“Frames are mental structures. As a result, they shape the goals we seek, the plans we make, the way we act, and what counts as a good or bad outcome of our actions. Reframing is changing the way the public sees the world. . . . Because language activates frames, new language is required for new frames. Thinking differently requires speaking differently.”
--George Lakoff, Don't Think of an Elephant
I first encountered the idea of "frames" when I was reading George Lakoff's Don't Think of an Elephant. I've thought about them more since I've spent time with appreciative inquiry and its premise that "words create worlds," and was reminded again while reading Monoculture: How One Story is Changing Everything by F.S. Michaels over the holidays.
Frames are our mental constructs--the ways we view the world. They often act on us subconsciously, which makes their power all the more insidious.
One simple frame I've written about before is the idea of training and development as either a cost or an investment.
If we see development as a "cost," then when it's time to "cut costs," training will be on the chopping block. If it's an "investment," then we need to consider what our return is and whether or not we need to make a greater investment at certain times.
Another potential career frame that can be controlling our stories is thinking of our current job as either a prison or a home base. When it is a prison, then we are powerless and have no control--other people are controlling what we do and how we do it. We have no choices and can't get out. But if it's a "home base," then it can be a space from which we explore other options. It's something that provides a level of stability while we seek change.
You see, then, that if we change the frame, we change how we see the situation. We also change the options that are available to us.
One of the things that I think is helpful when we think about our careers is trying to find the underlying "frame" for our story and seeing if there's another frame that could be more useful to consider. How could playing with different metaphors open up new possibilities?
What happens, for example, if I think of my career as a garden, in which I plant seeds and nurture plants to maturity, a garden where the crops are rotated in order to keep the soil healthy and rich? How does this change how I approach my career?
Or what if I think of conversations at work as being relational, rather than transactional? In other words, what if I approach my conversations as a way to build up a rich network of relationships, rather than as simply a way to get things done? How does that change what I do?
What if "failures" are "learning opportunities"? What if "problems" are "possibilities"? What if "I'm stuck," is "I'm resting" or "I'm lost" is "I'm on an adventure"?
Writing a new career story means finding new frames and new language to describe our journey. One of the most powerful things we can do is to identify and change those frames that are no longer working for us.
When we feel stuck or confused or disheartened, we need to find the new frames that will let us write a better story.
What career frames help or hinder you? How could you change your frames to help you create something new?