Types of Frames

Outcome Frame

When using this frame you are giving yourself a focus for what you want to achieve, while also taking into account the resources you might need. This is important because every activity you choose to focus on must have a set outcome that will help direct your thoughts, decisions and actions. This is all about purposeful living. When you live with a sense of purpose, you set outcomes for each day and every area of your life. As such, you are unlikely to get side-tracked by other matters, commitments, responsibilities or requests.

Using an Outcome frame in the most optimal way means that you are living purposefully; that you are clear about the outcomes you would like to achieve; that you understand fully what is expected of you; and that you are decisive in your actions and interactions.

  • When you use the Outcome frame, you would typically ask yourself:
  • What am I trying to achieve here?
  • What do I want? What am I pursuing?
  • What resources might I need to get there?
  • What specifically do I want from this outcome?
  • Is this decision getting me closer to my outcome? Or is it pulling me away?
  • What’s a more optimal decision I could make? Why is this better?
  • How will I know when I have achieved my desired outcome? What will I see, hear, feel or experience?

Clearly defined outcomes are very helpful because they provide you with a context for making decisions and for assessing your behaviour. With outcomes in place, you know what to do and you understand where you’re going. Without these outcomes in place you end up frustrated, overwhelmed and confused. When you have no specific focus for your actions you can’t build the momentum that is required to move you in the direction of your choosing.

“As If” Frame

When using this frame you are pretending that an outcome you would like to achieve is already true. You are acting “as if” your desired state or goal is already in your possession. In reality it’s not true, however when you put yourself into a frame-of-mind where this is true for you, then you begin thinking differently about things. And as you think differently you start making more optimal choices and decisions that might very well help you to bring your desired states and/or outcomes into reality.

You might for instance pretend that you are competent and confident doing something that normally makes you feel nervous. This will instantly put you in a different frame-of-mind, and therefore allow you to deal with your nerves far more effectively. This is advantageous because all of a sudden you are now opening yourself up to new possibilities and perspectives, instead of giving-in to your limiting beliefs. It’s as though you’re stepping out of your current limitations and into a more optimal state-of-mind where you have the appropriate resources in place to feel competent and confident.

When using the “As If” frame, you would typically ask yourself:

  • What would it be like if this happened…?
  • What would it feel like if I was…?
  • Let’s pretend as if there is a solution to this problem. Where could I search for answers?
  • Let’s pretend as if I can make this work. What ideas now come to mind?
  • Let’s think as if I’ve already achieved this goal. Now I’ll work backwards to identify the steps I took to get there.

Use this frame any time you are uncertain about something in the future. It will unlock new possibilities to help you gather deeper insights about the states or outcomes you would like to achieve.

Ecology Frame

When using this frame, you are searching for long-term effects and consequences of your daily choices and decisions on different aspects of your life such as family, work, self, environment, community, etc.

Some typical decisions you make may very well be beneficial and help improve specific areas of your life. However, at the same time they could have negative consequences on other areas of your life. And as a result the decisions you make will not be optimal and may have unfortunate outcomes in the long-run.

Choosing to go on a juice fast might help you detox your body and improve your health and vitality; however you are also likely to lose a lot of weight, which could weaken your immune system. And because it is the middle of winter you might be more susceptible to falling ill. Therefore is it worth juice fasting? Or, is there a more optimal time to undertake your juice fast?

When you take the ecology frame in mind, you are looking at the consequences of your choices, decisions and actions from all possible angles and perspectives. You are looking at them from a short-term as well as a long-term view. And you are taking into consideration how these decisions feel, how they affect you, how they affect others, and whether or not they serve the greater good of everything and everyone concerned.

Often there will be no perfect decision. Some negative consequences will always be there. As such, your job is to minimize these negative consequences wherever possible to help you optimize the choices and decisions you make.

