Reframing: Turning a negative into a positive

Turning a negative life event into a positive isn’t easy. There will be moments when, just as you start to believe that everything is finally going your way, a series of events will commence that send your delicately-built house of cards tumbling. The cards rain down as you watch your ideas float back to where they began; square one.

It can be harrowing. Morale-breaking, in fact. If you’ve invested everything into this moment, it can completely crush you.

And that is okay.

What makes us happy, sad, mortified and hurt all, ultimately, comes down to a matter of perspective. If that dream job you wanted just wasn’t meant to be, it can make you feel a sense of worthlessness like nothing else. I had everything set on getting this job…what now? What if, though, you changed the way you thought about setbacks?

Setbacks and failures are fantastic opportunities for growth, so long as we perceive them as such. We can break this down into two steps:

  1. Not letting failure affect us negatively

You require but only one tool for this process; yourself. You can start right now.

Not Letting Failure Affect Us Negatively

Marcus Aurelius, one of the greatest stoics in history, wrote in his journal:

It doesn’t hurt me unless I interpret it’s happening as harmful to me. I can choose not to.

Non-reactivity is a core tenet in the vast majority of modern day mindfulness meditation practice (apps like Calm and Headspace). In essence, it is the idea that we do not immediately react to adverse situations we find ourselves in; we stop, take a deep breath, and accept. Stoicism favours this mentality, also. Simply put, if you don’t interpret something happening to you as bad…then you won’t feel hurt/upset. Simple, right?

Understandably, this is easier said than done. The first step, however, in seeing the best in any situation you find yourself in is to simply not see it as a bad situation to begin with. Now, I’m not saying it’s a case of “this awful thing now makes me happy” and…tada! All fixed. There is a degree of nuance involved, to some extent. We ultimately must learn to reprogram ourselves to start seeing the best in everything. To see value in places where we used to see none.

Reframing The Scenario

Which leads us to the how. Try it out: When faced with an adverse scenario, reframe it as an opportunity. “This is a great opportunity to…”Is your friend 10 minutes late to that coffee you planned 2 weeks ago? Stop focusing on their tardiness. You cannot change the fact they’re late, so why waste your time stressing out over it? Focus on what can be done in the here and now.

“This is a great opportunity to listen to another 10 minutes of my audiobook”

“This is a great opportunity to work on my mindful breathing”.

Are you talking to someone new and you feel like they’re talking a lot more than you’d like? Leverage this (and then perhaps find better conversation partners after):

“This is a great opportunity to practise my active listening skills”

And finally…the aforementioned loss of a great job.

Not getting that perfect job can sting beyond words, especially if you fell short due to a bad reference or circumstances outside of your control. However, I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason. Not getting your dream job can certainly sting, but the opportunity to find something even greater, even more rewarding has come your way. And, with your resillience and determination from reframing the loss as a great chance for growth, you will come out stronger and better for it.

Everything is an opportunity, within reason; you just have to reframe how you see it.

Homework

Ready to develop the skill of reframing? Identify one negative scenario from your day or week and, in your journal, consider one potential way of reframing it into a positive growth opportunity.

Cover photo by Patrick Tomasso via Unsplash

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An ex-primary school teacher on a journey of career fulfilment and self discovery.

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Alex de Panama

An ex-primary school teacher on a journey of career fulfilment and self discovery.