We’ve all received the advice to “think outside the box” at some point. Yet there’s a nuance that’s often overlooked: it’s not about removing the box but reshaping and repositioning it. The “box” represents our unique perspective, the lens through which we perceive challenges. To step completely outside of it would be to lose our point of reference.


Instead, envision the box as the viewfinder of a camera. Although you cannot erase it, you have the ability to adjust its angle, thereby capturing a distinct view of the same scene. Life, in many respects, is akin to this. Your perspective is your “box,” and the art of reframing involves deciding where to place it. In this post, I’ll delve into how you can leverage this transformative skill to your advantage. Let’s dive in!


Unlocking Perspective: Reframing as a Tool for Clarity and Progress


Have you ever felt so stuck in a situation that moving forward seemed impossible? This sensation can be daunting and overwhelming. However, you possess an innate superpower to navigate such challenges: the art of reframing.


The book, Reframing enables you to view a problem from an alternative perspective by adjusting the “box” or “frame” through which you perceive the challenge. When confronted with the enormity of a problem, focusing on a specific aspect can make it more manageable and actionable. In their book, “Designing Your New Work Life,Bill Burnett and Dave Evans refer to this concept as the “Minimum Actionable Problem” (MAP).

Reframing also allows you to perceive circumstances in a more positive or constructive light. Take the common challenge of meditation. If you’ve attempted meditation, you might relate to the difficulty of maintaining focus, even after several tries. It’s tempting to conclude, “Meditation isn’t for me.” Yet, what if you reframed your approach? Perhaps the goal isn’t to eliminate thoughts but to become aware of them as they arise during meditation.


Why settle for a single reframe, though? The true power of reframing is realized through its iterative nature. Similar to a photographer who captures different sections of the Grand Canyon to compose a panoramic image, you can address problem-solving by tackling challenges one segment at a time. With consistent reframing, you can piece together a solution that encompasses the entire scope of the problem. This methodical approach not only propels you forward but also enables you to develop comprehensive solutions.


Identifying the Core Problem You Want to Reframe


So how do you reframe a problem? First and foremost, it’s crucial to discern whether you’re focusing on the genuine issue. Why is this important? The challenge you think you’re facing is frequently clouded by personal biases, preconceived solutions, and established assumptions.


Consider this: you might feel the urge to move to a larger home, reasoning that there’s not enough room for all your belongings. However, the fundamental issue might be the storage and organization inefficiencies in your current living space. Or perhaps the real problem is that you have too many possessions. 


Visualize your challenges as a pomegranate. The juicy, sweet seeds—more specifically, the arils, which are the edible part around the actual seed—are often concealed beneath several layers. Similarly, the core of your problem is typically obscured by biases and assumptions. To unveil the heart of the matter, you must diligently peel away each layer. Only by doing so can you genuinely comprehend the challenge you’re grappling with.


Acknowledging one’s biases isn’t always easy. It can be as elusive as a fish recognizing the very water it swims in. When in such a situation, seeking an outside perspective can be beneficial. Whether from a coach, mentor, or a confidant, external help can aid you in seeing what you usually don’t see. They can challenge your pre-existing notions and pose the tough questions, guiding you closer to the crux of the issue.


Embracing the “Best Doable Option”


In the journey of reframing challenges, understanding the “Best Doable Option” becomes crucial. This principle, presented by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans in “Designing Your New Work Life,” underscores a fundamental truth. Often, it’s more pragmatic to choose the most viable option from the ones available to you, rather than getting paralyzed in the pursuit of an unattainable ideal.


Consider reframing as being similar to tackling a multiple-choice test. In such tests, the goal isn’t to find the absolute right answer but to choose the best one from the provided options. Similarly, in life, the ideal solution might not always be evident, but there is always a best available option.


Every day, you’re faced with decisions, and with each choice, it’s essential to weigh the options with the information and resources at your disposal. When faced with a crossroads, remember: analysis is valuable, but action is vital. Moving forward, even with some uncertainty, is better than being held back by inertia.

Life is complex and full of uncertainties, so there’s seldom a perfect solution. Embrace the mindset of seeking the best doable option, and you’ll find that you’re moving forward, making progress, and constantly learning. This approach to decision-making not only fosters a positive attitude but also cultivates resilience, adaptability, and satisfaction in your journey.


A Tale of Shifting Perspectives


Not too long ago, I reconnected with a former high school student of mine via Zoom, having not seen him for over two decades. I have to admit, I was deeply impressed by his communication, emotional intelligence, and leadership skills during our conversation.


“What’s your secret?” I asked, curious about his transformation. He paused for a moment and then shared his college football dream. He told us that once he stepped onto that college field, reality hit him hard: his skills, while adequate, didn’t quite measure up to those of the other players. It was a tough pill to swallow. Yet, instead of sinking into disappointment, he chose to see things differently.

Football, once a big deal in high school, now became a chapter he looked back on fondly. Instead of dwelling on it, he looked for new horizons. Diving deep into his studies, joining clubs, making new friends—he was all in. He credits his current skills to the wisdom and experiences he gathered during this time.


To put it simply, where some might see a closed door, he saw a hallway full of open ones, leading to new adventures, learning, and growth. His story encapsulates the transformative power of reframing in the face of setbacks.


Acquiring the Skill of Reframing


How do you hone this skill of reframing? Just like mastering a musical instrument or learning a new language, the art of reframing demands consistent practice. It’s a journey that begins with the first step and grows clearer with commitment and perseverance.

To begin, consider these strategies:


🤔 Inquire Within: Whenever you feel stuck, take a moment to pause and reflect—What if I look at this problem differently? What biases might I be bringing to the table? Have I prematurely embedded my preferred solution into the problem?

👂 Embrace Active Listening: Listening is a critical tool in your reframing arsenal. When you listen genuinely—without preconceived notions or biases—you can grasp the real message, the underlying emotions, and the essence of what’s being conveyed. Effective reframing often emerges from this depth of understanding.

🔍 Cultivate Curiosity: Embrace your inner child’s sense of wonder and curiosity. The more questions you ask, the more perspectives you uncover, and the better equipped you are to reframe challenges effectively.


Life is inherently filled with challenges, but with the art of reframing, you transform each obstacle into an opportunity for growth, understanding, and transformation. So dive in, shift your perspective, and with each reframing, you’ll discover the profound solutions and insights that await your journey!