When using the Ecology frame, you would typically ask yourself:

  • What are the consequences of making this decision? Of taking this action? Of indulging in this behaviour?
  • How will this affect other areas of my life? Physically? Spiritually? Emotionally? Socially? Financially?
  • How will this affect me in the short-term? What about in the long-term?
  • What are the wider consequences of all this on other people in my life?
  • What are the consequences of this on my goals? On my responsibilities? On my life roles?
  • How will doing this make me feel?
  • Is doing this good for me? Does it serve me?
  • Is doing this good for others? Does it serve them?
  • Does doing this serve the greater good of all concerned?
  • What else is affected by this? How?
  • Could I possibly mitigate any of the negative effects I identified here? How?
  • Do the positives outweigh the negatives?
  • Could I accept the negatives given the value I’m getting from the positives?

If after going through this questioning process you feel that the decision you are about to make or the action you are about to take has passed the ecology check, then by all means follow through with your intentions. However, if the negatives outweigh the positives, then you might need to choose a different path moving forward.

This is not about creating confusion. It’s rather about making sensible, balanced and intelligent decisions that you are unlikely to regret in the future that will serve the greater good of all concerned.

Problem Solving Frame

When using a problem solving frame, you are focusing on what is wrong or needs fixing. Here you are not overwhelmed by your problem; you are rather looking for effective ways to better understand your problem from a variety of angles and perspectives. As your understanding of the problem grows, so do your insights. And the more insights you gather, the greater your chances of finding an appropriate solution to the problem at hand.

Many people typically get overwhelmed by unexpected problems. As such they switch on the “panic button” or end up procrastinating and ignoring their problems altogether. Problems that are ignored are not likely to vanish. They will most certainly come back to haunt you sooner or later. As such, it’s always helpful to work through your problems using a variant of this problem solving frame.

When using the Problem Solving frame, you would typically ask yourself:

What assumptions am I potentially making about people and/or circumstances related to this problem?

  • What has to be true for this to be a problem?
  • How has the problem been maintained?
  • How have certain factors contributed to this problem? In what specific ways?
  • Where am I now? Where do I want to go from here? What is the next step?
  • How can this be solved most effectively?
  • Where does the solution lie? What possibilities exist?
  • What have I learned from all this? What will I now do differently?

The final two questions encourage you to learn from your experience. As you learn you grow and as you grow you have a wider understanding of the problems confronting your reality. This therefore helps improve the choices and decisions you make moving forward. Therefore, the next time you are confronted with a similar problem, you will already have the necessary know-how and experience to tackle this problem in the most effective way.

Systematic Frame

When using this frame you are effectively making sense of your life and the world around you through the observation of patterns. These patterns often come in the form of seemingly random cause-effect relationships that provide you with valuable insights into your life and circumstances, including the effects of your choices and decisions.

Inventors and scientists are often exceptional systematic thinkers. They have an uncanny ability to pinpoint how certain things influence other things within a whole system. This is very helpful while solving problems because it allows them to view the problem as part of an overall system, and not as an isolated component. As such, they are able to make unexpected and surprising connections between different parts that help them understand the entire scope of the problem from a wide variety of angles and perspectives.

Too many times, we get caught up focusing on one part of a problem without fully understanding how the problem connects to other things. And it’s this narrow-minded thinking that limits our perspective of the situation, and as such we are unable to solve the problem because we don’t fully understand how this problem fits into the overall system.

When you use the Systematic frame, you would typically ask yourself:

  • How does this fit with what I already know?
  • How does this connect to a wider system?
  • What is the relationship between these events?
  • How did this affect that? Why is this relevant?
  • How is what I am doing keeping things as they are?

Your main purpose for asking yourself these questions is to unlock subtle patterns that will help you to gain a better understanding of how the problem interacts with the whole. In this way you will gather the necessary insights to help you solve your problem far more effectively.

Types of reframes

There are two types of reframing – content and context reframe.

Content reframing

As the name suggests, it refers to the content or the meaning that you ascribe to a particular situation.

Take situations like where you make comments such as, “I get really angry or annoyed with my husband when he switches on the TV soon after work.”

Notice how you have given a meaning here to this situation or event. The meaning you have ascribed triggers an angry response from you which you don’t like.

