Reframe and Filter

Published on March 6th, 2016

No matter what happens to us in life, we get to choose the meaning and significance that we attach to each moment and memory. Don't believe me? Think real hard about it the next time someone cuts you off in traffic. You can tell yourself an endless variety of stories about that one event. Perhaps we label them a jerk for not caring, or lazy for not looking, or it's their own fault for not leaving earlier to account for delays in travel time. Perhaps we let it slide, knowing we've probably done the same and it wasn't a big deal or it wasn't intentional.

Now, this isn't always an easy thing to do. Usually, it requires a bit of patience as well as a willingness to reach for a more useful, more empowering meaning versus whatever allows us to lash out at the world and be the victim.

Once we know that we can wield this power, we can apply the following techniques to situations we face in the present or our interpretation of the past. Here we go!


Let's take a very literal interpretation. Imagine you have a photo or a piece of art that you hang on the wall. What type frame would you choose? You may pick something very simple and understated, or very ornate and overpowering, or rustic, or modern, or classic, or any number of choices. No matter what you pick, that frame becomes part of the picture with respect to how you respond to it.

With our memories and meanings, a frame is equivalent to the context that we use to interpret the memory. And if we change the frame (or even the frame of reference), we can change the meaning significantly. If we could peer into the life of the person that cut us off, we might find out he's acting out of a sense of entitlement with a "me first" mindset. Or he might simply be distracted as a result of a very stressful situation in life (e.g. loss of a job, medical diagnosis, relationship break-up, etc).

Here's a video that helps illustrate just how powerful a single fact can help provide so much meaning to a single picture

Now, in our day to day world, we're not often afforded this level of insight. That can be a major blessing because it means we can choose to default to the most empowering perspective first. We can assume positive intent or that there is some rational reason that we may never understand, but it's there. Whether it's ultimately true or not, if it empowers us to live our lives more completely, it's a choice worth making.


Ever use Instagram? Then you know the power of how a filter can drastically change the look and feel of a photo. Changing to black and white can eliminate distracting colors and give it a more powerful feel. You can choose other filters that may amplify certain aspects of a photo while downplaying others. Perhaps you want the outcome to be softer and more welcoming. Perhaps you want it to be more vibrant and alive.

Back to the example of getting cut off in traffic, if the driving habits of other people don't matter to you (short of your own safety and car staying untouched), then you are essentially applying a filter that blocks those situations so that you can focus on what's important. On the other hand, if getting cut off enrages you, you're simply applying a filter that amplifies and magnifies to the point where you're feeding the emotional state.

In short, choosing how you filter the information hitting your 5 (or 6) senses greatly influences your mental and emotional reactions to them. Depending on your choice, certain aspects will get more emphasis than others, or you may change the level of emphasis altogether. Either way, you're in the driver's seat to pick the right filter for you.

Thanks for reading! If you enjoyed this, can I ask you for a favor?

I would like the opportunity to connect with you on an ongoing basis with the intention that I continue to provide you with valuable information and insights to help transform your life personally and professionally. To that end, it would mean a lot to me if you performed one or more of the following.

  1. Sign up for my newsletter to get new articles sent right to your inbox.
  2. Buy my book, Winning the Lottery Within.
  3. Follow me on Twitter or connect with me on LinkedIn. Don't forget to say hi!
  4. Contact me to setup a free, 15-minute consultation.
  5. Share this article with anyone that might benefit from it.

Thanks again for your time and attention! It means the world to me to know that you gave me this opportunity to connect with you.

About Rick Manelius

Quick Stats: CTO of Contact Mapping. Author of Winning the Lottery Within. Graduated from MIT in '03 (BS) and '09 (PhD). Life hacker and peak performance enthusiast. This blog is my experiment in creative writing, self-expression, and sharing what I've learned along my journey. For more information, read my full bio here or contact me.