If we are unable to begin a change in our life, a change that we want and need, we can start with an examination of beliefs to reframe our thinking.
Twenty photographs are stored in my attic. They are framed in black metal, a fashionable method to exhibit pictures in the past. Today, photographers want contemporary alternatives to frame their work. They may wrap images over wood similar to a painter’s canvas. Others may mat and place their images in wooden frames. Some photographers print their images directly on variety of surfaces such as cloth to give the appearance of tapestry. All of these efforts seek to give images a new look.
One photograph is an enlargement from my high school yearbook. Others include portraits of family and friends. All images are at least 30 years old. At the time I stored each photograph, I was uncertain about what I wanted to do with each one.
Today, I have decided to reframe the photographs in contemporary materials. But, do I want to look at old images dressed in new frames? If I dress in a new shirt and pants, for example, I will have improved my exterior appearance as if wearing a new frame. My interior persona, like the picture in the frame, will possibly remain the same unless I change who I am along with my new attire. If I dress my high school image in a new frame, for example, will I change the person I was in high school or who I believed I was? Clearly I won’t. As I ponder this question, I am struck by the similarity to my reasons for storage of other items in my attic.
Several treasures were important when I sought to preserve them. Someday, I believed, these comic books would be fun to re-read. This headline, “Hitler is Dead” in the Milwaukee Journal newspaper, I thought, will be part of a future newspaper collection. Someday, I promised myself, I’ll have time to fix this broken chair.
My thoughts about each item reflected my personality, technology, and culture of the time when I stored each treasure. I assumed, for example, that since I liked comic books in the past, I would appreciate comic books in the future. Today, I don’t have an interest in comic books. Although I’m a life-long student of history, ownership of historic newspapers is less important now than my ability view history online. Technology made my newspaper collection obsolete. Since my life is busier today than in the past, I don’t have more time in our fast paced culture to fix that chair like I believed I would.
Think of new frames for my photographs as more than an opportunity to dress in a new shirt and pants. If I reframe my yearbook photo, I will have a chance to revisit the beliefs of my youth and to decide if what gave meaning and purpose to my life back then is still important today.
Reframing our lives is a lot like this. For example, we may feel that it’s difficult to reframe our lives. We want different outcomes but are unsure how to move toward current desires. We assumed that what we appreciated in the past would remain the same in the future like my beliefs about my comic books. As a consequence, we may be resigned to an undesirable current circumstance because we believe we must have stacks of old newspapers to appreciate history.
Suppose we desire to lose weight. We may delay our diet or exercise program because we believe we will have more time in the future to diet or exercise like I believed I would have more time to fix the chair. Or, we may recognize changes in our health, and attribute our decline to a natural consequence of aging just as I believed that old copies of newspapers would be the natural way to understand history in the future. As a result of these types of beliefs, we avoid improvement in our current lives because we are tied to beliefs of the past. Indecision and inaction is the result. The items we have stored in our attic will remain in the attic unchanged until we reframe what we think.
When we reframe, we re-dress our exterior. More importantly, we have an opportunity to examine and update old interior beliefs. When we clean our attic and change our beliefs, we find room to reframe our lives for new meaning and purpose to support our present needs and desires.
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Richard Wilberg, MS, PLCC, ACC
Life Coach for Personal Fulfillment and Career Success
About the Author
I write personal essays, creative non-fiction, flash fiction, and self-development articles from my home in Madison, Wisconsin.