5 Simple Ways to Reframe a Situation (that make a huge difference)

by Vlad Dolezal on June 13, 2009

Imagine you have a water glass, and you’ve asked two of your friends what shape is its outline.

“It’s a rectangle” says the first one.

“It’s a circle!” exclaims the other.

And they’re both right.

A water glass can be both a circle and a rectangle, depending on how you look at it. And the same is true for many situations in your life. There are several equally correct ways of looking at every situation.

Picking a more useful way of looking at the same thing is called reframing. And today, I’ll show you a few simple ways to do that.

5 simple ways to reframe a situation

Here are five great mindsets that let you reframe some common situations to make the most of them:

1. Problems are just challenges

Mark Twain said: “my life has been filled with terrible misfortunes, most of which never happened”. Most people do the same thing, except they use “problems” instead of “misfortunes”. Problems are not real, any more than a water glass is really a rectangle. They’re just a very inefficient way of looking at the situation.

Instead, how about you fill your life with new and exciting challenges! Wouldn’t that be much more motivating?

2. All behavior has a positive intention

Stop thinking some people are purely negative and evil. Every behavior has some positive intention behind it. Once you realize that, you can deal with “negative” people much better. For example, you can help them achieve their positive motive in a way that doesn’t harm anyone else.

3. Fear indicates a great opportunity to build confidence

When you feel butterflies in your stomach, what’s your first thought?

Is it “Uh oh, something uncomfortable coming up”? That’s okay, I’ve been there.

But since then I’ve learned that the best way to build confidence is facing your fears. Nowadays, to me, butterflies in the stomach mean “Yay! Exciting opportunity to build confidence ahead!”

And dealing with fear is one of the most exhilarating experiences. And I’m not talking about doing stupid life-threatening things either. I’m talking about completely non-lethal but equally scary situations, like public speaking, or approaching someone you’re attracted to.

4. “How can I most easily do this?”

This is a great question for reframing your attitude.

Instead of thinking “this is impossible”, or “I’ll never achieve this”, it gets you focused on finding a solution. It works like a charm because it presumes:

  • you can do it
  • there are several ways to get it done
  • it’s easy

5. “What can I learn from this situation?” (reframe failures as learning opportunities)

“I will have failed when I stop learning. Until then, every outcome is a success!”
- Tony Robbins

Feel free to steal Tony’s attitude. There’s no reason to create failure in your life. Instead, choose to face a life full of learning opportunities. It’s more productive, more motivating, and more fun!

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Srinivas Rao June 13, 2009 at 18:50

This is awesome. I think reframing is one of the most powerful techniques that you can use to change the quality of your life. One of the things I like to do is interpret every event through the filters of an empowering belief. So, basically every time some woman looks at me, smiles at me, or anything I just tell myself “that’s just more evidence for the belief that women are attracted to me”

Reply

Kelli June 15, 2009 at 00:51

Reframing. What an interesting concept. I especially need to practice #2. Negative family members can really be a test. Thanks for sharing.

Kelli’s last blog post..The Wildflower In Me

Reply

Gabrielle June 15, 2009 at 03:56

The second can indeed be a challenge. Sometimes people simply behave in a nasty way. In that case, I suppose the positive intent is that they are trying to make themselves feel better, but are doing it in a negative fashion. Perhaps that’s a good time for those free hugs.

Gabrielle’s last blog post..Tackling Three Fibromyalgia Misconceptions

Reply

Tula June 15, 2009 at 12:50

I love this. Really great. I especially need to focus on No. 3. One true-life story. About 10 years ago, for some reason, i fell into a pretty bad depression. It lasted a long time and things felt hopeless all the time. But one day I woke up with the thought, “What if something went right today?” And everyday, as I started obsessing about everything I hated about my life, I’d remind myself, “What if something went right today?” Just being open to the opportunity that something could go right spelled the end of my depression. It wasn’t instant, it was a bit of a climb back up, but from that day forward, I was moving up. I’m not suggesting people’s severe clinical depression can be lifted away by a single sentence, but it doesn’t hurt to at least incorporate it into your thinking and see what happens. Anyway, fabulous post.

Reply

Vlad Dolezal June 16, 2009 at 09:53

@Srinvas:

That’s a good one. A good way to slowly erode negative beliefs.

@Kelli:

Thou speaketh the truth. It took me years to slowly phase out the negative family members out of my life. There’s not a quick fix for everything, but it’s worth it.

@Gabrielle:

I wouldn’t recommend surprise hugging angry people. They might take it the wrong way ;)

@Tula:

Good story, thanks for sharing!

In fact as far as depression… often it’s purely psychological – thinking negative thoughts. But if that goes on long enough, it can turn into a biological problem (brain chemicals get out of balance), at which point a medication is necessary.

But often people try to use medication for depression caused by negative thoughts. That’s treating the symptom, but not the cause. Anyway, it’s always best to speak to a qualified professional in these matters.

Reply

Bellx15 January 26, 2012 at 00:43

Whether he speaks the truth depends on how you frame it, really. I wish I could reframe everything more positively, but there is a compelling assumption that facts are facts. I need to get over this hurdle.

Reply

Vlad Dolezal January 26, 2012 at 12:19

Yes, facts are facts. However, a lot less things are facts than most people think. Vast majority of things are just the best explanation you have, based on your current evidence.

Check out this post for digging a lot deeper into this idea.

Reply

Sylvia Gravrock October 6, 2012 at 07:08

Hi Vlad,
Great post! I just wanted to let you know that I’ve linked to it in my blog post for today. Not sure you’ll get notification of it, so I thought I’d send you a note.
Thanks!

Reply

Vlad Dolezal October 6, 2012 at 12:52

Hey Sylvia!

Yeah, I get a notification every time someone links to my blog, and I do check out the pages that link to me.

Reframing is really neat, isn’t it? :-)

Reply

Revathi Vas November 6, 2012 at 13:40

Hi, I chanced upon your blog, when I was surfing the net trying to understand re-framing. You have reframed re-framing! You have presented it in a easy-to-understand way. Thanks.

Reply

Leave a Comment

CommentLuv badge

{ 1 trackback }

Previous post:

Next post: