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Our first response to any drastic life change is usually shock, then denial. When you lose your job, can’t make your house payment, or have been diagnosed with a life-altering or life-threatening disease, the crisis takes center stage and everything else is blocked from view.
Reframing takes what life has handed us and looks at it in an expanded way.
The following story illustrates this point.
Years ago, I worked for a company that led two weeks of day-long classes for injured workers. In these classes we taught attendees how pain disrupts our lives, what we bring to the pain experience and ways to go beyond this pain.
As individuals began to apply the information we gave them to their personal situations, it was amazing and encouraging to see what a difference it made in their outlook for the future. Their injury was not the end of the world. There were new ways to look at the world that not only changed their perspective but how they could reframe that outcome in a positive way.
People entering the class were dejected and angry – feeling helpless and hopeless. By the end of their first week’s class, I saw determination and motivation emerge – a sense that life was not over – they were just going through a rough patch.
When they returned for their last week of class, and as I listened to their newfelt optimism, one woman’s story especially grabbed my attention. She had lost her job and lived with her two children in a tiny one-bedroom house. Everything was overwhelming and she saw no future other than pain and poverty.
Over the weekend after that first week, she decided to reframe her circumstances to include possibility and hope. When she came to class the following week and shared her reformation, she was beaming.
When she had gone home, she decided to make some changes. She would give the one bedroom to her children. Over the weekend, the kids helped decorate their new room with pictures from magazines. They didn’t have money to paint walls or buy pictures or anything at that time.
She decided to turn the living room into her bedroom suite. The couch became her bed. There was a little fireplace that became the focal point for her “bedroom.” She rearranged furniture so that when she lay down at night she was facing the fireplace and could enjoy its relaxing atmosphere as she read her books and magazines. She said she had never slept so well and was actively making plans to find new employment. By the end of that week, she had secured new possibilities.
Why was this important?
Nothing had changed in her life except her perspective. The previous week, she has been feeling down, hopeless, depressed, and angry.
She was able to reframe her circumstances, her thinking, and possibilities, which gave her renewed energy, motivation, and goals.
She was not the exception. Others also shared a new outlook. Some, however, remained angry and resentful at how the events of life had altered their expectations and assumptions about life.
Reframing begins when we change our perspective.
It means stepping back from the problem and taking in more information. When our nose is pressed against a tree trunk, we cannot see the rest of the tree or surrounding area until we step back.
Reframing allows us to “step back” from the impossibility of the situation to see possibilities. It not only helps us transcend difficult or traumatic life situations but to find humor and purpose within them.
When faced with difficult or traumatic events, our perceptions of what we believe the world should or ought to be are challenged. Reframing allows us to review and evaluate our expectations and assumptions and accommodate for change.
For example, if you’ve been out of work for a while and can’t find work in your field of expertise, reframing allows you to look at alternatives… temporary jobs or ways to survive within this time period.
When my husband and I were first married, major transitions and loss of income resulted in the need to live with parents until we could get on our feet.
Reframing allows you to look at many different options – ones you wouldn’t have otherwise considered. It takes you out of a cycle of anger, stress, helplessness, and hopelessness.
- Challenges a rigid and inflexible mindset
- Focuses on what you can do, not what you can’t do
- Looks for creative ways to resolve problems
- Creates new meaning and purpose for life
- Helps you become aware of your blessings and practice gratefulness
Life can be cruel and harsh. In all our difficult times, we still have our ingenuity, creativity, and determination to start again. When we choose to reframe tough circumstances, we will find a way to start once more and take those steps forward.
I leave you with one more story. I watched a TV program that highlighted a remarkable person. Nick Vujicic had been born without arms and legs, but he was not sad, depressed, disheartened or discouraged. Instead, he was a confident adult comfortable with himself. He had an enthusiasm for life that was infectious. Happiness and contentment radiated from his face – something difficult to fake.
He has authored several books, keeps an exhausting worldwide speaking schedule, swims, and even plays golf. He has a beautiful wife and active young son.
I may have had difficult times in my life but whatever was required of me I had the use of my arms and legs. To become inspired, check out his website, lifewithoutlimbs.org.
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