How to Reframe Your Thoughts for Better Outcomes - THINKERS Notebook

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How to Reframe Your Thoughts for Better Outcomes

We call it "The Rectangle."

It's a street in our neighborhood that winds continuously around two parallel strips of 10 ten houses, each strip bisected by an alley where cars access their garages. 

The western section of the street is shaded by trees, and there isn't ever any traffic over there. One time there was loud music coming from the apartments on other side of those trees, but every other time we've been there it has been quiet and secluded. Peaceful.

The houses on that side are all situated up on a short but steep hill, and they all have half-oval driveways that climb up and and then down the hill, where cars can pull up in front of the house.

In other words, this is the perfect place to go scooting with my 3-year old daughter. 

She can scoot in the street. She can go up and down the driveways. We've got some shade. It's great!

But here's the thing ...

It's not particularly close to our house. 

Which is relative of course. As the crow flies, it's not far at all. But there is a small creek in the way, so it requires a bit of a winding path to get there. Still, it's maybe 8-10 blocks away in total.

And to a 3-year old, with energetic but still-short legs, that qualifies as "far away" from home.

So even though she always has fun once we get there, sometimes it can be a challenge convincing her that trekking that far is worth it. Especially when it's hot outside.

Such was the case on Thursday morning. 

Our scoot/walk began with a burst of momentum, but it eventually slowed about halfway to The Rectangle. I wasn't sure we'd make it. The inevitable laments came about how far away The Rectangle is.

Then my daughter said something that sparked us into a new direction of thinking. 

She says, "Let's do on-your-marks, get-set, 1-2-3." This is a game we play in which I run up ahead, pretend she's starting a race, and then she zooms toward an imaginary finish line. I announce it like I'm calling a horse race. It's all very silly and fun.

But this time she says we should race together.

It's a brilliant idea!

She says, "On your marks, get set, yogurt!" ... and then we speed off together. She scoots, I jog. (Why "yogurt"? I don't know. You'd have to ask her. It was totally random. But it started a trend.)

After a short sprint, we slow down. Then I turn to her and say, "On your marks, get set, brownies!" ... and we speed off again. She scoots, I jog.

Her laughter at the thought of racing for imaginary brownies makes me smile (like it always does).

We slow down again. Now it's her turn. She says, "On your marks, get set, broccoli!" I'm so proud. I also fall a step behind and get smoked in this particular sprint.

This goes on and on.

  • Lemonade!
  • Cookies!
  • Salmon! (This was her. Another moment of pride.)
  • Strawberries!
  • Fudge bars!

Then all of a sudden we look up ...

And we're at The Rectangle. 

We had become so engrossed in this ridiculous game we'd concocted together on the fly that neither one of us realized how much ground we had covered, and how quickly we'd covered it.

Now all of a sudden here we are, ready to scoot up and down the driveways as we wind around The Rectangle before beginning our return trip home.

What I did not recognize in that moment -- because I was just totally lost in having a blast hanging out with my daughter -- but that I thought about later, was what a useful example this was of the power of reframing.

Granted, in this example my daughter and I were not intentional about our reframing. We started playing our little game and the reframing happened naturally. But the result was the same.

Instantaneously, our long and arduous journey to a "far away" place had been reframed into a series of exciting, giggle-filled sprints that actually required even more exertion yet felt as easy and natural as the breeze.

It was a wonderful reminder of how malleable our minds can be.

And you can bet that next time I will be more intentional about how I frame our walk to The Rectangle.

So my question to you this week is: what is something you are struggling with or dreading right now that you could reframe and think about in a new way?

  • What long, arduous journey (real or metaphorical) could you break up into a series of more manageable, even enjoyable, sprints?
  • What complex problem could you reframe into a series of smaller, more well-defined questions?
  • What big, broad project could be reframed into a series of progressive, proactive to-dos?

Let me clear:

I'm not here to suggest that your trials and tribulations aren't real. Or that your struggles aren't legitimate. Or that your fears, worries, or complaints don't lack merit.

My daughter was right, after all: The Rectangle really was far away, at least to her. That was real.

But she and I were able to reframe it together, and then the fact that it was far away wasn't important anymore. Dread of the destination morphed into joy for the moment. 

That's the power of reframing, and we're so lucky our minds come equipped with such a muscle. 

So don't forget to flex it every once in a while, especially when you really need it.

In this edition of the THINKERS Roundup, you will find three articles that discuss our ability to reframe our thoughts and perceptions, and how we can use this ability to our advantage. 

But first, a final invitation to today's virtual happy hour, plus a poll question that I hope you'll consider answering ... 

This Week in the THINKERS Workshop


Hey, what are you doing today at 5:00 p.m. ET?

Because we are hosting our second virtual happy hour for members of the THINKERS Workshop, and we'd love to have you there with us.

To get the details and access the Zoom link, click here to visit the Event page.

We hope to see you there.

Regardless, these discussions might also be of interest to you:


And I almost forgot ...

The beta release of the THINKERS App for Android is now out! This means we need beta testers to help us make it better.

So if you own an Android device and want to help us text out the version, please click here to learn how. Thank you!

Now on to this week's links ...

Shifts in perspective can be essential for personal progress

Reframing, in the therapeutic sense, is about looking at a situation, thought, or feeling from another angle. Therapists are really good at this because our goal is to be supportive and empathetic to you and your concerns, but also help you work through issues. When we take on your challenges, whatever they may be, and offer another perspective, we are “reframing.”

We are hoping to help you adjust your perspective or thought pattern based on a reaction from you that is largely driven by emotion. The emotions that you feel, or thoughts that you think, are often rooted in old patterns that no longer serve you. By reframing a situation, or taking on a new perspective, you can help adjust those patterns (and break them over time) leaving you feeling healthier and more in control of your own mind.

Read: Reframing is Therapy’s Most Effective Tool, Here’s Why (Talk Space)

Learning to reframe will help you think more clearly and more better decisions

What all this implies is that events and circumstances do not have inherent meaning. You rather assign meaning to events and circumstances based on your interpretations and perspectives. Therefore, no matter what horrible things might happen to you, they are only horrible because you interpret them that way.

Interpreting things another way will assign a different meaning to these events and circumstances. And as you assign a different meaning to something, you perceive the situation in a different light, and as a result, you feel differently about it. Therefore a negative event can be interpreted in a positive way, and instead of feeling bad about it, you end up feeling excited and inspired.

When you change the frame of your experience, this influences how you tend to perceive, interpret and react to events and circumstances. In other words, reframing helps you experience your actions and the impact of your attitudes and beliefs in a different way.

It helps you experience things from a different perspective or frame of reference that can be more advantageous and helpful. As such, you become more resourceful and can, therefore, make better and more optimal decisions moving forward.

Read: The Only Guide You'll Need for Reframing Your Thoughts (IQ Matrix)

Reframing helps you spot opportunity in the negative

Reframing allows us to take control of how we view a situation. It’s not positive thinking (or at least not in the traditional sense) because we never change the events themselves (that would be delusional), just the way we view them.

If I were to take you favorite picture and put a hideous gold and purple frame studded with fake diamonds round it, it’s going to effect the way you view your previous favorite piece of art.

Yet I haven’t actually touched the painting, just reframed it.

You can do this with literally any event in your life, and I do mean any event this side of your own death.

Read: The Incredible Power of Reframing (A Daring Adventure)

Quote of the week

“If a problem can't be solved within the frame it was conceived, the solution lies in reframing the problem.”

-- Brian McGreevy, Hemlock Grove
Photo by Anthony Garand on Unsplash