behold the power of reframing



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This article is excerpted from the book, Viewfinder: How to Change the Way You Look at Things. Read more about it here.



THOR Heyerdahl eventually became world famous, but when he was much younger, he made a hundred-mile trek on skis across a mountain wilderness in Norway in the winter. On this trek, he discovered a way to boost his own morale.

Thor was a young man, challenging himself with a difficult task. But his adventure turned into a dangerous ordeal. A horrendous storm struck the mountains, blowing into a blizzard. The wind blew so hard, Thor had to lean forward almost horizontally to stay upright. His skis became so covered with ice he could hardly move them.

But Thor kept moving forward. He said to himself over and over, “This is the thing to turn a boy into a man.”

He was doing just what Nick should have been doing in The Game. Thor was reinterpreting what was obviously a miserable experience. He reframed it into a transforming test of manhood. He reframed it into a rite of passage. And because of his reframe, he was strong and determined. His reframe gave him strength. Your reframes can give you strength and determination in the face of your challenges.

“Wise people,” wrote M. Scott Peck, “learn not to dread but actually to welcome problems.” You know why that’s wise? Because you’re going to get problems. If you welcome them and embrace the challenge, you will be better at solving them. And you will be less upset or depressed by problems when they come along (which they will).

Al Siebert, a man who has spent 40 years studying the psychology of survivors, wrote, “One way guaranteed to increase your distressing experiences is to not want to be where you are. Your emotional distress decreases by deciding, like a flower seed, to bloom where you are planted.”

Some people may naturally welcome problems because they are freaks of nature. The rest of us can learn to welcome problems by getting in the habit of framing problems as "opportunities in disguise." We can learn to welcome problems by deliberately trying to see what’s good about the problem — by deciding right up front, “This is good,” and then working to make it so.

I once lost a job because the company I worked for closed. At first I was shocked. But I decided right then I would make sure I would eventually be glad this happened. At that point, I didn’t know what the future held. So I chose a point of view that would help me.

And I took this seriously — I really tried to think about how I could get myself a better job, and what that might be. I wasn't just thinking positively. I was determined about it, committed to it. I was going to make sure I was glad this happened.

And I was. I remember later realizing I had done what I set out to do: I was glad that old business closed. I found a much better job.

Any little trick you can use to help you think of problems as “good” will help. I remember reading about a business executive who would always respond to bad news with an enthusiastic “That’s good!” And then he would seek to find what was good about it, or to make what happened turn out for the best. It might sound crazy, but his was a practical response to something that had already happened. He was very successful. No doubt, an important part of his success was his response to problems. With an attitude like that, you don't shy away from problems, and you keep your eyes open while you're dealing with them.

The funny thing is, after doing this several times (saying “That’s good” and then making sure you’re glad the “bad thing” happened) you can actually say, “That’s good!” with some confidence. You have confidence in yourself that you really will make sure you’re eventually glad it happened.

Sales trainers often give their salespeople mental tricks to help them see rejections as not so bad, or even as a good thing. Do you think you’d have to be a nutcase to think that way? Let’s say you are selling something door-to-door, and someone slams a door in your face. How could you possibly see that as a good thing?

That’s a great question. And if you thought about it, I’m sure you could come up with a few ideas. And although at first those ideas might not make a salesperson feel any better, and the thoughts themselves would seem unnatural and unfamiliar, salespeople who succeed eventually learn to think that way, and it becomes as natural and familiar as the old way of thinking used to, and they no longer feel bad when people say no. They might even feel good!

One of the classic reframes of rejection used by salespeople the world over is, “This is a numbers game. If my sales record shows that one out of every ten people say yes, then that means the person who said no brought me closer to the one who will say yes!”

Instead of seeing the rejection as a bad thing, a salesperson can actually (and legitimately) see it as a good thing. That rejection moved them one step closer to victory.

It’s all in how you look at it. Reframing seems like a magician’s trick or something superficial, but it is tremendously powerful and people who get things accomplished in this world all learn to do it, consciously or not.

Richard Bandler, one of the co-founders of NLP, says when he was teaching college, he once had a student who complained his house was being bugged. Bandler’s reply was, “What a chance to talk to these people.”

Bandler gave the student other ideas. The student could play Milton Erickson tapes over and over (Erickson is a legendary hypnotherapist). Why not practice deep trance inductions and put the people bugging you into trance and give them hypnotic suggestions?

Bandler didn’t look for what was wrong with being bugged. He looked for a way to take advantage of it. You can learn to have the same mental habit. Find the advantage and think of the “adversity” in terms of the advantage.

Milton Erickson himself was a master reframer. For example, when he was a therapist, a distressed young couple came to see him. Erickson talked to the young wife alone first and she told him the whole, sad story.

The man she married had been somewhat of a playboy, but on their wedding night, he couldn’t get an erection for her. They had tried and tried for two weeks now and he still wasn’t able to do it. She was deeply hurt by this and she wanted an annulment.

But Erickson said, in essence, “But don’t you see what a compliment this is to you? He is so overwhelmed by you, he isn’t able to do what he was able to do with other women. You are the overwhelming girl. You go into the next room and think about that, and send him in.”

The young man came in and told the whole sad story. He was at the end of his rope. He didn’t know what to do, or what was wrong with him. The young man said he finally found the woman of his dreams. She was beautiful. He said he'd been somewhat of a playboy, having sex with many women. But he finally found his “one and only” and he was so happy.

On their wedding night, however, he couldn’t get it up.

The young man was very upset by this. Erickson said to him, in essence, “Now you know she is truly the one — the one who has finally overwhelmed you. Don’t you see? Nobody else has ever had this effect on you. You have found and married the overwhelming girl.”

Erickson then sent them home. By the time they got home, they were bursting to get into bed, and they successfully had sex, and never had a problem with sex again.

Why? It was a classic Ericksonian reframe. Instead of an insult, which was a legitimate way to interpret his flaccid state, Erickson gave another and much more positive interpretation, which took away her hurt feelings and took away the pressure on him, and then everything could work naturally without being impeded by her hurt feelings or his distressing (and therefore non-arousing) feelings.

Erickson’s new interpretation wasn’t more true than the old one, but it had more satisfying results.

Think of something right now that is interfering with the achievement of your most important goal. What is in your way? What is slowing you down? What do you think of as a problem?

Now sit down with a paper and pen and try to come up with ten reframes for that problem. If this exercise seems like "work," reframe it into a fun game.

Read next: Create Persistence and Determination With Reframes.

Go back to the beginning of the series: A Way of Looking

This article is excerpted from the book, Viewfinder: How to Change the Way You Look at Things. Read more about it here.

Author: Adam Khan
author of the books, Self-Help Stuff That Works and Antivirus For Your Mind
and creator of the blog:
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