a horrible job.
      • Why did I think I could ever succeed at running my own business?

In this example, Carrie was shocked at first by the unexpected phone call, but was then flooded with an array of feelings, like anger, resentment, self-doubt, fear, and vulnerability. This swirl of emotion can leave us frozen and feeling helpless. And sometimes we make everyone else the enemy, or turn on ourselves with blame. 


Reframing: Accepting The Challenge

When things go wrong, when we are able to reframe such situations in new and more positive contexts, they become opportunities to be taken advantage of rather than problems to avoid. Tough situations can be transformed into new opportunities for growth, development and exploration.  

For example, here’s how Carrie can reframe, and shift her initial reactions to something more like: 

      • I appreciate having had this client for a year, and I wish him well. I’m ready to find another one.
      • Sometimes, unexpected things just happen out of the blue, without explanation. 
      • I am accomplished with a successful track record, and something else even better will come my way.
      • Running my own business has been filled with challenges, but I’ve dealt successfully with them before, and I will do the same now.


How to Practice Reframing

Reframing isn’t something that necessarily comes easily, but it becomes easier with practice. As writer Anna Borges explains in this Self article, 9 Therapist-Approved Tips for Reframing Your Existential Anxiety:

As humans with feelings and anxieties, we often fall into the habit of assuming that our thoughts are automatically true when, in fact, we’re all susceptible to unhealthy and unhelpful thought patterns known as cognitive distortions … but the important thing to know up top is that when our emotions get involved, our brains can turn into annoying liars and warp reality, making us feel worse.

Here are some of the tips Borges suggests for reframing, many of which I recommend to clients as part of leadership development programs, and executive and personal coaching sessions

      • Write down your thoughts.
      • Start fact-checking yourself.
      • Switch from asking, “Is this true?” to “Is this helpful?”
      • Turn a thought into an action you think will make you feel better.
      • Swap “finding the bright side” with “finding meaning.”

You can check out more of Borges’ tips here. And if you’d like to explore how reframing and other techniques can positively affect your career, relationships and goals, I hope you’ll contact us at Vida Aventura – we’re here to help.


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Feature image credit: Photo by Bud Helisson on Unsplash


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