When A Problem Won’t Go Away

My wife and son and I were on our way back from the airport and were approaching the 7-mile long San Mateo Bridge. It usually moves at an easy 60 MPH clip, but we could see it was a tenth of that speed and slowing often to a stop.

We were fit to be tied! Jack and I had been away for 5 days. We just wanted to be home. The traffic was a snarl and we were snarling with each other. Then we realized. We’re together, which is what matters. We had “framed” the traffic as most of us do: as a huge imposition, a royal pain.

Sometimes, we really do think and act like there is some mind-to-the-universe that’s just messing with us.

Maybe you’re the total Zen-type, but most of us, most of the time, frame the picture of traffic as bad, wrong, useless, etc. (Watch my short video below to see how to work the frame to your advantage.)

We can remove that routine frame. And reframe. Jen and Jack and I saw a different possibility: We could frame the bridge and the jam as a time of transition for us, a de-compression period not a compression.

We had been apart and what we really needed was to be together, and in many ways a car, moving slowly on a pleasant day, is a GREAT place to reframe.

It gave us a chance to “waste” a little time together, which is what we really needed. A new frame from within showed a different reality outside.

There was nothing in the picture –- as distinct from the frame -– that was so horrible. Our thinking made it so. And our thinking could make it different.

In the same way, when our boss or our teenager or our “ex” jams us up, slows us down, cuts us off, gets right on our bumper, we can frame it in the same old way: the universe (or at least this nemesis within that universe) is here to make us miserable.

Or we can throw that frame away and see what’s really here.

Maybe the other person has a point. Maybe the other person needs to be heard.

And they will be able to do it a whole lot better if we don’t frame the situation as a disaster waiting to become a catastrophe.

We will see what we frame. But we also can clear the frame, and reframe the other(s) and especially our own capacity to create something new and better.

Thus the takeaway when your scene is tense:

1. Clear the frame. Wipe away the past and the inner stress, so you can see what’s really there.

2. Look for new possibilities. Possibilities in the other, in the relationship, and especially in yourself.

Lead with your best self,


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