When we’re stuck it can be helpful to find a different perspective, see ourselves or our challenge from a different angle. It’s called reframing, and in Dave Gray’s excellent book Liminal Thinking he points us to this tool at thnk.org. (Yes, it’s missing the vowel. Maybe some team-spirited person said “There’s no I in think!” and it stuck.)
You don’t have to think hard to use the tool. It’s mostly a mechanical process, which helps keep emotional Resistance out of the way.
Here’s how it works.
Overtly Challenge Your Assumptions
The tool asks you to write down the belief you’d like to change. Then you write a number of supporting statements for that belief.
Now the trick: you write the opposite of each statement.
I call it a trick because you’re not asked to understand, believe, trust, or otherwise engage with these opposites. Just write them.
Based on those opposites, you write a final statement reframing your original statement differently: as an opposite.
Nonsense. Piffle. Balderdash. Tomfoolery.
You’d think, eh? Not so.
I’ve said before that reality doesn’t exist out there, it exists in our minds. The physical mechanical act of writing those sentences changes your brain’s perspective.
Don’t believe me? I don’t blame you. I don’t believe me either.
Get Out of the Kitchen
I can’t stand the heat. For family reasons, we moved from northern Wisconsin’s glorious invigorating 6-month winters to southern Arizona’s perpetual blistering blazing boiling summers. Last summer, I was miserable in a way you’d have a hard time imagining if I wasn’t a skilled writer capable of composing that last sentence.
This summer, determined to Do Something About It, I used the Reframe tool.
Here are my initial statement and supporting beliefs:
Here, the opposites:
And a text summary:
Toward the end of the text summary is the secret.
We Choose What We Believe
Yes, another thing that doesn’t feel true, but it is. We think our beliefs are simply the factual conclusions we’ve drawn from the reality around us. If you’d like to challenge that misconception, read the aforementioned Liminal Thinking and Kathryn Schulz’s Being Wrong. Between them they upset my apple cart a skosh. Not that I’ve fundamentally changed what I believe, but they convinced me of the difference between what we know and what we believe and why both have value.
When I finished using the tool, I thought the resulting statements were ridiculous. I put it aside for later when I’d have more time to either studiously ignore it, or actively ridicule it.
In the past month, with days reaching 118º yes one-hundred-eighteen degrees I have been far less unhappy about the heat. Sure, we live indoors, using air conditioning like it was cheap (because comparing Phoenix to Sacramento it is; we’re paying 40% of what it used to cost us in Sacramento 7 years ago.)
Still, my attitude about the heat changed. And with it, some behaviors.
What Really Changed
Up north, you do everything midafternoon when it’s warm and sunny. When we moved south, I never changed that habit.
Shopping at 3pm in Phoenix is stupid. Because I already knew I hated the heat, I did what I did and hated it even more.
Did you know you can go shopping at 6am? Or 9pm?
The tiniest openness to new beliefs about the heat opened a crack into my psyche which turned into new actions, greater awareness, and less angst and whining.
You’ve heard it; you’ve said it: focus on what you can control, not what you can’t.
This tool was the catalyst for new thinking that’s making my life measurably more comfortable, physically and emotionally.
You Thought This Was a Writing Blog
Use the Reframe tool about your greatest writing challenge.
Come back here and share the text summary in the comments. Not later, when you see whether or not it works. As soon as you’re done.
Then come back in a month [I’ll post a reminder] and tell us what happened.
I’ll be doing the same thing in the AntiResistance forum. If you’d like to see my angst on full display, join me there. (Forum members, here’s that post: https://somedaybox.com/forum/general/reframing-a-writing-challenge/.)