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Purposeful reframing

I’m an enormous believer in the power of something I call purposeful reframing:

Deliberately, strategically choosing to view something in a more positive, productive way.

Some might call it delusion. Others may say it’s pie in the sky. One person has referred to it as toxic positivity.

I think I’m probably happier than all of those people, so who cares what they think. Also, if there was pie falling from the sky, that would be amazing.

This week I pointed out two ideas to reframe a person’s thinking that were genuinely appreciated.

First, I was speaking to someone who was feeling overwhelmed about the week ahead. After asking a few questions, I realized that the actual work day wasn’t the problem for this person as much as all of the after-work responsibilities they had relative to children, doctors and dentist appointments, a car repair, their parents, and more.

“Five days of non-stop work is a lot,” the person said.

I suggested that they think of the work week as four days rather than five. Post-work and evening responsibilities are especially challenging because another work day looms ahead, but Friday evening is typically a lot less pressure-packed because it’s often less busy than a Monday through Thursday evening and also doesn’t contain the pressure of having to work the next day.

So yes, Monday through Thursday might be tough, but by the time you reach Friday morning, you often only have the work day remaining before gently, happily rolling into the weekend.

“So think of your work week as four days instead of five,” I said, “and it might be easier to get through.”

She liked this idea a lot.

It’s probably why The Cure was so in love with Friday.

That very same day, I watched someone leave an office and make it halfway down the hallway before turning around to retrieve something that she had forgotten.

“I hate when that happens,” I told her.

“It’s age,” she said. “We’re getting old.”

“No,” I said, perhaps more firmly than necessary. “It’s not age.”

I explained that she simply has more responsibilities today than ever before. “We’re taking care of our families and our students and maybe our own parents and colleagues. And in a pandemic, no less. You’re doing more than ever before, so of course some things are going to slip your mind. It’s not that you’re getting old. It’s that you’re doing so much more than ever before, and you’ve never been more mentally taxed in your life. It’s simple probability. The more to remember, the more to forget.”

She stopped, smiled, and said, “Thank you. That’s a great way to think of things.”

Yes, it is. Rather than walking around, feeling old or bad about yourself every time you forget something, give yourself credit for the enormous number of things you need to remember now that your life has expanded beyond yourself and your own needs.

Of course you’re more forgetful as you get older. You have more to forget. More to do every day. More responsibilities on your plate.

You forget because you’re doing a multitude of important, amazing things.

Also, don’t ever tell me that I’m getting old. I’m constantly trying to prevent a relentless existential crisis from overwhelming me.

My advice was admittedly a little self serving.

But I constantly try to find more positive, productive, and helpful ways of looking at things, both because it makes my life easier, better, and happier, but also because I hear an onslaught of negativity and pessimism every day for things both big and small and completely microscopic.

I don’t want to be one of those people. We have enough of those people. Life is already way too hard, way too often. Anytime we can make it better just by thinking differently, we should.

The world needs more pie in the sky, I think.