“We cannot solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them.”
—Albert Einstein

Is the glass half empty, or half full?
Do you face obstacles, or challenges?
Are taxes a social burden, or a social virtue?
Is the ground beef 80% lean, or 20% fat?
Looking at your experiences do you see mistakes, or lessons?
Were you dumped, or were you broken up with?
Are you “broken,” or do you need to develop some aspects of your personhood?

 

These are all examples “framing.” A frame is an explanation and representation of a person’s thought process (cognition) for how something works (or not) in the real world (external reality). They are mindsets that color what you see and/or how you see it. This is important because the way you see something informs you of what actions you can take and how you will feel about the actions. Why is this significant?

Frames are used to influence us all the time (especially by politicians, sometimes referred to as “spin”), but the way we ourselves frame things can have a powerful influence on whether we successfully take something on or not. The thing is, we are always framing. Or, put more accurately, we see life through frames.

What’s interesting about the above frames is that they can both be equally “true.” And each representation carries with it some inherent possibilities or lack thereof.

I can’t tell you how often people communicate to me that something (such as sharing emotions or being vulnerable) is hard for them because they have such thick “walls.” With that seemingly simple and perhaps accurate assessment or frame, based no doubt on past experience, the action becomes, in fact, hard for them. This frames of “hard” and “walls” insures that it will be so.

How we frame things for ourselves is powerful. And it is an aspect of engaging in life that most people don’t even notice they do. Our frames appear to each of us as “the way it is.” We don’t see them as interpretations but rather how our world occurs to us. Whatever frame has allowed us to identify our current options will be insufficient to produce new ones.

So what’s in this for you? One suggestion is that you start with something that has you currently frustrated and do a reverse engineering assessment on it. Consider that the reason you are stuck is because of the way you are currently framing it. Ask yourself, is there a different way I can frame this area of my life that can open up new ways of thinking around this? For example, let’s say you are currently stuck in an un-resourceful way of relating to someone and when checking in with your mindset towards them you identify that you have them positioned as stubborn. That is, essentially, a way you have framed them. What if, instead, you framed them as cautious and needing more information? How might that simple re-frame influence the way you communicated to them?

There is an implication here and it is a transformational principle. Essentially it’s that the limitations we encounter are often mostly of our own making. They are in part the result of our current frame. That’s why it’s helpful to seek outside perspectives or ways of thinking about a problem we have. Thinking about Einstein’s quote, a frame is a result of a level of thinking and we can “up a level” by creating a bigger frame.

As this New Year is still just unfolding, pay attention to the way you are framing everything. Especially in any area you feel you are not where you aspire to be. You can bet that a big contributor to it is your current level of thinking and how you have it framed.

Ennio