Setback or Step Up?

Whether a change is a setback or an opportunity depends on your framing.

Suppose you lose a job or leave a relationship. Is that a setback or a step up? I think it’s really a framing challenge – which frame will you predominantly choose?

Financially a job loss may look like a setback, and other people around you may frame it that way as well, such as by offering comforting words. But emotionally there’s often a feeling of relief. Once you accept what happened, it’s freeing. You’re back in the open possibility space again.

I often congratulate people who’ve recently lost their jobs when I see that it’s a good experience for them energy-wise. When I sometimes see others chiming in with the “poor baby” comments, it just doesn’t feel aligned to join that framing. I’ve seen way too many people thrive after a job loss – it often sparks fresh creative thinking and gives them a new lease on life.

The end of a relationship might also look like a setback due to the loss of companionship. But the comments people make upon hearing about a breakup can be awkwardly misaligned with the actual experience on the inside. They may treat it as a tragedy when it’s more like a graduation. The wiser friends will often pause to get a read on the emotional impact before sharing any feedback or support, knowing that a breakup doesn’t necessarily fit into a clean and predictable pattern.

I think a lot of us see that other people have the option to choose their frames, even when those people aren’t exercising their power to choose very well. How do you feel when someone is stuck in victimhood? You can try to talk them out of that frame, or you could let them wallow there for a while and find their own way out.

It’s important to challenge our internal frames here too. When you experience change, especially unexpected change, some parts of your mind may frame it as a setback while others may frame it as a step up.

You can let this process play out subconsciously. You can let yourself be influenced by other people’s interpretations. Or you can choose your own interpretation and feed more energy to the parts of your mind that are offering the most aligned frames.

Do you want your mind to keep offering “poor baby” frames, or would you prefer to focus on the fresh opportunities that change brings?

One thing that slowed me down in making a big career change many years ago was thinking too much about the loss of my old line of work. I thought about the projects I’d never get to do. What sped the transition along was when I began focusing on the new and exciting opportunities on the new path.

Even if you’re not clear about the new path, you can focus on the possibility space and begin exploring that. Let the energies of the old path go. They’ve had their time, and now they’re fading, so something new can emerge. Sometimes graduation is bittersweet, but it’s your choice to invest energy in the bitter or the sweet.

We often forget to practice this and really build up this skill for life. At some point you may notice that you just aren’t feeling very good about your life. That’s often due to a framing issue. You’ve lost the connection to excitement, fun, play, and trust, probably because your dominant framing is blocking you from sensing the “step up” side of reality. You’re stuck in the land of shadows.

Remember that life has an incredibly playful side. Work is just play. Making money is play. Relationships are play. Writing is play. Even paying bills is play.

Stressing out in a negative way is optional. Enjoying some positive stress is called excitement or passion.

Life will challenge you. That’s what life does. That’s what games do. Can you still have fun even when you’re losing? Are you actually losing if you’re having fun? Or are you actually losing if you’re technically winning the game but not having fun?

One of my greatest personal breakthroughs was learning to have fun with the game of life even while it seemed like I was losing. I decided that since money wasn’t being kind to me, I’d opt to be a fun broke person instead. That worked well.

If I had to give up all my money and assets or give up my fun nature, I’d surrender the former. More money can always be playfully earned, but a playful relationship with life is irreplaceable. I’m definitely keeping my playful wife too. 🙂