Life is multiple choice

Are you familiar with this image?

Some people see the young woman first, some the old woman. And often they have trouble seeing the other even when someone points it out, “See her hooked nose? Her scarf?”

Everything that happens in our lives is like this, open to interpretation. Typically though we stop at seeing what’s immediately obvious, without questioning whether there’s an alternative perspective.

Here’s the thing. If you can develop the ability to sift through information and reframe it in a way to reveal opportunity or advantage —  you will be increasingly valuable to organizations, not to mention more resilient, in this ambiguous and uncertain world.

Reframing is, of course, a soft skill. It requires developing a fast, fluid brain capable of looking at a situation from different angles to recognize and highlight the positive aspects.

Often, clients get stuck on a negative connotation because they’re filtering their circumstances through insecurity or shame: “But that’s how it is,” they say, falling into the trap of thinking there’s one inherent way to look at a situation.

So practice coming up with at least three interpretations, I tell them, even if they seem kind of absurd. Every situation is multiple choice — you get to decide which angle to highlight. It’s like if you took the image above and painted the young woman in orange, then that’s what people would be most likely to see.

  • “I haven’t managed a multi-million dollar budget or a large team.” Then focus on your ability to work with constraints and get things done with fewer resources.
  • “The project was never completed.” Focus on the complexity you managed across global time zones and changing teams and what you were able to finish in the given time frame.
  • “I made a lot of mistakes in building my business.” Focus on the lessons you learned that you can now consider “intellectual property.”
  • “The company I worked for went bankrupt.” Focus on the skills you gained in liquidating the assets and negotiating with unions.

Like any skill, reframing is something you can practice. And luckily for you, life presents lots of opportunities to do just that. 😉