The Reframe

As I was laying in bed, my eyes shot open as if I was late for something.  But, I knew I wasn’t late. Instead, I was trying to remember how I was going to start my presentation.  I ignored the fact that it was 3 am and started searching for the words in hopes to silence my uneasiness.  This experience was nothing new for me. I never had trouble falling asleep, but when I am stressed or anxious I would wake up between 2 and 3 am unable to fall back asleep.

I was giving a talk a few years ago at national conference and my doubts and insecurities won’t let me forget it.

At one time, I would have tossed and turned the rest of the night (and subsequent nights).  But, I don’t give into it anymore. I knew it was not the talk itself that is waking me up, but the fear of failure that I was trying so hard to ignore.  Ignoring it never works (for me at least). Instead, it just gets louder and louder until I can’t ignore it.

So, I got up and started doing what our Bulletproof Career Rebels know as Re-framing.

I started writing down every thought barrier, or every bad thing that could happen, and then replacing it with a breakthrough belief, or what it could be if I looked at the position from a growth mindset.

This does a few things. First, once the thought barriers are down on paper they become somewhat (not totally) less intimidating. Second, it gives me the ability to refute each thought that is limiting me with a response that is more empowering.

Here’s what the initial list looked like:

  1. I’m so nervous about how the talk might turn out.
  2. No one is going to show up.
  3. It may be a waste of a trip.
  4. I may forget what I am going to say.

Okay, so now they were down on paper, I at least knew why I was feeling how I was.  Defining our feelings is an effective way to change our feelings.  I know what you’re thinking…okay this is some positive thinking BS.  While I am going to shift my thoughts, you’ll see that doing so re-shapes my reality.  I’m also not saying “Everything will work out,” I’m saying “Stuff may go wrong, but that’s okay.”  I look at the worst case scenario and once I do that…it doesn’t seem so terrible.

Before re-framing each thought, I feel doubt, uncertainty, fear of failure, and overwhelmed.  So, let’s look at how I re-framed each scenario in order to not feel nervous but excited, to not feel stressed, but empowered.  

“I’m so nervous about how the talk might turn out.”

  • I’m more excited than nervous and I’m only nervous because I care so much.  This feeling is useful because it has ensured that I am well-prepared.


“No one is going to show up.”

  • More than likely, someone is going to show up and it may be the one person that will be incredibly influential in our mission.  If no one shows up, at least we are ready for the next presentation. Having something to prepare for has made me that much better to speak on our ideas.

“It may be a waste of a trip.”

  • It can only be a waste of a trip if I let it be.  If I use the time to learn, get experience, and refine for next time, it cannot be a waste.

“I may forget what I am going to say.”

  • Again this isn’t the most likely outcome.  I’ve prepared and while I could possibly stumble, I think I’ll be able to pull it together.  If it does happen, like Phil would say, “They can’t take away your birthday.”... I’ll survive.

I totally understand that nothing about this seems groundbreaking or even enjoyable to do, but I’m telling you… it works every time.  Our feelings are always present, but they don’t have to hold us back or put us in a poor mindset. While I’m justified in being afraid to fail, it doesn’t have to define the experience.  I’m still afraid of failing, I obviously don’t want that outcome. But, I’ve found solace in re-framing how I’m looking at the experience.

The next time you’re nervous or stressed, try putting down everything you’re worried about and re-frame how you’re looking at the situation. It may not change the situation, but it can change how you respond and experience it.


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