I can honestly say the people I meet in my life belong to two groups.
- The ones who always seem to overcome what life throws at them.
- Those who seem to struggle with adversity all the time.
In reality, they face the same exact challenges.
So what makes the difference? Is one smarter than the other? Has more drive? More willpower or self-discipline?
The first group is able to embrace a positive perspective, the other is not.
Their secret trick is cognitive restructuring (or reframing). Coming from Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), it’s a technique to help you reframe the irrational thoughts that limit your actions.
Reframing is a fantastic tool to bring back constructive thoughts when you go down the rabbit hole of self-doubt. It’s a great way to get yourself unstuck and gain the confidence to step into the unknown.
Cognitive restructuring is useful for stress management, it can help you achieve better mental constructs and help you embrace a positive perspective on your challenges.
Here’s our last deep dive for this year: how to embrace a positive perspective with 6 reframing questions.
Note: All names in this post have been changed to respect privacy.
1. The mono-solution myth
One of my previous colleagues told me once over coffee: “Do you know what my worst f** up was? It’s when I decided to accept a promotion. Strange, right? But that’s the one moment where my family life changed for the worse”.
It happens to everyone. You miss the elephant in the room. And then comes guilt, shame (or both at the same time).
Failing is stressful because it impacts your self-esteem. If you don’t process your mistakes and reframe your inner chatter, you’re at risk of doubting your capabilities. You’ll ruminate the story over and over until you start believing you’re not good enough.
But did you ever try to deconstruct the story and spot the exact moment when you went off course?
Not to prove it right or wrong. To look at the final result, understand the choices you made and embrace a positive perspective on the whole process.
Replace “Where did you fail?” with “What can you do differently?”
Put up the mirror and go deep. What triggered the choices you made? Can you recall using the same frame of mind to reach a conclusion in the past? Is there a pattern somewhere? Is it constructive or destructive?
Now, could you do it differently next time? It could be to ask for support. It could be to stop making decisions in a hurry. It could be to ask for more time. It could be to use your intuition as your ideal asset.
Then re-construct the solution, this time embracing a positive perspective. What outcome do you envision now?
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2. Embrace a positive perspective: from individual to community
It’s no secret that the strengths that got you here, become your weaknesses when it comes to growth. And that’s exactly what happened to Tina when she accepted a huge promotion.
Suddenly, it wasn’t about becoming better at a job she knew inside out. Her next step involved leading a team of 6. She got a promotion because of her skillset. And it opened the door to her vulnerability, exposing her to something she had little experience in.
When we discussed how her first few weeks went, she found it hard to believe that leading people is not as bad as you think. She told me about all the things she had to learn. She was unable to embrace a positive perspective on the whole thing and worse, she feared “not to get it” quickly enough. So I asked her:
“Do you think you need to learn more or teach more? What is the one thing you know inside out that would add value to your team? Why don’t you teach them that thing?”
It turned her reality around. Hello comfort zone!
Replace “What is the one thing you’d like to learn?” with “What is the one thing you’d like to teach?”
Thanks to reframing, Tina was able to embrace a positive perspective on the situation. She could tap into her vast knowledge but apply it to a sharing context. She could shift a self-centered target to a community-driven goal.
When we spoke again, here’s what she told me:
“My main lesson was, I never really challenged the way I worked. I had patterns that did not always serve me. But in a context of sharing and growth, it became a much more positive process to admit that different could be better. Rather than trying to resolve each difference I could see one by one. Not to mention that it was a fantastic way for me to forge strong bonds with the team.”
3. Challenge false assumptions
When you lead change management projects, people ask you questions.
A lot of questions. All the time.
Over time, I noticed something: the answer to the question… was often the question itself!
I can’t tell how many people came to me asking for help because: “they had to change this or that” or “it wasn’t possible any longer” and “it had to be radically transformed”.
I often answered: “what’s wrong with all of this”?.
And pay attention: here, the important part is not that something is wrong. It’s they assume everything has to change because they can’t embrace a positive perspective on change.
Moving from “How do we change” to “How do we make it special”
How often do you assume something that doesn’t work for you needs to be fully transformed in the first place? How often do you label the one thing in question negatively? And how often do you extend the negative qualities to anything closely related to the problem?