However, your response may or may not be an actual reflection of the situation. See, how you have limited your choices on how to react by having a certain perception.

Any situation can be positive and negative or both. Key is to focus on the positive rather than the negative.

Remember the presupposition of NLP – every action has a positive intention!

So ask yourself what is the intention behind your husband’s action? What is the purpose behind it?

Maybe he has had a long day and this is his way to unwind. If you change your perception and put this situation in a different frame, chances are you may not be angry anymore.

Not only can you apply a positive frame to your husband’s behaviour but to your thought process as well. Tell yourself that maybe the way you reacted was because you want to spend some quality time with him.

These kinds if reframes will help you respond differently and in a desired manner. Your behaviour will reflect the positive change of perception that you have adopted.

Always give yourself choices, instead of limiting them.

These two reframes can be used together to make an effective change in your perception and beliefs!

Source: caroltalbot.me

Here are some reframing examples:

Shift from passive to active

For example, if the other person said, “I really doubt that I can do anything about this,” you might respond, “What is one small step that you might take?”

Shift from negative feeling to positive feeling

For example, if the other person said, “I don’t want to work on that now because it makes me feel sad,” you might respond, “What small part of that might you work on for now, that might even leave you feeling a bit more happy?”

Shift from past to future

For example, if the other person said, “I’ve never been good at public speaking,” you might respond, “If you imagined yourself to be successful at public speaking, how would you be speaking that would be successful?”

Shift from future to past

For example, if the other person said, “I can’t seem to get started on achieving this goal,” you might respond, “Has there been a time in the past when you achieved a goal and, if so, what did you do back then to be successful?  How might you use that approach now?”

Shift from others to oneself

For example, if the other person said, “They don’t seem to like me,” you might respond, “What do you like about yourself?”

Shift from a liability to an asset

For example, if the other person said, “I’m such a perfectionist,” you might respond, “How might being a perfectionist help in your job and life, though?”

Shift from victimization to empowerment

For example, if the other person said, “That always seems to happen to me,” you might respond, “Sometimes we even do that to ourselves.  Perhaps it’d be useful to explore if you’re somehow doing that to yourself, too?”

Putting it All Together

Here are some common ways you can potentially reframe your problems or perspectives using elements taken from the content and context reframes discussed above.

It is critical that you know and accept these principles before you start actively trying to add reframing to your personal development toolkit. A reframe is far more effective when you understand what’s going on behind the thought.

The first basic principle is that events or situations do not have inherent meaning; rather, you assign them a meaning based on how you interpret the event.

This can be difficult to accept, but you must. Even when something seemingly horrible happens to you, it is only horrible because of the way you look at it.

This is not to make light of tragedy. It’s perfectly ok to be sad when something seemingly bad occurs. That being said, even a “bad” event can be given a “good” meaning.

The second principle is that every thought has a hidden “frame” behind it. The frame is your underlying beliefs and assumptions that are implied by your thought.

For example, when you think “I’ll never get that promotion I want because I’m not a brown-nosed ass-kisser at work”, part of the frame is that only suck-ups get promoted.

The final principle is that there is a positive intention behind every negative thought.

That inner voice of yours that expresses negativity is only doing so because it wants to help you in some way. That doesn’t make the thoughts right or acceptable of course, but it does mean that your inner voice is not an enemy to be resisted.

By finding the positive intentions behind your thoughts, you can work with your mind to find a positive reframe. That is far more effective than chastising yourself for having negative thoughts in the first place!

So, without further ado, let’s get into the actual technique of reframing. At it’s simplest, reframing involves just two steps: observing a negative thought, and then replacing it with a positive one.

Observing Your Negative Thoughts

If you’ve never tried to pick up on your negative thoughts before, implementing the techniques in this section will probably shock you.

Negative thoughts pop up in your mind about a gazillion times per day, often follow the same few patterns, and usually sneak by unquestioned.

It’s time to put a stop to this.

Here are a couple of ways to help you observe your negative thoughts.

