• Andrew Wien

When things go wrong—the power of reframing

This morning I sat down at my computer to start working. The morning had been perfect. Four inches of snow fell overnight, and the trees were beautiful. I had executed on my ideal morning routine—run with dog, meditate, breakfast, shower. I started working with focus and purpose that would last until dinner.

Five minutes later the power went out. I live in the mountains outside of Boulder, CO without cell phone coverage. Phone calls require internet. Internet requires power. Oh no.

To complicate things, our house has a steep driveway that goes UP to the road. My vehicle is not equipped for snow—it’s a rear wheel drive truck, and the snow tires were just put in storage.

The reality of my situation started to sink in. I was potentially stuck at my house with no ability to attend calls, respond to emails, or even work more than a few hours on my computer. My brain started cycling through a complex web of thoughts and emotions. Anger, self-pity, anxiety about making meetings, paralysis from overwhelm.

It’s easy to show up effectively when things go according to plan. But how do you show up when the unexpected happens? When a meeting goes an unforeseen direction, when your project gets derailed by a change of scope, or, in this case, when a snowstorm on May 21 prevents you from working?

We can’t control what happens to us, but we can control how we react to it. When things go askew, the one thing we can do is reframe how we interpret the situation.

  • Was my business going to fail because I got a late start? No.

  • Would I lose clients if I missed a few meetings? No.

  • Was I in danger of survival if I was stuck at my house? Definitely not!

And wow, what an unexpected adventure! Getting to the top of my driveway became a game. My brain started humming with possible solutions.

I loaded 240 pounds of sand into the truck bed and put chains on the rear tires. I hit the gas hard, maintained momentum around the turn, barreled up the steepest part, and popped out onto the road. Wahoo! I felt a mix of surprise and excitement. A quick drive to a friend’s house and I was back at work.

How do you react when things don’t go according to plan? When you find yourself in an ineffective mental state, try reframing your interpretation of the events so you can shift to a state that is both more enjoyable and solution-oriented.

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