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What happens when life fails to produce the outcome you anticipated? What happens when everything you’ve worked for disappears?

In 2009, I found myself in one of the biggest setbacks I’d ever faced, like many other Americans during the economic crisis. I thought my life was coming to an end. I couldn’t believe it…I’d lost everything. Everything! My job, my career, my marriage, and myself. My life as I knew it was over.

So what do you do when everything around you crumbles? My solution? Reframe!

Well, it’s easier said than done, but the brave one who steps up for the challenge will soon see that relationships improve, quality of life increases, and contentment becomes a close friend.

Have you ever found yourself imprisoned by a thought, an image, a fantasy, a dream, a career, or even a relationship? Maybe you are boxed into a religious cycle or a family ideology. Whatever it is that is keeping you from pursuing your dream attaining maximum success in your life…I want to encourage you to reframe your negative thoughts, and let go!

Letting go of the drama in your world might not be that easy. You’ve probably heard the saying, “Life’s a stage, and everybody’s playing a part.” What’s unfortunate about this statement is that those trapped in the dramatic roles of the victim, the underdog, the codependent partner, or the abandoned child forfeit the opportunity to become the superstar (lead role) of their lives. Why? Because these are supporting roles, and until you begin to reframe your life, you will never claim your dreams and successes.

The ability to reframe is just as much about knowing when to let go as it is about knowing how to let go. As a cognitive behavioral therapist, I use thought restructuring or modification as a key fundamental techniques with clients. In layman’s terms, this simply means changing how you think. This sounds very much like a cliché; however, you will never change your life without changing how you think about your life.

So, what does it mean to reframe? Let’s begin with the prefix: re. According to various dictionary definitions, re means “again, anew, recall, back to the original place, condition, etc.” The word frame means “to conceive or imagine, as an idea.” When combined into one word, re and frame mean “to look at, present, or think of (beliefs, ideas, relationships, etc.) in a new or different way.”

This simple definition can encompass the difference (or the gap) between a life filled with joy or depression, between anxiety and contentment, or between addiction and self-control. To reframe is a simple concept, but it is a challenge to apply it to our everyday lives.

In my practice, my goal is often to encourage clients to identify faulty thought processes and maladaptive schemas that produce negative emotions and unwanted behaviors. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is used to address a variety of problems and is the therapeutic approach for many counselors due to its immediate results. Once the presenting problem is identified and isolated, CBT can quickly help clients reduce symptoms by developing coping skills, managing their anger and emotions, making adjustments, and treating grief and trauma.

CBT also treats mental health conditions including depression, anxiety, sexual disorders, personality disorders, and eating disorders. By addressing negative automatic thoughts and maladaptive schemas, the client develops coping skills and behavior changes to minimize distress. So, in layman’s terms, if you can reframe your thoughts, you can reframe your life and embrace your success!

Ten years after the economic crisis, I used these seven steps to reframe that devastating experience. Notice that the first letters in the strategies below form the word “reframe”:

R – Review your past successes and failures. Reviewing our strengths and areas of growth allows us to leverage our experiences for greater success.

E – Evaluate past strategies used. Determine what works and what does not. Adopt new life strategies to pursue greater successes.

F – Focus on the positive. Be grateful for what you have and for the potential to grow.

R – Restructure negative thoughts. Embrace the simplicity of changing a negative thought into a positive thought.

A – Activate your new strategy for success. Once you have your new strategy, enlist a support team to help you execute it.

M – Maintain your new strategy using a maintenance plan. Once you have executed your strategy, find effective ways to maintain positive growth.

E – Enjoy and engage in a meaningful life, on purpose. Be intentional, and live life without apologies.

The art of reframing begins by shifting a negative to a positive; the art of reframing ends when you embrace a more positive perspective for a happier, fulfilled life.

“Instead of saying, ‘I’m damaged, I’m broken, I have trust issues,’ say, ‘I’m healing, I’m rediscovering myself, I’m starting over.’”

―Horacio Jones

Reframe is written by Dr. Jada Jackson