  1. Keep a thought journal. Even if you get nothing else from this article, you will be amazed at what you find out about yourself from keeping a thought journal. Keep a small notepad in your pocket or bag so it is available at all times. I’ve found that trying to take notes on my phone is too slow, but you are free to try it. Anytime you have a negative thought, write it down in your journal. This immediately stops your negative thought in it’s tracks. It also allows you to analyze your negative thoughts and notice the most common problem areas or limiting beliefs you should work on.
  2. The Rubber Band Technique. This method may feel a little silly at first, but I guarantee it is one of the fastest ways to change a behavior. Wear a rubber band around your wrist. It should be tight enough that it stays on and can make a nice snap when pulled, but loose enough that it is comfortable and won’t break. Any time you have a negative thought, give the rubber band a snap. Like writing it down, this stops a negative thought in its tracks immediately, but it also conditions you to have fewer negative thoughts in the future.

For a double-whammy, use both the rubber band technique and a thought journal.

I have no scientific basis for this time frame, but doing both will likely have you performing incredibly successful reframes within just a few days.

It can be tempting to ignore this first step, but do so at your own peril. Observing your own thoughts is fundamental to being able to reframe them successfully.


Replacing Negative Thoughts With Positive Ones

This is the flashy part of reframing…you know, the part that all the major news channels and celebrities are talking about.

Ok, so it may not be THAT flashy, but it’s still what most people think about when they consider reframing.

Before moving on, I can’t emphasize enough the importance of the previous section. If you haven’t been observing your negative thoughts, you simply will not be as successful at replacing them.

Anyway, here are some valuable tactics to help you replace your negative thoughts with positive ones.

  1. Use milder wording. This one is really easy, and you should start doing it immediately. Words do matter, and if your thought is worded with a more mild negative, you won’t feel as bad. For example, if you were to think “I really hate that guy”, you would feel worse than if you thought “I’m not a fan of that guy”. So go with the second one.
  2. Ask yourself: “What is the best way for me to accomplish this?” When you are facing a challenge or fear, you can ask yourself this question to help you focus on the solution rather than the problem. The phrase “best way” implies that there are multiple ways around the problem and focuses on the positive.
  3. Ask yourself: “What can I learn from this?” Now, instead of having a problem, you have a way to improve yourself. Every challenge is also an opportunity to learn, so take advantage of it.
  4. Challenge your assumptions. Try to figure out what the frame behind your thought is. Chances are you have a limiting belief that is encouraging you to think negatively about your situation. This limiting belief is based on assumptions you have made that probably are not true. Find reasons why they aren’t true, and you chip away at the beliefs causing the negative thoughts. This is the most powerful long term reframing technique, and it is far more effective if you’ve been keeping a thought journal.

These techniques are like rules of thumb that you should have available for when negative thoughts rear their ugly head. They will help you come up with “band-aid” reframes in a pinch.


 Easy Reframes For Common Situations

“We’re not retreating…we’re just advancing in a different direction!”

If you really want to succeed with this, you should figure out what your most common negative thoughts are and have a specific reframe available whenever you have that thought.

Consistently applied, you will find yourself instinctively thinking positively in situations that you had previously had horrible thoughts of.

Many of the negative thought patterns you probably experience involve a cognitive distortion, or your mind putting “spin” on the events that happen to you.

See if you can recognize any of these cognitive distortions within yourself as you go through this section.

“People Never Listen To Me.”

This is an example of all-or-nothing reasoning.

Another example would be “I always get things wrong.”

The key characteristic of this cognitive distortion is a word like “always” or “never”. When reframing all-or-nothing reasoning, it can be helpful to think of counter-examples.

Reframe: “While it’s unfortunate that this person doesn’t appreciate my idea as much as they should, many other people do. In fact, just yesterday I had a number of people agree with my proposal about ___.”

“Something Bad Is About To Happen.”

One of the most common cognitive distortions is fortune telling, or predicting the future in a negative way.

These types of thoughts can cause serious anxiety, and need to be controlled. It can be helpful to remind ourselves that we don’t know everything and certainly don’t have the power to predict the future.

