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Leadership Newsletter #136

A funny thing happened to me on the way through the Covid crisis…

Reframing - image of alarm clock

I write this newsletter in a very different environment to the last one I penned… this morning I’m at my desktop setup, at home. It’s a glorious summer morning and my home office window is open so I can hear birdsong and see the oak wood behind our house. Last time I did this, I think I was on a train, hunched over a laptop, hurtling somewhere in a hurry to do something else on my rather hectic agenda.

Then the world stopped… literally…

In the last four months I suspended all business activity, went on furlough, took more exercise and most importantly spent a lot of time thinking. As result of all this I’ve transformed what I do and how I do it – travelling much less, home more, much more online working, more exercise and every week I have time to think. So, am I more effective? The answer is very clear to me – undoubtably, I’m spending much more focused time with my clients, with better results and a huge increase in wellbeing, which in turn I can feel is improving my personal performance and this to the benefit of my clients as well as friends and family around me.

There is no doubt in my mind I’ve gone through a profound reframe – a technique used in counselling, coaching and by psychologists to help any of us to see something from an entirely different angle rather than through existing mental filters framed by current beliefs and attitudes to the world around us.

Watzlawick, Weakland and Fisch (1974)* describe the 'gentle art of reframing' thus:


To reframe, then, means to change the conceptual and/or emotional setting or viewpoint in relation to which a situation is experienced and to place it in another frame which fits the 'facts' of the same concrete situation equally well or even better, and thereby changing its entire meaning.

Now I was somewhat ‘forced’ into reframing by the dramatic changes in life/work imposed by the necessities of the Covid crisis and I am reflecting - would I have done this without such a stimulus? The honest answer is probably not (not yet anyway) and the most fundamental learning I’m taking out of all this is not this particular reframe but the need to regularly take a big step back, think about what I’m doing and most importantly why I’m doing it (related to my primary purposes in life). This will require self-discipline, but the change has been so beneficial I now have a really positive internal driver to do it. It needs the application of self-care, something we are currently discussing with attendees to a Healthskills Change Programme and comes from a quote given to the design by one of my esteemed colleagues:


“Self-Care is not selfish… You cannot serve from an empty vessel”

(Eleanor Brownn)

If you decide to undertake a reframing exercise there are plenty of articles around or you could talk to a coach or critical friend.

One webpage ( has some very practical ideas and tips/techniques, including this wonderful quote by Mark Twain:


“My life has been filled with terrible misfortunes, most of which have never happened.”

Getting down to the nuts and bolts on this webpage are the following three principles behind reframing:

  1. 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.
  2. 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 sycophant at work”, part of the frame is that only suck-ups get promoted.
  3. 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.
*Watzlawick, P., Weakland, J. and Fisch, R. (1974). Change: Principles of Problem Formation and Problem Resolution, NY: Norton
Taken from this article:


Mike Nelson, Healthskills
23 Jul 2020

  Mike Nelson photo

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