BEEN exploring the power of reframes to renew your motivation
and strengthen your determination. Read the first article about
reframing here: A
Way Of Looking. Three very good ways to reframe a circumstance
is to see it from another time, another place, or another person.
Viktor Frankl was a psychiatrist before
he was sent to a Nazi concentration camp. While in the camp,
he was severely underfed, he had to work in very cold weather
with inadequate clothing, and all the while he witnessed unbelievable
atrocities every day. It was more than many could take.
To ease his suffering, Frankl once recast
his horrible surroundings into a different frame: He imagined
when it was all over, he would give lectures on the psychology
of the concentration camp.
This reframe made his circumstances look
different. It gave him a certain distance from it, an objectivity,
and he said it helped him maintain his strength. It helped him
It also gave him a future to look forward
to, and a reason to live.
So Frankl looked at his circumstances from
another time, a time in the future. Lane Nemeth reframed her
circumstances by thinking of her business as another person,
as if her business was a child of hers. Lane was trying to get
a toy company off the ground and she ran into typical setbacks
debt, excess inventory, high interest loans. She was on
the brink of bankruptcy. She was demoralized and thought about
But then she reframed the problem. If
this were my daughter, Lane asked herself, and she
were seriously ill, what would I do?
Of course, she wouldnt even consider
giving up. And it wouldnt matter how difficult it was,
she would do whatever needed to be done. And so she did what
she had to do to save her ailing business. She cut payroll. She
got another bank to help. And it worked.
Reframing her failing business as her suffering
child gave her the motivation to persist and succeed. It gave
her the will to do what was necessary. It was difficult and sometimes
her decisions were painful, but that is often what it takes to
make something happen.
Reframing the suffering itself is often
a powerful generator of motivation.
When Morgan Freeman was first starting
out as an actor, for example, he struggled with the few acting
jobs he could find, and the ones he found were flops. He made
almost no money, and would sometimes go days at a time without
even eating because he just didn't have enough money to buy food.
He worked in low-paying jobs to make ends meet.
A lot of successful people have a similar
story of suffering, of privation, of long hours and the prospect
of a bleak future. How do they continue to press on? Have you
ever wondered? They understand that this is what it takes. Thats
how they do it. They ask themselves: Do I want it badly
enough? That is a kind of reframe of the circumstances.
In other words, instead of poor me,
I suffer so, its more like, everybody wants
to be an actor, but Im willing to work harder and suffer
more than my competition if thats what it takes to make
The movie, As Good As It Gets, had lots of great lines,
but one in particular Ive used many times on myself. Melvin
(Jack Nicholson) is thinking about going to visit Carol (Helen
Hunt) and tell her how he feels about her, but he is very nervous.
He really wants to go, but hes scared.
Hes talking to Simon (Greg Kinnear).
Simon says to Melvin (giving him a pep-talk): You can do
this, Melvin! You can do this.
Melvin says, She might kill me if
I go over there.
Simons comeback is a classic. Well,
then get in your jammies and Ill tell you a story!
Ive said that line to myself when
I was thinking about avoiding some suffering (inconvenience,
effort, privation, anxiety, embarrassment, rejection, or hardship)
for the sake of an important goal.
The line kind of reframes the problem
doesnt it? It actually frames it as a challenge
do you want it or not?
Melvin, who really loved Carol, the question was, Do you
really want her? And if you dont want her, if youd
rather play it safe and live without her, if youd rather
live out your life always wondering what might have happened
if you had mustered a little more courage, then get in your jammies
and Ill read you a story!
The unsaid part is: But if youre
willing to risk being embarrassed or rejected, if youre
willing to suffer to get what you want, then get moving!
Thats a great reframe. You will get
a lot farther in this life and toward your goal if you would
simply be willing to suffer to see the suffering as legitimate
and worthy and necessary to get what you want.
I know a woman who wanted to get a job
in the accounting department of a large firm a job she
had education and experience in. She sent out 11 resumes and
heard nothing back. She gave up on the idea and kept doing what
she was doing something she doesnt like (selling
She was hurt by the lack of interest. She
thought she had something to offer these firms. The way she put
it was I was under the delusion I was desirable.
The lack of response told her otherwise, or so she thought.
And sure, one way to interpret the lack
of response is to think, Im not as desirable as I
thought. But whats another way? Whats an alternative
explanation for this setback? How would you reframe it? Im
sure you can think of hundreds if I gave you enough time
hundreds of other ways to frame this event that are all more
or less plausible.
Were not talking about facts here.
She doesnt know the facts. She doesnt know why there
was a lack of response. So her interpretation of it has to be
based on something else besides accuracy.
Because she doesnt really know, her
interpretation should be based on what will serve her. The first
explanation she made the one that popped into her head
and she felt stuck with doesnt serve her. Thinking
she is undesirable makes her want to crawl back into her shell
and never venture out again. The interpretation doesn't help
her get what she wants.
One of the traps of negative emotions is
they make you narrow and uncreative. In a better mood, she would
see there are other possible explanations. But the explanation
she came up with first was so depressing, she was unable (without
the knowledge you now have) to think of something else.
As you can see, she needed a reframe. She
needed to see the same event in a different frame, a frame that
would help her, that would prevent her from feeling bad, that
would motivate her to strive for her goal. In this case, she
wanted a better job in a field she liked.
I came up with a few ideas off the top
of my head. She could look at her rejection in any of the following
ways and she would have more motivation to pursue her goal, more
energy, and more creativity and power, and she would feel better.
The lack of interest from those companies might have been because:
1. Her resume needs to be improved. This
explanation could motivate her to learn more about resumes, or
hire a resume consultant, or just spend a few weeks making it
as good as she could.