Oftentimes we make predictions that don’t come true, so why should we assume that we’ll be right this time?

Reframe: “I’m not sure what the future will bring, but chances are high that it will be good.”

“Anyone Could Do What I Do.”

This is an example of discounting the positive, or minimizing the significance of your accomplishments or something else positive in your life.

This prevents you from savouring the moment and can decrease your self-confidence.

We can’t have that! The best way to reframe this is to focus on your strengths.

Reframe: “I’m very good at what I do. My skills are impressive, and lots of people are probably envious.”

“Since _____ Went Wrong, Everything Will Go Wrong.”

Over-generalization is another common cognitive distortion that can wreak havoc on our minds.

Here, we take a negative situation as implying that all sorts of other unrelated negative things will happen because of it.

To counter an over-generalization, you just need to put the event in perspective by recognizing it as an isolated incident.

Reframe: “Although ____ went wrong, I can handle the challenge that it presents. And besides, it’s just one failure amidst many probable successes!”

“______ Is All My Fault!”

Sometimes we like to pin the blame for something squarely on ourselves.

While you should take responsibility for yourself and your actions, you don’t need to accept blame for things that are not your fault. Chances are there were some factors beyond your control.

Reframe: “I contributed to the problem here, and I accept full responsibility for the part that is my fault. Never the less, there were factors beyond my control, so I can’t blame myself for everything that went wrong.”

“If Only I Had ___, Then I Could ____.”

If you find yourself having thoughts of this nature often, you have limiting beliefs that need to be handled.

Make sure you start keeping a thought journal so you can get to the bottom of it.

Your limiting belief is putting conditions on your success. Road blocks are continuously put up to keep you away from your goal, keeping it just out of reach and decreasing your motivation.

A couple examples of this type of thought would be “Once I drop ten pounds I’ll be able to get all the ladies”, “I can’t quit my [awful, boring, life-sucking] job and pursue my passion until I have more money saved up”, or “without permission from my parents I can’t get that tattoo I always wanted.”

Reframe: “Nothing is stopping me from achieving my goals.”

“I Can’t Handle This.”

This thought pops up usually as a response to a larger than average stressor.

You take the fact that you are experiencing something challenging, and you magnify it to the point of impossibility.

I recommend that when you have this type of thought, you pause for a moment before your reframe and do something to help reduce the stress. Take five slow, deep breaths, and then give ’em one of these…

Reframe: “I’ve faced many challenges before, and I’ve conquered all of them. Not only that, but they rarely turn out to be anything significant in the grand scheme of things.”

“I’ve Been Rejected! I’m Worthless!”

The feeling of rejection can be very painful, but it need not be.

Who gets to decide what counts as rejection and what doesn’t, anyways?

When I was rejected for several jobs that I had applied for nearly a year ago, I was upset.

But were it not for those “rejections”, I wouldn’t be living it up in a foreign country right now! I couldn’t be happier to have been rejected.

Reframe: “Missing this opportunity may turn out to be a fantastic thing for me” or “I can’t take it personally; she probably was in a bad mood” or “It’s better that I tried and failed than to have not tried at all”.



So there you have it: everything you need to know about the awesome technique of reframing your thoughts. We’ve covered a lot, so a quick summary might be useful.

  • Reframing involves changing your perspective on a given situation to give it a more positive or beneficial meaning to you.
  • Reframing can be used to help remove limiting beliefs, to help appreciate positive moments that you might otherwise miss, or for any other negative thought you would like to change.
  • Our assumptions help us provide meaning to events that don’t have any inherent meaning. Even when our inner voice has something negative to say, there is a positive intention behind it.
  • The first step in reframing is to observe your negative thoughts. Keep a thought journal and use the rubber band technique to help you better understand your own internal dialogue.
  • The second step is to replace the negative thoughts with a more positive one. It helps here to challenge the implied assumptions behind your thoughts.
  • There are a lot of common negative thought patterns, and you can arm yourself against them in advance.

Source: feelhappiness.com