Over the years, I have leaned on certain group therapy sessions, back in the day when being in groups wasn’t a scary thing. What stuck out to me while doing these pre-pandemic group therapies was the most basic exercise that a leading therapist would do. It’s called positive reframing, and it can be a powerful, simple tool to create a mind shift that works almost instantly.
Regardless of where you are in your professional pursuits, the simplest thing that hinders growth is our own negative thoughts. This is especially true for vulnerable, creative professionals such as aspiring authors.
The Aspiring Author’s Journey Is Full Of Hurdles
Admittedly, going the traditional publishing route is the toughest because it’s full of rejections from publishers. Though, self-published, indie authors and traditionally published authors equally get bogged down with negative thoughts. This is especially true when there’s pressure throughout the creative process. Just when you’re done jumping over the completing-a-manuscript hurdle, you’re jumping over the revision hurdle. Then there’s the beta reader phase, where you might get a flood of critiques where some beta readers are blunter than others, and some of the input actually stings. Ouch! After you’ve gone over the skin-thickening comments and numerous revisions hurdle, you figure your last hurdle is getting that book published. Whether it’s traditional, self-pub, or through a small indie publisher—you finally got it done!
Whew…now we’re done with hurdles, right? NOPE!
There are two remaining hurdles after you’ve been published: selling your books and learning to deal with negative reviews on Goodreads, Amazon, etc. It seems, no matter where you’re at in the writing process, you’re bound to have bad days where your mood takes a serious dip. It can be downright depressing, and there are times during this process where self-doubt can shake our confidence and will to keep creating. Yes, we might have days where we feel like we’re on top of the world. But more often than not, there are other times we seriously contemplate throwing in the towel and giving up altogether. Have you ever asked yourself, “What the hell am I doing all this for?” I know I have, and it’s easy to question ourselves when we put a lot of hard work and sweat into our writing. Sometimes we see the fruits of our labor come forth, and other times we wonder when will it be our turn?
Positive reframing is more than a tool to help shift our thinking. Dieting often doesn’t work, and many fitness coaches claim the true end result is achieving lifestyle change. Similarly, positive reframing can become an everyday part of our lives when used consistently, too. It can help regardless of whether you’re a creative professional or someone struggling with chronic negative thoughts.
What Is Positive Reframing?
The way we did it in the group was we started out with a negative thought, and the therapist would write it on the board. Next, we’d have to identify how we felt about the situation. The therapist would write down the feeling associated with the negative situation. Then he’d say, okay, what’s the positive reframe? We had to take the situation and somehow flip it into a favorable opportunity. We had to do this exercise no matter how difficult of a problem we might’ve been facing. It almost sounds stupid-simple, but after a few days of doing this, it became my favorite challenge. I found that it worked to disperse some of those grey clouds that hover over our heads during times of struggle.
If you’re apprehensive about this exercise, you can start off with simple ones like the below and eventually work your way up to identifying your feelings.
For a more detailed example, consider the following:
The Negative Situation: My company did some restructuring after it was bought out by new owners. In the process, the new management let highly qualified professionals like me go.
The Associated Feeling: My immediate feeling was a sense of rejection.
The Positive Reframe: I got to revise my portfolio, take a bunch of new certifications to sharpen my skills, add two more positive referrals on my LinkedIn profile, and am now in a fantastic situation where I’m open to new, amazing opportunities that I’ve recently discovered that I wouldn’t have, had my former company not bless me with outsourcing everyone’s jobs.
Yes, you heard me. They blessed me and did me a great favor because I wasn’t happy with the work culture and the new leadership. What started off as a negative turned into a situation where I was filled with gratitude! I’m seriously so very thankful this happened, and that’s how you can feel, too
Do you have a similar situation? Despite how uncomfortable you might feel, how down in the dumps circumstances might drag your feelings, there’s always a way out by practicing this simple mind shift exercise. It seriously helps to lift your spirits and improve your mood. You might know of some people in your life who are always doing a positive reframe. They can sometimes even be annoyingly optimistic. But, as frustratingly positive such individuals might be, they’re almost always flipping a negative script into a positive. If your car gets totaled in a car accident, they’re the first person to say, “Well, thank goodness, at least you’re alive.”
You might continue to grumble about your car, but they’ll remind you of all the ways the situation could’ve been a whole lot worse. If you’re upset that you haven’t signed a book deal yet, they’re the first person to give you a pep-talk and explain to you that the measure of your worth doesn’t hinge on a book deal. They’ll also remind you for the hundredth time that you’re a great writer and go on to list artists who got rejected over and over before getting their first break.
The Bottom Line
Doing a positive reframe can sound like a really silly exercise. But, I’m telling you from someone who has experienced depression and low moods, it really works. No, it isn’t a magic fix-it pill. I’ll be the first to tell you that sometimes when you’re having a bad day, all you want is to be listened to and that you don’t need someone to come along and “fix it.” Positive reframing is not fixing anything. It isn’t a solution. Rather, it’s a way of shifting your mind.
It isn’t putting rose-tinted glasses on, but it’s helping us remove the shades from our perspective and consider a new way of seeing our reality. It’s learning to retrain our brain into recognizing that as many negatives as a situation might have, there are also positive ways to look at it. There’s a time to go through the cycle of grief. There’s a time to let ourselves cry and feel our feelings without denying them. Then, there’s a time to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and practice a new way of seeing our circumstances.
We’re all still trying to find our way after the pandemic. What COVID has taught us, other than learning to wash our hands, is finding hope in the midst of darkness and finding togetherness amid social isolation. We’ll always have bad days and even traumatic situations. But sometimes, it doesn’t take a whole lot to see the glass half-empty. It’s often easier being a perpetual pessimist. We can either find the negative in everything or search for the good in everything. It’s a matter of realizing that with a simple mind shift, we can decide to choose optimism.