Photography is, at its best, an art that captures a moment of life, preserving it for the ages. A photograph, when framed and focused properly, can make something very ordinary into something of exquisite beauty.
The primary key, in photography, to take something from being ordinary into something extraordinary is the framing. Essentially, you set up the photograph so that it highlights the things you want it to highlight, rather than being in the context that people expect.
When you understand the power of framing, you can take mesemerizing pictures of anything. You can make people notice a single blade of grass… or put a looming skyscraper in context by showing it against the backdrop of a mountain.
This power of framing in photography makes for an excellent analogy with life. The power and impact of any given event in your life depends on the framing that you have given it.
For example, if your paycheck this week was $1000 (after taxes), this could have a powerful negative impact if you were expecting $5000, no impact if it’s exactly what you were expecting, or make you happy for a week (or a month) if you were expecting $100. The framing of what you were expecting determines the impact of the event… not the contents of the event itself.
This same effect holds true throughout life… if you frame your relationship in a negative way, then you will find that negative events happen in your relationship. If you frame it in a positive way, you can see those same events in a positive way.
For instance, an event that virtually always carries a powerful impact is learning that you and your significant other are going to have a baby. If you have laid out grand plans for your life, none of which involve babies, this event can be devestating. If, on the other hand, you have been trying for years to have a baby, your framing, and how you perceive the event, will be extremely different.
It’s not just in relationships, either… you can apply the same thing to job instability. It can be horrible to one person, while to another it provides the opportunity to finally make that move they’ve been waiting on for years.
Any event in your life works the same way. Births, deaths, relationships beginning and ending, job, hobbies… they all go through our framing that we apply to our life, and that, not the event itself, determines how we perceive them.
That leads to a simple, yet profound, concept: If you want to change your life, if you want to be happier and more at peace, what you really need to do is change your framing. This might involve pulling back, to include more of the big picture of your life, or zooming in, so that you notice the details that were fuzzy.
You can even go back and look at events in your past with new framing, and have their impact on your life change. Take, for example, the birth of a child, mentioned above… many people have had the first reaction, only to find out once the child has arrived that they look back, with their new framing, and can’t imagine that they wished it any other way than it is now.
Changing the framing that you habitually apply to life can have an incredible impact on every aspect of your life… relationships (not just the romantic kind), your personal happiness, and even other people’s perceptions of your success in life.
It can also easily lead to greater financial success, as you start framing events in the light of opportunity, rather than the light of risk. Of course, that same change, framing in the context of opportunities, rather than risk, can lead to other kinds of success, as well, including the romantic kind.
So, that’s all well and good, but how do you actually go about changing your framing?
There is no all-encompassing answer, but here are a few suggestions to help you get started:
Even if you feel like you don’t have any time, that you have too many things you have to do (or maybe especially then)… slow down. If you have too many things to do, prioritize, and drop the lowest priority items.
Rushing from one task to the next wears the body, and the mind, down. It also tends to lower the quality of all of the tasks you are rushing between. If you have too much to do, pick just a few to do today, things that you can get done without rushing… and leave everything else for another day.
Write A Description Of The 5 Best Things That Have Happened To You
This is just like it sounds… write a description of the five best things that have ever happened to you, like you were telling someone else about them. There’s no set amount to write, just keep it in the style of telling someone else about it… that will force you to write more than one or two sentences, which wouldn’t have much effect.
The idea is to make you remember that good things happen to you, too, even if it seems like the bad things outweight and outnumber them (They don’t… you just framed more things in a bad way, which, admittedly can be easy to do, sometimes).
Write Down Your Best Memory Of The 5 People You Care About Most
Much like the one above, you write down the best memory you have of the five people that you care about most, as if you were telling someone else. There are no minimum (or maximum) lengths, and spelling and grammar don’t really matter… just be descriptive.
Try to paint a picture, with words, so that someone else could get an idea for how you felt when the memory was being made.
