Reframing: Your Friend or Your Enemy?

Everything can be reframed!

Is the cup half empty or half full? Is this a crises or is this an opportunity? Is this a failure or just a lesson to be learned? Are you fearful or are you excited? At one point or another, everybody in the self-development, coaching and training industry utilizes this concept of reframing, or changing the frame of reference.

Reframing is the strategy to change the meaning of something (an event, experience, news, situation, etc.) by creating another frame (reference point) to it. Basically, reframing creates a new and different interpretation that reaches a different conclusion. It allows you to feel and behave in a different way. It is a very powerful tool for mastery if one is committed to a successful and enjoyable life.

A basic example of reframing can be someone who attempted to do something and he or she did not get the desired outcome. In his or her mind, the outcome was a failure. Well, someone can help that person to reframe the meaning of that event, and instead of labeling it a “failure” how about labeling it as “one more way you have learned how not to do something”, or “one more way you have learned how to do something differently”, or “getting one step closer to your goal.” Get my point?

Now, every coach and trainer you speak to will give you the positive spin on reframing (looking at the good side). Personally, I am an extremely positive guy and I am always reframing things to the positive as well.

Today, I want to introduce you to a different conversation — when reframing is not your friend but your enemy.

Yes, you read correctly, the same skill that can empower you can also be extremely dangerous to your career. I want to have this conversation not to be negative, but to help you understand where reframing may be robbing you, your wallet or your dreams.

So, how can reframing be hurting you?

Let me share a story with you.  Some time ago I worked with a person in the financial industry. He was extremely talented, very smart, great personality, great looks, and was very interested in the service he was promoting; he had the entire package to be in the top 5% of his industry nationwide. The reason he did not reach that level, in my opinion, was because he was negatively reframing.

When he had a conversation with his sales manager about daily commitments, activities, results, and accountability, he talked a big game. He had big plans, big goals and big ambition. However, when the rubber hit the road, and it was time to hold him accountable for his daily activities and results, he started reframing it negatively.

Basically, he reframed (changed the meaning) of the accountability process and named it fear, scarcity and unnecessary pressure. As a matter of fact, while other salespeople in this same sales organization were profiting, improving and learning from the coaching and accountability process, he was accusing the management team for coming from a place of fear, scarcity and unnecessary pressure.

Unfortunately, he got stuck in his new frame of mind and that became his reality. Of course, he did not succeed. This is a clear example where someone reframed accountability and transformed the meaning of it, in this case, into fear and scarcity.

Let me give you another quick example.

Back in 2008 I went to a multi-day seminar in San Diego and there were several speakers and probably 10,000 people in the audience.  I heard something that day that was pretty shocking (for me at least), because the speaker who said it was promoting life-coaching services.

Later on, I even asked close friends of mine if I was being too hard on her words, but apparently I was not.  The reason I was shocked is because this person was overweight and she said from stage, in front of 10,000 people that she had learned to love herself and “accept her roundness.”

I want to be clear about two things:

a) my love goes out to people who are overweight because at one point of my life I was 40 pounds above my weight, and

b) I do believe that you must love yourself first, before you can love other people.

My point is to show you how reframing can work against your health as well.

Now, think with me for a second. If you learned to accept your roundness (reframe of overweight), that means that you are ok having a bunch of extra weight on your body, correct?

And if you are ok with being overweight, you most likely won’t do anything about it.  It is 100% ok to recognize that you are overweight, but as along as you accept that as your standard, nothing will change. (Science shows us that being overweight is unhealthy)

In this example, that person has reframed, “I am overweight and I have to do something about it” into “I accept my roundness.” 

Here is a question for you: What kind of urgency do you think that person is going to have to lose weight?

In both of these short examples I want to show you how reframing an event can be detrimental to someone’s life. The key point to understand is that after reframing an event, a new meaning is created.

When that meaning is activated or validated by a person (when he or she says, “yes, that is true”) it becomes a belief. As you have heard all your life, whatever you believe becomes your reality.

So how does someone know when he or she is reframing negatively?

Here are some examples to stimulate your mind:

Old meaning: I know I have to prospect harder and better. 

(Reframe)New Meaning: My sales production is not bad, I am in the top 20% of my team.

Action: He will most likely not do much to improve it.

Old meaning: I am afraid to make a change in my career. I have been doing the same thing for the last 15 years and I do not enjoy it that much.

(Reframe) New Meaning: I am surviving and at least and I have a job.

Action: Stay at the same job for the next year or 10 years, even though there is no passion.

Old meaning: I have been single before and I hate it.  Plus I am afraid I will be alone and I will not make it by myself.

(Reframe) New Meaning: I am in a relationship and it is ok. At least I have someone and that is fine.

Action: Most likely, he or she will be in an average relationship for many years to come.

Old meaning: I did a presentation before and it was terrible. 

(Reframe)New Meaning: I have a big fear of public speaking.  You must be born with a talent for speaking to do well.

Action: This person never develops the skill of public speaking and presenting, and never experiences the pleasure and the benefits that come along with this skill.

I could give you countless examples where people reframe negatively in their lives and they are not even aware that they are doing it.  If you are interested in exploring some negative reframes that possibly may be affecting your life, look at some areas in your life where there is no growth (personal or professional), some areas of discomfort (fear, anxiety, doubt) or maybe some unfulfilled dreams and passions.

Remember that our reframes, both positive and negative, become our beliefs if validated. And remember what John. C Lily said, “Every belief is a limit to be examined and transcended.”

To Your Success

Roberto Monaco

6 Comments

  1. Setema on March 16, 2009 at 9:35 am

    Brother, great article. I love it! i’m going to share it and use it!

    Hope all is well.

  2. KonstantinMiller on July 6, 2009 at 5:05 pm

    I think I will try to recommend this post to my friends and family, cuz it’s really helpful.

  3. Joseph Varghese on December 2, 2009 at 9:25 am

    Great article. I’ve been in personal development for years as well. I see different spins on reframing. Even in the accountability circles that I facilitate, I see people continuously looking at the good sides of things and not facing the fire when it’s absolutely essential. Fortunately our system involves receiving feedback, so that constant “reframer” will be alerted when they are playing small.
    Other than that, I think reframing is one of the most essential skills one can develop as they build a business and combat failure as most startups have major pitfalls. It’s important to “correct and continue” after the reframe.
    Cheers,
    ~Joseph

  4. Tiffany Humfeld on June 7, 2012 at 5:28 pm

    Thanks for discussing this concept of "reframing." When I was regularly attending Weight Watchers, it was one of the tools they taught. But, twisting it in the negative is also important to understand so we don't use it as a rationalization tool for bad habits.

    • roberto on June 8, 2012 at 10:23 am

      Hey Tiffany, thanks for the kind words. Yes…I wrote this because I caught myself re-framing negatively and it end up costing me! You have a nice weekend!

  5. Tiffany on June 7, 2012 at 10:29 am

    Thanks for the reframing thought twist!

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