Reframing

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Personal change is not caused by will-power. There are many components to effective change, but an important one, and one I want to dig into a bit here, is reframing. I came across some of these ideas in Alan Deutschman’s excellent work Change or Die.

Reframing is a change in occurrence, it’s a different way of seeing and thinking, and it’s foundational to any real personal change. Unfortunately, humans are really bad at reframing on our own, in fact, we tend to become more entrenched in our thinking as we grow older.

Through the incredible story of Delancey Street Foundation, a sort of residential rehabilitation institution employing what looks much more like coaching than therapy, Deutschman introduces a concept he calls ‘acting as if:’

It’s obvious that what we believe and what we feel influences how we act. That’s common sense. But the equation works in the other direction as well: how we act influences what we believe and what we feel. That’s one of the most counterintuitive yet powerful principles of modern psychology (P78).

At Delancey Street, constituents are not required to undergo any intensive therapy or high octane educational course, they’re required to act like functioning members of society. The simple practice of acting decent creates an entirely new framework for them.

Deutschman notes that reframing can’t happen simply by listening to a person explain a new perspective. Our frames have been embedded in us through repeated experiences over time, which is part of the reason it becomes more difficult to reframe as we get older. In order to reframe, new experiences are required, “you have to do things a new way before you can think a new way” (P79). When you do things a new way a whole new world of possibilities begins to emerge, you realize that things, or you yourself, could actually be different.

So if there’s something you’re trying to do or change, figure out what normal daily practices you’ll need to commit to (example: if you want to lose weight you should diet and exercise), and just try doing it. It’s certainly not the whole equation, your problems won’t be magically solved, but start by acting, you might be surprised what you find.

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