We can complain because rose bushes have thorns or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses.
Attributed to Abraham Lincoln
This sounds like just another way to say that we can view the world with a positive or a negative outlook. But there is a deeper truth here.
These are equally accurate ways to describe reality.
We can think of the thorns as a bug or think of the roses as a feature.
This is not frivolous wordplay.
The way we think about things shapes our experience, our motivation, and even our happiness.
I can remember when milkweed was a weed. Now it is cultivated as food for monarch butterflies.
But we don’t have to wait for society to change its perception.
We can use a technique called reframing to shape how we process what we experience.
We can tell ourselves, “I have to go to work.”
Or we can say, “I choose to go to work because I enjoy the benefits I receive when I go to work, especially the salary that gives me the freedom to buy the things I want.”
Not that long ago, I used to actually go to the library to check out physical books.
On the way home, I would be delighted when the traffic light turned red because it gave me a few seconds to flip through the books in anticipation of being able to sit down and read them properly.
Reframing is a powerful tool.
If we have to give a speech we can try to fight our nervousness, or we can reframe the nervousness as excitement.
We can say we don’t have time to go to the doctor for a regular checkup, or we can remind ourselves that an untreated problem can cause more difficulties than just disrupting our schedule.
We can get frustrated that our children are so stubborn, or we can be grateful that they can think for themselves.
Reframing is a skill that we can develop just like any other skill.
The more we practice, the better we get.
If you have difficulty saying no, remind yourself that every time you say yes to one thing you are saying no to many other things.
If you are tired from walking, be grateful that you have the use of your legs and remember that you are making them stronger by using them so much.
If you are getting frustrated with a series of minor disasters on a trip, remind yourself that this ordeal provides an opportunity for family bonding and will make a great story.
You can even use reframing to change how you think about reframing.
Instead of thinking about reframing as a naïve mind game, consider it a sophisticated skill that manages stress and increases happiness.
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