I read an interesting article in the Times about how people view aging. Here we are, the beneficiaries of modern medicine, watching our long projected lifespan roll out before us like a red carpet, and we can’t help but worry. How will we bear the financial burden of our growing senior population?
“To assume defeat from what every one of us as individuals wants suggests we’re not asking the right questions,” said Dr. Linda P. Fried, a geriatrician. She suggests we need to reframe our understanding of aging and its costs and benefits.
Coaches are big advocates of reframing. Basically, here’s the idea: Something happens to you that triggers a less-than-pleasant emotional response. Say you get laid off. You could (understandably so) spend time worrying about being unemployed. You might feel resentful, and spend more time pondering “Why me?” But all that pondering only works in your disfavor, eating away at your energy and morale. Reframing the situation means looking at it in a new way, perhaps as an opportunity to find a job you like better.
I know that sounds all-too-easy and it’s not. But if you force yourself to try it, I think you’ll find reframing can help you through a range of crises big and small. Some more examples:
Your PC just locked up … and you’ve got a report due tomorrow. Instead of panicking, decide to reframe your down time into up time. How much can you accomplish by the time I.T. comes to the rescue? Jot down your next steps to complete the report, and compile any information you’ll need. Next, survey your work area. Clean and organize your space so that when your computer’s ready to go, so are you.
You get passed over for a promotion. Give yourself a cooling period then start sleuthing. Did the other candidate offer a unique skill set? Talk to everyone who interviewed you. Could you do anything different to better position yourself for the next promotion? If the answer’s no, maybe it’s time to polish your resume and look around.
You’re hearing reorg rumors. Why does management have to shuffle everything up just when you really like your team members and your work? Don’t wait to find out. Make an effort to talk to decision makers within your department and throughout the company, and try to gain new insight into their goals. You might come across a mentor, or uncover information that may help you when and if the reorg does happen.
You’re on a committee with the Loud Interrupter. You could resign yourself, irritably, to unfinished sentences. Or, you could use the opportunity to practice polite assertiveness. “Hang on a sec, Vic, I wasn’t quite finished with that thought.”
Just the other day I had a chance to practice reframing at home. I had picked up a tandem bike, thinking how much fun my daughter and I would have pedaling around together this summer. Maggie, age 16, gave that vision a good chuckle. And she said if I rode it alone, I’d look like a “total loser.”
As Dr. Fried said, getting older has its benefits, one being that you worry less about what others think. I told Maggie I’m going to take my tandem out solo anyway, and leave myself open to opportunity …
“Happiness depends more on the inward disposition of mind
than on outward circumstances.”
– Benjamin Franklin
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