Change Your Perspective by Reframing

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.

Didn’t happen.

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

Your turn.

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/.)

Ignore Willpower. Create Habits.

drip, drip, drip“People who are good at self-control … seem to be structuring their lives in a way to avoid having to make a self-control decision in the first place.”—psychologist Brian Galla, quoted by Brian Resnick in the article Why willpower is overrated.

From the same article:
“Structuring your life is a skill. People who do the same activity, like running or meditating, at the same time each day have an easier time accomplishing their goals, he says — not because of their willpower, but because the routine makes it easier.”

Willpower gets used up and simply cannot be used until it is replenished.

Habits, once established, require no willpower.

I’m planning more articles on developing the writing habit. In the meantime here are some I’ve already written:

This is an area where knowing your specific struggles will help be research the best advice to share.

Where do you struggle to create the habit of writing?

Why This Fear Matters to Us (Even if We Think it Doesn’t)

Humans share a handful of fundamental fears. The psychology of fear is complex enough that searching the internet for “fundamental human fears” will provide a million websites by a hundred thousand experts sharing a thousand lists of the true absolute definitive fundamental human fears.

These, though, show up consistently, right after fear of death and dismemberment:

  • fear of rejection
  • fear of shame
  • fear of loss of control (sending our creative work out into the world to be eaten alive by critics, for instance)

You have these fears. No matter how well-adjusted you are, no matter your support network, self-esteem, accomplishments, social status, level of confidence, or anything else, you have these fears.

And just as you can’t choose not to feel the pain when you stub your toe or get punched in the head, you can’t simply choose not to feel the pain of rejection, shame, or loss of control.

Because they’re the same pain.

Let’s ask a UCLA professor of social psychology to weigh in, eh?

… more … “Why This Fear Matters to Us (Even if We Think it Doesn’t)”

I’m Afraid Your Excuse is Fear Talking

Guy Winch shares 5 excuses we make when we fear failure. For each, he describes what we’re really feeling, what we tell ourselves, and what to acknowledge so we can move forward.

His TED talk on why we need emotional first aid is witty and meaningful.