I’m heading off to the TOCICO 2023 Innovation Summit in Fort Lauderdale, Florida tomorrow. I have attended Theory of Constraints conferences for 30 years. For me, it’s a great way to spend time with the people of my tribe. The conferences are different since we lost Eli Goldratt in 2011, yet they are still deeply satisfying to me.
At the conference this year, I hope to have some discussions with my colleagues about a reframe that I have been using for several years now. It’s the most useful reframe I have ever experienced and it’s improved my life dramatically.
What’s a Reframe?
Let’s start with an understanding of what is meant by a reframe.
A “reframe” is a cognitive and communicative technique used to change the way a situation, experience, or concept is viewed or interpreted. The goal is often to shift perspective from a negative or unhelpful viewpoint to one that is more positive or constructive. Reframing can be applied in various contexts, such as problem-solving, emotional regulation, and interpersonal communication.
For example, if someone views a failed project as a “waste of time,” a reframe might be to see it as a “learning experience” that provides valuable insights for future endeavors. By changing the way the situation is perceived, the emotional impact and subsequent actions can also change, often for the better.
Reframing is commonly used in psychology, particularly in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), as well as in coaching, negotiation, and conflict resolution. It’s a versatile tool that can help individuals and groups overcome challenges, resolve disagreements, and foster a more positive outlook.
My Old Frame
For most of my life my old frame went like this:
“I can be harmed by the things that happen to me. People can hurt me if I’m not careful, so I need to be on guard for those situations.
I also have to manage my image, both personal and professional. I have to act a certain way, dress appropriately, drive the right kind of car (actually, I drive a pickup truck, but you get the point), and say the right kinds of things.
I also felt very attached to people and things, because hey, if I don’t get what I want from life, I could wind up feeling like a failure later on. So, I constantly worried about my security, tried to avoid conflict, and tried to grasp at the things that I thought would make me happy.
I expect you can see how the idea that I could be harmed by things that might happen to me set me up for all kinds of fear, worry and defensive behaviors. The fear also made it more difficult for me to let other people get close to me and for me to get close to them.
Bottom line, fear is one of those emotions that has about a million different ways of showing up in your life and causing damage.
My New Frame
My new frame, which I didn’t come to immediately, is “I cannot be harmed by anything that happens to me.”
Pretty bold statement, I know. You might be thinking “Yeah, right.” Nevertheless, this is my deep belief, and it’s had a profound effect on my life.
If you’re a Theory of Constraints geek like I am, you might notice how the new frame is essentially a perfect inversion of my old frame. How often, when we use the TOC Thinking Processes, do we take an assumption we want to challenge and completely invert it, as I did here? I do it all the time. Have a negative that’s bugging you? Invert it and then figure out how to make it your reality. Trim the wings of that flying pig!
In reality, a reframe doesn’t absolutely have to be true to be useful. So if you find this reframe hard to accept, you can still try it on for size.
People sometimes make fun of “Daily Affirmations,” as if they are some kind of feel-good psychobabble. I have found something different: When I use them diligently, they work, and I can feel the difference.
Now I do in fact believe I cannot be harmed by anything that happens to me. I cannot explain that here. I have invested years of thought in forming my conclusions, and no one can necessarily reproduce my exact steps. You can of course take your own, and if this kind of stuff interests you, please do. Just know that you don’t have to be able to prove the reframe literally true to benefit from it.
Consider standing in front of your bathroom mirror once a day for five days. Repeat the reframe slowly and meaningfully ten times or so. Give yourself a few minutes to do this. It might feel odd at first, but just do it. No one is going to know!
I do want to give you a few options that you can check out if you want to know more. If you grab onto any of these threads and start chasing them down, you’ll be led to more material than you can read in a lifetime.
One option is a get a copy of a recently published new book, “Beyond Illusion” by Katrijn Van Oudheusden. You can find it on Amazon. The book is about seeing through what is called the self-illusion, and if you can do that, you’ll learn more about (in my view) why the reframe I have offered here is credible. But know that conceptual knowledge alone (what the book provides) is helpful for many people, but unlikely to be fully sufficient.
If you really want to dig into the science of all, this I can’t say enough good things about the work of Dr. Robert Sapolsky. He has a new book coming out: “Determined: The Science of Life Without Free Will.”
I like the work of some of the spiritual teachers like Rupert Spira, Francis Lucille and John Klein. Again, there’s no shortage of good resources here.
Finally, if this interests you and you’d like to talk more about it, please reach out. We can have some great discussions and I’d enjoy talking with you.