Write The Most Disgustingly Positive Description Of Your Life That You Can
Write a description of your life, or the last little period of your life (day, week, month), in the most absolutely ridiculously positive way that you can. Use words like wonderful, breath-taking, spectacular, or whatever else you can think of, but describe the actual events.
This may require you to focus on one aspect of a situation, rather than the whole thing (or in other words, framing). For example, if you got in a car wreck, and your car was totaled, but you were unhurt, you might write about how you were miraculously unharmed, while downplaying the wreckage.
The point here is to show how framing works, and how even the worst events can be seen in a positive light. It also can provide a sense of balance to a normally negative framing, by making you look at the same events again with a different framing.
Do Something Small For The People You Care For
This could involve something like doing a household chore they normally do, writing them a letter, buying them something small, or generally any other way of showing your appreciation. This serves two purposes… it reminds you that there are people that you care about in your life (something that sometimes fades when your framing is negative enough… you tend to zoom into just you), and it reminds them that you care about them, which likely will bring similar actions from them.
Eat And Sleep Right
It really is amazing how much of an impact your eating and sleeping have on your life. Too much or too little of either tends to move your framing more and more in a negative direction.
I can see this personally with eating… if I don’t eat lunch by about 1:00 PM, my attitude and outlook deteriorate rapidly. When I do eat, they go right back to normal. It’s really weird to observe in myself, but it is definitely there.
Start A Hobby
Virtually anyone who has a generally negative framing in life has a “hobby” they want to do, but never take action to do so. It might be playing guitar, it might be woodworking (one of mine), or photography (another of mine), writing, painting, knitting, or whatever else strikes your fancy.
Whatever it is, start doing it… acquire the necessary supplies, pick up an instructional book or video, and get started. It can help you to feel like you can tell the rest of the world to take a hike, at least for a little while, and can also result in you feeling like you are getting something done (very helpful in having a generally positive framing).
Say “Thank You” Sincerely
This requires more action on your part than you might think… in order to say thank you sincerely, you actually have to be thankful. That means looking at the situation from outside your own point of view, and realizing that someone is spending their time and energy helping you with something.
It doesn’t even matter if they are being paid… if they are being helpful, that is worthy of you sincerely appreciating it and saying so.
You might even be the only positive thing they remember from that day.
Two Positives For Every Negative
I’ve mentioned this one a time or two before. It’s very simple… for each negative thing you say, or better yet even think, come up with two positive things to say about the same thing to the same person.
In other words, if you say something bad about your spouse to your friend, immediately find two good things to say about your spouse to that same friend. If you think something bad about your coworker, immediately find two positive things about them in your mind.
This keeps you from focusing solely on the negative, and makes you think consistently about the good parts of the things most present in your life… it can’t force your framing to be completely positive, but it makes it much harder for it to be relentlessly negative.
Compliment A Stranger
Complimenting a stranger is a great way to bring a momentary bit of good into their life… and it makes you look around you for the good things at the same time. After all, you don’t “compliment” someone on a negative attribute, at least not a genuine compliment.
And, as a bonus, one I enjoy:
Get A Great Dinner… And Enjoy Every Bite
Sometimes it can make a big impact on your outlook when you just do something for yourself… a relatively easy one, that I personally enjoy, is to go get a great dinner, something that you really enjoy. Then, instead of talking or thinking about your day, just let everything else take a back seat and enjoy each bite.
Let the world around you fade away, and just enjoy your meal one bite at a time… it’s amazing how much difference it can make.
All of these things essentially boil down to one of two things: being good to others (zooming out in your framing), or letting the rest of the world fade (zooming in). A good photographer includes both, depending on circumstances: close shots for things like butterflies or portraits, while zooming out for landscapes and sunsets.
Your life needs the same thing… sometimes you need to let the rest of the world go, and have time for yourself. Other times, you need to let go of your self and pay attention to the rest of the world. If you get out of balance either way, your framing is distorted, and you start to perceive more events in a negative light than is necessary.
So step back, become aware of your framing, and watch as your life slowly becomes more beautiful.