The art of reframing

Before I publish my first story about my redundancy experience I want to share a skill that kept me sane through the intervening period. Without it I shudder to think where I might be.  The skill is ‘reframing’, the ability to reframe our experience to improve its value.

Reframing is the ability to be able to take a different perspective on your situation. To understand how powerful they are it is useful to understand a common, yet strong, filter we all have. It is called a direction filter and is a good indication of what motivates each of us.

Imagine a line and at one end there is the word “away from” and on the other there is “towards”. If you ask yourself any question, such as “what do you want in your career?” or “why do you go to the gym” pay attention to how you answer. If your answers are more what you “do not want” you are towards the ‘away from’ end. If your answers are more what you “do want” you are towards the ‘towards’ end.

Where this is important is that “away from” tends to be motivated by fear:

“I go to the gym because I do not want to be fat”


“I go to the gym because it feels good being lighter and fitter”

Under stressful conditions this filter could become stronger and it is easy to lose perspective and panic if you can see all the things you do not want happening. This anxiety will affect your resilience and state of mind if you let it.

Reframing is a critical skill as it helps move you along the filter towards “towards” by flipping the subjective experience. Here is a true scenario:

I go to an interview and it does not go well. There was no rapport with the interviewers and the role was not what it seemed. However I need a job and I am frustrated.

It is good that I care enough about getting a job. The interviews that do not go well give me intelligence about how I can sharpen my skills ready for ‘the one’. The role and company were not the right for me and it is important that I find the right job, isn’t it?

That is reframing. It is the ability to shift perspective and see how the current situation can help you stay motivated towards your goal.

Reframing works in all contexts. Using sport and football as an example:

“It is wet and windy today so it will be hard to play”

The filter here is away from as they do not want to make mistakes or look bad.  Whereas it could be towards improving the ability to keep the ball on the ground and play through the opposition:

“That is great as it means we can practice keeping the ball on the ground and our short range passing”

I cannot recommend this skill highly enough. I believe if more of us listened to our direction filter and reframed more often the world would be a happier place. Over the next week give reframing a go and notice what you notice about the difference.

In the next blog I will talk about identity, opportunity and expectation.