Thoughts About Our Thoughts

I often hear my inner voice saying, “You are one good reframe away from a better day.” There is almost always a quick other way to view something that will make me feel a little better, give me the little kick I need to keep going with my head up.  For example, every flight delay frustration is tempered by my gratitude the problem is getting addressed while my feet are still on the ground rather than in a tube 40,000 feet in the air. Every work challenge is tempered by reminding myself that the greater the challenge, the faster I get better.

Reframes are really pretty easy because it could almost always be worse. There’s always an additional circumstance or two that could make your lousy present moment even lousier. When you feel wronged or have messed something up royally, there’s always a lesson to be learned, knowledge to be gained, a more rounded and maybe even better person you are becoming. Resilience and wisdom are built from the tough stuff we go through, not the easy. That’s a reframe I use often; we need the tough spots and bad days to keep growing, to become more effective, interesting people. Too much ease makes us dull.

In general, the positive reframe is a tremendous and valuable life skill. Our ability to effectively intervene in our own thought processes with a different take on things impacts our happiness, confidence, optimism, patience and generosity. There’s agency and choice in the way we reframe. It keeps us from feeling we are victims, which is an easy and utterly powerless role to fall into. You can be the bride who weeps miserably about rain on her wedding day or the one who merrily splashes through the puddles in her bare feet.

The downside to the reframing skill is doing it so relentlessly that we don’t let ourselves feel what we feel. Our negative feelings often fuel more urgency or effort to do something differently, to ensure undesired outcomes don’t show up again. If we are using all our energy to make something better in our own minds or to convince others it’s not so bad, we might miss the lesson learned or call to action. Another downside is annoying the people around us who need to be bummed out for a minute.

Sometimes we just need to be a little grumpy about something. While we can do a lot of good by offering up a way to re-think something, we might also need to let people feel what they’re feeling. People who are incessantly negative take us down for sure, but there are occasions where the incessantly positive person does the same thing. Insisting their rosy disposition and positive take is the only right response. It’s frustrating when someone else’s positivity makes us feel guilty about processing our own feelings. We all have our unique response systems—different events and circumstances awaken in us a variety of old wounds, fears or regrets. To each their own on working through them. It is undoubtedly a positive to be the optimist in the room, but even optimism needs to be wielded with sensitivity. Reframes and positive thinking aren’t meant to keep us from feeling our feelings, they are meant to keep us from falling down the unproductive rabbit holes those feelings may lure us into. They can keep disappointment from turning to depression, frustrations from turning to festering anger, doubt from becoming pervasive insecurity. The key is to equip ourselves with meaningful reframes that will help us work through our challenges in the healthiest ways possible, so that we can ultimately right the ship and do our thing in our best thing doing way.

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