From air mattresses as a housing solution for conferences to… selling cereals (true), AirBnB pivoted their product a few times before it became the success we know. Do you think they started from scratch each time?
Sometimes, working on a tiny part of the problem is enough to embrace a positive perspective and make the whole thing brand new. If something does not really work, ask yourself what could make it special? What could make it easier? What could make it friendly? What could make it valuable? What could make it useful?
One huge problem is always harder to resolve than 10 small ones. Don’t throw everything away after the first challenge. Look at your issue, but this time embrace a positive perspective. Then, remind yourself of the outcomes you envision and be specific about what/where you need to put your efforts.
4. Stop negative thoughts: from problem to opportunity
Negative thinking is indeed a huge issue for human beings. Everything that doesn’t go our way suddenly becomes a monster to defeat. And for my mentee Simon, that was no exception. But it came to the point where anything and everything was a problem to resolve, a process that did not work, a relationship to mend…
And his challenge to build positive relations was difficult for everyone around him. Not only did he come across as critical and negative. but many felt nothing was never good enough. Themselves included.
After another long conversation, I asked: “Where’s the opportunity here?”.
Simon was gobsmacked. He was so focused on the need to make it perfect that he couldn’t even envision a world where he could embrace a positive perspective. And picture that there was a wider opportunity waiting for him.
He told me…“I suppose it would make my life easier. I would cut some stress out of my day to day. I would have better relationships with people”.
As he prioritised his critical issues and envisioned a clear picture of a problem-free future, he realised not everything held the same meaning to him. He admitted he could live with some of it. For the rest, he slowly developed solutions. He got creative in his approach. He noticed the whole problem solving process could be fun. He gradually embraced a positive perspective which made him more optimistic. His relationships improved.
Criticism is a useful weapon that demands a master to use it skilfully. Embrace a positive perspective and never lose sight of the opportunity when you face a challenging situation.
That’s how you resolve to improve and not to fix. And that’s the secret of a growth mindset.
5. Embrace a positive perspective: possibilities instead of incapability
I teach yoga to different people of various ages, shapes, origins and emotional realities.
Each time I demonstrate a new asana, I hear “Ha’s” and “Oh’s” and there’s inevitably one who tells me: “I can’t do it”.
To whom I answer: “Yet”.
What part of it can you do now, then?
We break down the way up to the pose and most students happily reach a good 50% success rate on first attempt.
Feeling stuck is a thing we all experience. But being stuck depends on how quickly you can work out an alternative path. Tune into the benefits of curiosity, envision your final result, break down your options and take it from there. To embrace a positive perspective is to work with possibility instead of incapability.
Our culture of being perfect dictates us to make it right on the first attempt. But to be fair, who ever ran before they walked?
If you struggle with your first step (like pretty much all of us out there), ask for help. There’s rarely a problem no-one has ever faced before. Your possible could very well be accessible through the words or hands of somebody else.
6. Get a reality check
Most arguments start with misunderstanding (that’s a proven fact). But there’s something everyone should be aware of before getting into their next argument.
Is your view based on what is right? Or what is true?
What is right and what is true are two different things depending on how you look at it. There are as many values as people in the world. What is acceptable or valuable for one may not be for the other.
We all strive to do the right thing (or so I hope). But the way we execute is based on what’s true (for us) in any given moment. In between, there’s the filter of experience, emotions, knowledge, timing…
Time to upgrade your conversation skills, my dear! Next time you need to resolve a tricky issue, an argument or use critical thinking, ask yourself: what is true now? What are the real facts supporting a way forward? And if it happens when you’re in a conversation, keep in mind that your view of reality might be different from the people around you.
It could be worth asking what makes up their truth, too!
Learning to look at the various situations and challenges in life and embrace a positive perspective is a continuous, conscious effort. And if there’s one last thing you can work on to make a positive impact in your life, it is to simply ask as much as you can: How can I help?
Because sharing is the most powerful tool we have as humans. It can shift your emotional vibe, pump up your confidence and help you build resilience when you need it the most.
It’s a beautiful thing to be part of the solution. And even more satisfying to let others execute the solution plan. So that they can claim full success.