By Mark E. Smith

Is the glass half full or half empty? …There’re two sides to every coin. …Or, would you rather a steak that’s 80% lean or 20% fat?

All of those statements are utter clichés, but they tie into a psychological principle that dictates the way we see each situation: framing.

Framing is the psychological process that applies to whether we see a situation as negative or positive. The fact is, in even the worst of situations, we have the choice on how to frame them – that is, to see negatives, positives, or both – and the way we frame them dictates our success in addressing them, literally and emotionally.

I’m a firm believer in framing adversity as a tool for opportunity. No matter what happens, I believe in recognizing the opportunity in it. I once had a home severely flood, and as I evacuated, I told everyone, “It looks like I finally get to remodel….” And, I did get to remodel as a result of the unfortunate circumstance, where the house was far nicer than before it flooded.

So many aspects of our lives are like that: As the flood waters rush in, it’s difficult to see beyond the seeming disaster. However, if we frame life’s adversities so that we can draw positive aspects from them in the immediate and long term, it lessens the impact on us and allows us to move forward.

On top of using positive framing as a tool of coping, it’s invaluable as a tool for learning and growth. If we only see a situation as bad, we’re simply in victim mode – adversity only harms us – and we can’t move forward. However, if we frame adverse situations with at least some positives, we not only take control of the situation, but we learn and grow. Imagine if every time a professional sports team lost a game, they just went back to the locker room and sulked about how unfair the game was. They’d be the worst team in history. No team does that. Rather, they watch replays of the game to determine how mistakes were made, then they strive to improve in those areas. We lost that game, let’s learn from it to win the next.

If you’re not in the habit of framing adversity toward the positive, I know it’s hard. None of us want adversity in our life, and it can weigh us down. Yet, adversity enters our lives at times no matter what – which is why it’s so important to develop the habit of seeing positives. If we only see negatives, it tends to freeze us in place. However, if we can see a positive – even in the bleakest of situations – it allows us to begin moving forward. Most of us have had our hearts broken by an ended romance. Then, a well-meaning friend tells us, Don’t worry, there are other fish in the sea. While that cheesy saying lacks empathy in the moment, the painful end of one relationship most often does lead to a new, joyous chapter of love. In this way, even an ending in our life can eventually frame a wonderful beginning if we allow it.

If we can get to a place in our lives where we can frame adversities in the positive, we can then move forward, learn, and grow. That’s a great frame to be in.

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