2. She didnt show up in person. This
reframe would encourage her to show up in person and at least
find out if that makes a difference.
3. They already get hundreds of resumes
every week. They dont even bother looking at one until
an applicant shows up at least three times this weeds
out the ones with only a weak desire. This interpretation would
motivate her to try much harder, to remain determined and to
keep trying. Her first response, her natural, automatic response
only made her want to give up.
4. Maybe she doesnt really want to
be an accountant. Maybe her heart isnt in it, and this
was a lucky coincidence that she didnt get any interest
from these companies. This would motivate her to give it some
thought. Is she sure this is what she wants to do? And if she
gave it some thought and decided the answer was yes, she would
feel more motivated because she clarified her goal. If she found
out she really doesnt want to do it, she would be free
to find something she really wants to do.
5. Maybe the lack of interest is only because
of the season. Maybe at this time of year, they dont hire
new people. This would motivate her to find out when is the best
time to apply, and while shes at it, she could try to find
out what is the best way to apply.
I could go on and on, coming up with reframes.
Any of these and any of hundreds more would be useful interpretations
to make, and would motivate further action. And any of them are
better than the demoralizing point of view that came naturally
As it turns out, the real explanation was:
Large corporations move slowly. Shortly after our conversation,
she got two calls back, long after she had already given up.
She had only worked in small firms before, but her recent resumes
were only sent to large corporations. She didnt realize
they moved so much slower.
Many people, of course, dont even
get as far as she did theyre too afraid of feeling
that kind of rejection so they wouldnt even send out the
resume. The good news is, youre probably not one of them.
The bad news is: That means youre going to have to deal
with rejection. Depending on what you want to do, you might have
to deal with quite a lot of it. The way you reframe it will make
a huge difference in how you feel and in how successful you will
Writers, for example, typically experience
lots of rejection. The manuscript for the book, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An
Inquiry Into Values, was rejected by over 120 publishers.
That was in 1974. It is still selling well. Even today, 34 years
later, its Amazon sales rank is 1,180th out of four million.
Dr. Seuss was in high school, his art teacher told him, You
will never learn to draw. In college, his fraternity voted
him Least Likely To Succeed. His first manuscript, And To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street,
was rejected by 27 publishers before it was accepted.
Danielle Steel has over 550 million books
in print and she was in the Guinness Book Of World Records for
having eleven consecutive books on the New York Times bestseller
list. But the first five novels she wrote were turned down and
have never been published!
Clearly, each of these authors found a
way to reframe rejection in a way that didnt destroy their
motivation to persist.
The ability to reframe has served me well.
For example, when I first started giving public speeches, I began
at service groups like Rotary Clubs and Kiwanis, and I was basically
their 20 minutes of entertainment, and thats how the audiences
took it. I didnt like that. I wanted them to listen intently
and take it seriously. When they listened so casually, it was
disheartening to me.
But I reframed the situation. I decided
I would make them get how important this was. I came up with
a lot of different reframes, but this particular reframe appealed
to me the most.
At the time, my speeches were about the
Antivirus for the Mind. I had seen it do great things for people
and it had made a huge difference to me personally, and I would
be damned if I would let those people walk out of the meeting
unmoved by it. I was determined to speak in such a way that they
would get it.
Whenever I felt downhearted or discouraged
or nervous about an upcoming speech, I would say to myself with
feeling, I will make them get how important this is.
And I said it to myself many times while I was speaking.
And I did get them to listen. I sometimes
even yelled at them! I was impassioned and determined to get
through to them, and they sat up and took notice. People would
come up to me afterwards to tell me how much it meant to them.
Ive used reframes in so many ways.
For example, I sometimes run into people (or hear from them online)
who are against my work, who feel that self-help stuff in general
is nonsense, and that people are genetically predestined to be
as happy or optimistic or depressed as they are, and it gives
people false hope to tell them otherwise. Trying
to help people become happier or more successful, they imply,
is all just a big scam.
This used to feel demoralizing. My natural,
automatic frame was: Im not appreciated.
Or sometimes I thought, There is just too much negativity
in the world. And I felt negative feelings.
But I reframed it. This is a noble
struggle, I would say to myself, People are suffering
and feeling unnecessary negative emotions, and I know some things
that can help them.
In my more dramatic moments, I would frame
it more like this: The forces of Darkness are enveloping
the world and I am fighting the good fight. Im fighting
for the cause of sanity and health and happiness.
Part of my way of reframing my mission
is to think about the women who fought for the power to vote
in America. Lots of people were violently against them in their
struggle. It took more than seventy years of hard fighting to
win the vote. It seems hard to believe now. It seems so self-evident
that women should be allowed to vote! But it was hard going and
people were against them.
And yet, isnt that what made their
struggle noble? That it wasnt the popular thing but that
it was right?
Happiness and optimism may not be popular
but they are right and good and have positive, healthy, sanity-producing
side-effects, not just for the person who is feeling better and
getting more done, but for other people in their lives
children, spouse, friends and family, people they work with
everybody is influencing everybody else, and someone who thinks
better, who makes strong, healthy reframes on unexpected, unfortunate
events helps others see things more sanely just by example.
Anyway, because I know all this, I am able
to reframe negative responses to self-help and accusations
of giving false hope.
Whatever you have that brings you down,
try to see it in a different light. Try to reframe it in a way
that gives you strength, that boosts your fighting spirit, that
makes you want to persist, and that helps you feel motivated
and determined to accomplish your goals.
Read next: The
Classic Reframe: It's a Learning Experience.
Go back to the beginning of the series:
A Way of Looking