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How to Reframe

How to look at life from new perspectives that encourage growth and positivity.
This is a short PDF designed to teach you how to reframe your perspective so that it encourages growth and positivity in your life. Feel free to share this document with family and friends.

Steven Handel

What is Reframing?
Reframing is our ability to look at a situation (or experience) from another perspective. Often the goal is to reframe a situation or experience so that we can view it in a more positive light, such as viewing failures as learning experiences. By taking upon new perspectives, we can virtually turn any negative feeling or thought into something positive and useful. This is because our perspective and attitude play a massive role in how we feel, think, and interact with our environment. A negative perspective can have us wallowing in self-pity for months on end, alone in our rooms, apathetic to the world around us. But a positive perspective can motivate us to get out of bed, make transformational changes in our life, and face our world with a new sense of courage and boldness.

Reframing is what causes two people to have the same exact experience but walk away from it with completely different ideas about it.

An Example: Mr. Positive vs. Mr. Negative

Lets say there are two different people, Mr. Positive and Mr. Negative, who both share the same goal: meeting a good looking girl at a bar. They both go to the same exact bar and approach the same exact girl. They each walk up to her the same way, introduce themselves the same way, compliment her on her dress the same way, and then offer to buy her drink in the same exact way. And in both situations - the girl responds with a really nasty look and says, Get away from me! However, despite them both sharing the same exact experience, they each walk away from the experience with a completely different perspective. Mr. Negative interprets his experience as being the worst thing in the world.

He thinks it is proof that he sucks with women and will always suck with women. He goes back home immediately and returns to his normal routine of eating Doritos while watching American Idol. He never dares to enter a bar or approach a girl ever again. On the other hand, Mr. Positive walks away from the experience with a completely different perspective. Instead of seeing it as proof of his incompetence, he views it as a learning experience. He reflects on what he did wrong and finds things he could do differently next time. He even calls up his friends at the end of the night and jokes about his mistakes. They all share a good laugh, and Mr. Positive goes back to the bar again the very next night eager to learn more ways he can improve himself. Over time, he learns more and more, and significantly improves his relationships with women. So as you can seewhat makes the big difference in our lives isnt always what happens to us - but how we react to it.

Common Types of Reframes

There are literally an endless number of ways we can reframe a situation so that its more positive and useful. In fact, I dont think there has been one experience in my life that I havent been able to reframe more effectively. Here are some of the most common reframes I use in my life. Feel free to try them out: Failure as learning experience. This is the example I just used, but Ill say a few more words on it before moving on to other types of reframes. Almost any time you try something new and fail at it, you can see that experience as a resource to learn from and improve upon. It doesnt matter what the failed attempt is: approaching a girl in a cafe, having a job interview, starting a business, getting a poor grade on an exam, striking out in baseballanything!

There is almost always another chance to meet a great girl, get another job, start another business, do well on another test, or hit a homerun your next at-bat. You just need to look at your previous failures in a new way, and constantly be willing to learn and progress. The bigger picture. Another reframe I like to do is the bigger picture reframe. Basically, when I notice there is something in my life that is really frustrating me, or bringing my mood down, I like to zoom out and see the bigger picture. In the heat of the moment, a bad experience can feel like the end of the world. But when you look back on it after a week, month, year, or even decade, the event often loses a lot of its affect. Have you ever looked back on an experience you once thought was really terrible (maybe an embarrassing experience at school or at a party), but then you find out its not as bad as you thought it was? Maybe now you can even look back and laugh at yourself.

So the next time you find yourself in the midst of a negative experience, try asking yourself, Will I really care about this 10, 20, or 30 year down the line? Often, youll find the answer is No. This is because most of the things that upset us on a daily basis actually pale in comparison to the bigger picture of our lives. Solution-focused vs. problem-focused. Many people who experience excessive negativity in their lives often have a very problem-focused mindset. This means they are actively searching to find things in their life that dissatisfy them - whether it is something wrong with tonights dinner, or their favorite sports team losing a game, or their inability to make new friends at work. From their perspective, theres always something new to be upset about. So instead of trying to find potential solutions, they reflect on everything that has gone wrong in their lives, then they use this as evidence to justify their misery and unhappiness.

This problem-focused perspective needs to be turned on its head toward more solutionfocused thinking. Instead of always searching for things in life that dissatisfy us, we should search for solutions and ways we can actually increase fulfillment in our lives. Only until we adopt this more solution-focused perspective can we truly begin to improve the conditions in our lives. Things could be worse. Even the most positive of thinkers must acknowledge that there will always be some aspects of our lives that dont fully meet our desires and expectations. However, even in spite of these occasional shortcomings, there are still positive perspectives to take that can increase our gratitude for what we do have in life. One of these perspectives is the things could be worse reframe. This perspective is especially useful for negative situations about our life that we have no control over.

