What Are You Focusing On?

There is an extremely useful and well used strategy of highly successful people.. its called Reframing.

Reframing is about changing perception by understanding something in another way.  (Ref: Bandler and Grinder explained in the following manner:)

What reframing does is to say, Look, this external thing occurs and it elicits this response in you, so you assume that you know what the meaning is. However, if you thought about it this other way, you would have a different response.

Being able to think about things in a variety of ways builds a spectrum of understanding. None of these ways are ‘really’ true, though. They are simply statements about a person’s understanding.
There are two basic kinds of reframes: context reframing and content reframing.

Both can alter our internal representations of events or situations, which permits us to experience the events in other, possibly more resourceful ways.



Bandler and Grinder noted that “every experience in the world and every behavior is appropriate, given some context, some frame”

Context reframing offers an understanding of how we make meaning through the environment – physical, intellectual, cultural, historical, and emotional – in which a situation occurs. It can also provide a pattern of thinking that helps us see the value in every situation regardless of any perceived downside.

Context reframing is taking an experience that seems to be negative, not useful, and distressing and showing how the same behavior or experience can be useful in another context. Children’s stories are full of reframes designed to show children how what might seem a liability can be useful in another context. For example, the other reindeer made fun of Rudolph’s bright, red nose; however, that funny nose made Rudolph the hero on a dark night.

Context reframing can be used as a “perceptual filter,” taught and practiced until it becomes an integral and habitual way of organizational thinking. It is a very useful tool in business as it is the way of thinking that gives one the ability to make lemonade from those unexpected (and unwanted) lemons.

Creativity, new visions, innovations are commonplace for those who know to reframe and recontextualize problems and obstacles into opportunities and resources.

Read on and see the following stories are prime examples of this ability to reframe and recontextualize.

An Executive Director at a human service agency was looking for inexpensive raw materials to make dried flower arrangements for the agency gift shop. He called up the local funeral parlours and asked what they did with flowers after the funerals. As expected, the funeral parlours disposed of the flowers. The parlours agreed to give the agency the flowers at no cost. The agency transforms the flowers into beautiful arrangements to sell in the agency gift shop at a good profit. Throwing away dead flowers many not seem like an opportunity to many, however, when you reframe, you have created free raw materials.

Another example is of a company in the US, Safety-Kleen in Elgin, Illinois , it was one of the fastest growing and most successful companies in the mid 1970s and 1980s. Its founder noticed that garages threw out the oil when they made oil change. It was not only a bad ecological practice it was wasteful. What other use could there be for used motor oil?

The management of Safety-Kleen answered that question. Waste oil could be used in asphalt and other oil based building materials. It also could be cleaned and recycled. Safety-Kleen built a multi-million dollar business by putting out a fleet to pick up used oil. They were one of the first to collect the used oil and resell it; they also charge the operator for the service.

Viewing organizations, individuals, and the world with reframing tools opens us to potential rather than locking us into our perceived limits.

An entrepreneur is fundamentally an expert reframer – that is, he or she is someone who can add value to resources or behaviours, or situtations and convert them into wealth, or at the very least something useful or more empowering!


The second type of reframing is content reframing.

Content reframing is simply changing the meaning of a situation – that is, the situation or behaviour stays the same, thougth the meaning is changed. For example, a famous army general reframed a distressful situation for his troops by telling them that “We’re not retreating, we’re just advancing in another direction.”

Another example is the reframing of death.

Death is a life event that has different meaning in different cultures, and many individuals deal with this event in vastly different ways. Some grieve the loss, whereas others are joyous at the now eternal presence of the person’s spirit. In other words, different people attach very different meaning and interpretations to the concept of death.  LEARNING TO COMMUNICATE

Reframing starts by recognizing how each of us processes our experiences. Reframing is not just a pattern to apply to the world “out there” but requires to be a resident program in our mental operating system. We tend to accept our perceptions at face value and use reasons like “that’s just the way I am” as rationale for continuing to proceed with the same thought patterns.


Reframing is a key to the puzzle of self-fulfilling prophecies – the concept that your beliefs tend to unconsciously manifest themselves in your actions and decisions. Self-fulfilling prophecies have been called the Pygmalion effect from a play that later became My Fair Lady. In the play, Professor Henry Higgins won a wager that nurture was more powerful than nature. He trained a commoner, Eliza Doolittle, to have the manner and speech of a woman of the upper class. The story demonstrates that our self-perceptions, or who it is we learn to think we are, is a primary determinant in how we will fare in life.
Perceptions define our experience. Meaning is created in our brains from our experiences. Behaviour is given meaning based on what we learned the behaviour meant in the past. We have a past frame into which we fit current behaviour in order to identify and understand it. The understanding comes not from the behaviour itself but from the particular frame through which we chose to view it. Each of us perceives the world as it is filtered into our awareness through our frames of perceptions. Thus, each of us experiences and finds different and unique meaning in our world.

Reframing, then, is expanding our own or others’ perceptions by providing a new frame through which to view a life situation. What is a disastrous problem for someone is a challenging growth opportunity for another.

Victor Frankl (1963) who survived a Nazi Concentration camp, recounted that although most of his fellow inmates lost hope and subsequently died, Frankl kept hope and planned for the lectures he would give after his release.

In his own mind, he turned a potentially hopeless situation into a source of rich experiences that he could use to help others overcome hopeless situations.

Fortunately, we do not have to be in such dire circumstances for reframing to be useful. Every moment of every day, there is opportunity to see things in another way.

To see them through another frame of perception can give us hope and a better perspective of ourselves and others.

There are no correct or right frames of perceptions. There are only useful frames and not so useful frames depending on the particular context.

A useful reframe is to understand that all perceptions are useful in some context. Given that, you can always ask yourself or someone else, “where would this perception be useful, or where would it make sense?”

Life is not always comfortable, sometimes life seems like it ‘out of control’ compared to the control we would like to have on it.

We can learn to regain control and significant personal power by using reframing on a daily basis. (Refer to the Process of Segment Intending in the ‘Lets Talk About  Some Ways to De-Stress article) and the beauty is that reframing or ‘Segment Intending’ is surprisingly easy!

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