If you’re like most people, you’ve got problems. Maybe you don’t have enough time, money or support to do what you want, or maybe there is a conflict within your family or team at work. Whatever your problems might be, you have the power to dramatically transform any situation in your life by altering your perception.
You see, it’s not your problems that limit you from achieving what you want, it’s the story you tell yourself about them that blocks you from accessing the ideas and motivation to get even better results. Human beings are meaning-making machines. We do not see the world as it is, we interpret things and create our own version of reality. In the field of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP), we say that our “map” of the world is not the territory it represents.
We tend to attach specific meanings to things based on past experiences. We tell ourselves, “this thing happened to me, and this means that…”. In other words, we tend to frame things based on how we’ve perceived them in the past. In reality, however, there are many more ways to interpret every experience.
“When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change”
– Wayne Dyer
The minute you perceive something as “negative” or “positive”, you give it a meaning and send your brain an instruction to make you feel a certain way. How you feel then drives how you behave and, ultimately, the results you achieve. Here’s the bottom line: your perceptions become your reality. This may sound familiar from a previous article that I wrote on perception is projection.
By choosing a different point of view, you can shift your perception about anything and quickly change your emotional state and behaviors. For instance, when you choose to assign a positive meaning to your experiences, you can create more choices. This is what reframing is all about. It’s about changing a negative statement into a positive one by changing the frame of reference that you used to perceive the experience.
“Reframing is one of the most powerful tools you can use to improve your psychology and results”
– Tony Robbins
For example, a few years ago I spoke with a friend on the phone and shared that I had a lot of work to do that afternoon. I then said, “I have to go pick up my daughter soon from school.” My wise friend noticed my negative tone and offered a powerful reframe. She said, “You get to pick up your daughter from school”. At that moment, my perspective and mood shifted completely. I realized that I get to pick up my daughter because I am blessed to have a daughter and a car, and I am healthy enough to drive her. I instantly felt better and became more focused.
Reframing is not about pretending a situation is positive when it may not be. Instead, it is about realizing how it could be great, what you could learn, or how you can create even better results. There are two major types of reframes that I teach in NLP Practitioner training: Context Reframing and Content Reframing. Both types of reframes can change your perception about a particular problem or conflict, therefore putting you in a more resourceful state.
Context reframing involves taking an undesirable experience and showing how the same experience is actually a great advantage in another context. It is a very useful tool in business because it gives the ability to re-contextualize problems and obstacles into opportunities and resources. For example, perhaps someone on your team is always playing “devil’s advocate” when new ideas are presented. That individual might be a wonderful asset when it comes to determining the potential risks of new initiatives. So, the next time you’re dealing with a problem, ask yourself how that disadvantage or liability can be turned into an advantage simply by changing the context.
Content reframing involves taking the exact same situation and changing what it means, no matter how small the silver lining might be. By shifting the meaning, you’ll change your emotions and move yourself toward a more empowered state. For example, one of the presuppositions of NLP is that “every behavior is motivated by a positive intent”. I often use this powerful reframe to remind myself (and my clients) that we are always doing the best that we can given the resources that we have available, and that we can learn and grow from every experience.
I invite you to strengthen your “reframing muscle” now. Start by acknowledging an obstacle or situation in your life. Then, take a few moments to change the story that you are telling yourself about this problem. Find a new, more empowering meaning. You may choose to say to yourself, “It’s great, because…” and then look for ways to complete that phrase. When you are focused on finding a new perspective, your mind will help you notice or imagine new possibilities that you might not have considered in the past.
Here are some examples of how to reframe problems or obstacles. Consider what other reframes you might suggest in these situations.
Situation: I need to hire more staff ASAP.
Reframing: That’s great. Your company must be growing rapidly.
Situation: Every time I succeed, I find a way to self-sabotage.
Reframing: It’s great that you’re aware of this pattern because now you can learn what triggers it and change your behavior to get better results.
Situation: My son is stubborn and always argues with me.
Reframing: That’s great because it means that he is able to stand up for his beliefs. That is a huge gift in life because people will not take advantage of him.
Here’s the bottom line: You are in charge of your mind and therefore your results. You decide what to focus on. Reframing is one of the most powerful techniques that you can use to change your perceptions and therefore your results. Have fun finding new meanings to obstacles or problems in your life. In most cases, you will immediately start to feel better.