This is because no matter how bad things are for you, there is almost always an alternative situation that could be much worse. And by imagining how things can be worse in our lives, we actually cultivate a sense of gratitude and appreciation for the things we have in life, not just focus on the things we dont have. Maybe something really terrible happened in your life like your house burned down and you lost all your possessions. This is truly an awful situation to be in, there is no doubt about it, but you can reframe it by thinking things like, At least I didnt lose my friends and family. Maybe you are also going through some financial troubles, but does it really compare to the conditions experienced in third world countries (who dont even have the computers or technology to read this document). We can almost always take a bad situation and imagine how it could be much worse. In fact, no matter how bad things may get, as long as we are still alive and conscious, then I

believe we have something to still be grateful for. That makes the things could be worse reframe applicable to any situation. Anxiety as motivation. In many cases, we can reframe our feelings and emotions to better serve us in the same way we can reframe our thoughts and beliefs. There was a recent study done at the Emotion, Health, and Psychophysiology Laboratory at Harvard University that illustrates this phenomenon really well. They separated students into several groups before taking an exam, and in one of the groups they told students that nervousness was a good thing that can improve motivation and performance. The group that was told this ended up scoring better on their Graduate Record Exam (GRE) than the other groups. This study suggests that if we reframe certain negative feelings as positive we can actually channel that psychological energy in more productive ways.

The reason this reframe works so effectively is because stress/anxiety and motivation are very biochemically similar. They both make use of the same hormones in our body, like cortisol and adrenaline. For example, riding a rollercoaster produces much of the same biological effects as being anxious before giving a public speech (it activates the fight or flight part of our nervous system). The major difference is that in one situation you interpret it as an adrenaline rush, while in the other you interpret it as stress and anxiety. This suggests that if we can actively reframe our anxiety in certain situations, we can actually use it as a motivating force, rather than something that inhibits us. This is a popular reframe in CognitiveBehavioral Therapy, especially as described in Sean Coopers The Shyness and Social Anxiety System, which teaches us how to accept our fears, but act on them as if they were a motivator.

The eyes of a role model (or another person). There are many influential and inspirational figures to find throughout our lives, and by temporarily adopting their perspective we can sometimes learn new insights into their thoughts and behaviors that we can later apply to our own lives. One of the most popular examples of this is Christians using the phrase, What would Jesus do? in order to look at their life from a more Christian perspective. But in the same way, we can use this technique in a variety of other areas in our life: When we are on the basketball court, we can ask ourselves What would Michael Jordan do? When we are on a date, we can ask ourselves, What would George Clooney do? And when we are trying to improve a business, we can ask ourselves, What would Steven Jobs do?

The point is that by using other peoples perspective as a resource to borrow and learn from, we can actually gain a wider range of insight into possible ways to improve different area of our lives. Please keep in mind, however, that Im not suggesting we mimic someones perspective, thoughts, and actions. I am only suggesting that we can temporarily place ourselves in someone elses shoes so that we can gain a new perspective of a situation. This kind of reframe can also be very effective for relationships and disputes. Often the core of most problems in relationships is a lack of empathy and understanding of our partner. But by trying to see the world from their perspective, we often discover better ways to interact and communicate with that person. When someone says something that disturbs us or offends us, we can try to look at the situation from their perspective, and perhaps walk away from the situation with a better understanding of why it turned out the way it did.

The Benefits of Reframing

I hope you can tell by now that there are many benefits to being able to reframe our perspective in a variety of different ways. The way we think doesnt have to be narrowly defined to only a single viewpoint, and in fact by being able to temporarily adopt different viewpoints, we can actually learn how to navigate through our lives (and interact with others) in much more effective ways. Reframing (also sometimes called cognitive restructuring) is one of main tools in CognitiveBehavioral Therapy. This is one of the most effective psychotherapies today in the treatment of depression, anxiety, OCD/addiction, and PTSD. But the applications of reframing stretch way beyond just treating mental illnesses. They also play a crucial role in any kind of personal development and goal achieving. I personally believe it would be incredibly difficult for any individual to achieve happiness or success without these mental tools available to

them (whether they realize they have these tools or not). This is because reframing is a constant work-inprogress, a tool of personal development that we need to constantly reapply to our lives especially in the face of new experiences and new situations. Our ability to look at situations from a variety of perspectives is a fundamental element in building relationships, solving problems, improving creativity, becoming a better learner, and finding happiness. Earlier in this post I mentioned The Shyness and Social Anxiety System, an excellent product designed to teach individuals how to overcome their social anxiety by using scientifically proven techniques in CognitiveBehavioral Therapy and Social Psychology. If you would like to learn more about this product please click here.

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