I’m going to issue a special challenge today, stemming from the concept of Love that Valentine’s day commemorates: every day this week think of something, someone, and somewhere you hate, and then identify an aspect of each of them that you can love. That’s three things a day for a week. I’ll explain its value in encouraging your personal development in a minute.
Commitment to one’s personal development means committing to transforming patterns of thought and action that are yielding less-than-ideal results and devising new ways of thinking and acting that are more beneficial. A prominent technique used by many psychotherapists and life coaches (myself included) is to “reframe” an issue – essentially to take a set of facts or circumstances and find a different way to make sense of them, or a different perspective from which to view the same basic information. Several examples:
1) Thor Heyerdahl, the world famous explorer, was caught in a horrendous blizzard as he was trekking across the mountains of Norway. He realized that dwelling on his fear would not help him survive the ordeal, so he reframed the blizzard as a test of his manhood.
2) “My girlfriend hasn’t called me for two days; she must be losing interest in me” could be reframed as “she’s giving us some space so that we can appreciate each other even more.”
3) “My boss is a micromanager and super picky, I’ll never get to satisfy him no matter how hard I work” could be looked at as “I’m really going to have to step up my game and demonstrate my full potential.”
Reframes can be very useful, but what I’m proposing with the Valentine Challenge is a bit different than a reframe. As defined by Wikipedia, a reframe is “…trying to find alternative ways of viewing ideas, events, situations, or a variety of other concepts.” My Challenge is to identify NEW data, finding some hitherto unnoticed, overlooked, or ignored aspect of someone or something, rather than simply looking at the same information from a different perspective. For example, you might need to realize that turning fifty (something) gets you AARP discounts , or you might after some reflection have to reluctantly acknowledge that your bitch of a mother-in-law (someone) truly loves her daughter and wants only the best for her, or that Washington DC’s (somewhere) focus on status and pedigree has attracted some of the best minds in the nation. Of course we all engage in this kind of thinking occasionally, but what I am suggesting is that you do it intentionally, and daily, for a full week…at least.
What’s the value of this practice? Quite simply the better you get at recognizing the multiple truths about a given person, place, or thing (and there always are those multiple truths), the better you can become about altering your mindset in a more personally beneficial direction. Human minds are often uncomfortable dealing with multiple truths. From an evolutionary standpoint the human that could categorize something as good or bad, safe or dangerous, was more likely to survive in the primitive and hazardous world in which our species matured. I acknowledge that the often murky color gray is less simple to work with than crisp, clear black and white. And let me be clear: I am not proposing here the postmodern notion that there are NO enduring truths, merely that there is value in loosening one’s perspective on THE TRUTH and making room for alternative truths that may allow for a more comfortable, beneficial, and ultimately accurate way of viewing, and ultimately leading, your life.