When Goliath came against the Israelites, the soldiers all thought, “He’s so big we can never kill him.” But David looked at the same giant and thought, “He’s so big, I can’t miss him.” ~Dale Turner
It’s all in the eyes of the beholder. Our emotions or how we feel about a given situation is significantly affected by the meaning we give to what we experience. And the meaning we give to any experience is shaped by the lens or filter through which we perceive it. David was clearly viewing Goliath through a different lens or filter than the other soldiers. While they felt fear, David felt possibility.
That means if we can change the way we look at something, by reframing it, we change the meaning and in turn, change the emotion attached to it. Reframing isn’t always easy, but I do believe it comes more easily with practice. It might be helpful to first remind ourselves that our perspective on a given situation is exactly that, ours. There are always many ways to view the very same situation.
Here are a few questions you could ask yourself to reframe your perspective on a given situation.
- If you were feeling resourceful and generous, how might you look at this situation?
- What’s missing here, that once it is included will make this situation flow?
- What if the opposite were true; what would that look like?
- Put yourself in the shoes of the other person, what do you think is their perspective?
- What would it look like if you were empathetic instead of irritated, frustrated, or angry?
- Imagine yourself in a week, a month, a year in the future – how much do you care about winning this one argument?
An example frequently used to illustrate the art of reframing is Thomas Edison. He made somewhere around 10,000 attempts to invent the incandescent light bulb. Others would scold him for failing over and over and would ask when he was going to stop trying. It is said that he replied with, “I didn’t fail, I just figured out another way not to invent the light bulb.” He reframed failure as a process of gaining more knowledge that would get him one step closer to realizing his vision. Reframing made Edison feel empowered so he continued.
Another of history’s great minds, Albert Einstein said, “You cannot solve a problem from the same consciousness that created it. You must learn to see the world anew.”
We all have moments where we become stuck or find ourselves at an impasse of some sort. We can continue to hold on to our same view or perspective with stubborn determination, or we can explore other perspectives and reframe our thinking to get unstuck.
As leaders, we must be willing to continually see the world anew, to replace fear with possibility.