Today I woke up at 6:30am. The temperature inside is 50 degrees. I have two exams. I have studied for one of them. I have oatmeal for breakfast. I need to turn in a paper which will be printed at LU because my printer is broken. I have to work at 5pm. A friend wants to get lunch.
These are the bare basic facts about my day. Now suppose I came to tell you about my day and said this “I am so excited about today. I am finally finishing two classes and am turning in the last paper for another. Since my printer doesn’t work I’ll print it at Liberty which is great since I have to go there anyway. Even though I didn’t study for one of the tests, my grades in the class should carry me over. I can’t wait to catch up with my fiend and see how his life is doing. And work tonight should be busy so I’ll make a lot of money! The day is beautifully clear and a great day to wear my nice new coat. I’ll start this day off with some nutritious oatmeal!”
This is a positive outlook on the day. Everything is viewed as a challenge or an adventure. Everything that could possibly be seen as a negative is re-framed as a positive.
But what if I approach my day like this: “Agh! I hate getting up so early. It is so freaking cold outside; I wish this stupid winter would be over with. I can’t believe they scheduled two exams in one day! And I didn’t even have time to study for one of them. I’ll probably fail. Why don’t I have some eggs or something good for breakfast? And this stupid printer is always broken. Oh crap I forgot I have to work tonight. Sucks working when you’re tired. What? My friend wants to get lunch again? Probably going through more drama. This day is going to be terrible!”
Interesting. Same exact day. Totally different outlook. In fact, without first looking at the facts you might have thought these were two totally different days or at least two different people.
The reality is that we all are capable of positive and negative framing. Framing is the way that you choose to look at circumstance in life. You can say today will be quite challenging or you can say it sucks. You can choose to notice the beauty of the snow or complain about the bite of the cold. You can be delighted you have good friends or dread hearing their problems.
I remember not too long ago telling a story to a friend about something that happened to me. The story was full of mishap and bad choices. The results less than stellar. However, to me looking back on it, the story was quite comical. In fact, I was laughing the entire time. My framework was a positive one. My friend on the other had kept saying things like “that sucks, I would be miserable, I hate when I have days like that”. Actually that is what inspired this post. It struck me that some people almost automatically see the negative in a given situation. Their natural instinct is to find what could or did go wrong and allow it to define the circumstance.
One day I woke up and realizing this was me. I was looking at the circumstance of my day, week, and year and habitually selecting the negatives to focus on (see my post on why this is terrible in relationships). If I told a story about my day I would either pick the one bad thing that happened to me or highlight the negative aspects of a blessing. While I’m certainly far from where I want to be I realized that in a real sense my overall happiness has greatly increased by not focusing on the negative.
This negative mind set will reveal itself as us constantly apologizing. I’m sorry for the inconvenience. I’m sorry I’m talking. I’m sorry I exist. This decreases our confidence and causes us to be easy targets for others to walk over, which increases the negative experiences in our lives and perpetuates the cycle.
So how does positive framing work? You have to start with your inner self. You have to realize a few things. One if you are a Christian you recognize everything as being completely in God’s control and in some sense out of yours. You can work like it’s up to you but ultimately it’s up to God. Second, you have to create an innate innerhappiness. Stop looking to other people or circumstances to determine your happiness. Rather live life in such a way that you are happy with yourself outside of the circumstances you are in. Third create a challenge lifestyle with a purpose. Lifestyle change is as much about the way you view life as it is about what you actually do. There are world travelers who talk as if life is boring and country farmers whose life sounds like an endless series of adventure. Finally, reframe every negative as a positive. This must be done consciously at first but can eventually become second nature.