How To Make Sense Of Things

Making sense of the world

When do things really mean what we think they mean? Would you believe me if I told you you were going to gaol tomorrow? What if a judge told you that in court?

I personally don’t think meaning is fixed, but rather, it is changeable, subject to context as well as to the individual’s model of the world and incoming information. So the meaning we make of things is constantly shifting, unless we fixate on a rigidly held belief about the topic or context.

If you think this is a useful distinction to be aware of, read on.


Reframing is changing the frame or the description of a situation, usually to make it more acceptable or functional. Reframing changes the concept so that the situation takes on a new meaning or takes place in a different context. It is about how to make sense of things.

You can start to think about times when you’ve used reframing yourself or when someone else used it in a situation in which you were involved.

But how do you use it?

You can reframe a situation by changing the context or the meaning of it.

A meaning reframe means you can change the response to an experience by changing what the experience means to you or those involved. For instance, people who go to gaol are usually regarded as bad examples for the community. Or wait a minute, how about people like Nelson Mandela? He went to gaol, does that mean he’s a bad example for the community? Probably the complete opposite. Here was an exceptional man who was imprisoned for promoting a fair cause and living up to his values.

Can you start to see how this works?

Now, leaving the behaviour the same and placing it in a different context is an example of a context reframe.

If someone takes off all their clothes in a public place in broad daylight, they will probably be arrested and certainly attract news media attention. That person has crossed the boundary of most cultural norms, and their behaviour is “noticeable.” Yet every night, in the privacy of their homes, most people take off all their clothes when they get ready for bed, and no one raises an eyebrow.

Exceptionally effective leaders know about these principles and use them consistently, not only to influence others but also to influence their own behaviour.

The best way to understand this pattern is by using it, so go out there and take your next step towards Exceptional Effectiveness. I’d like to invite you to change the meaning of at least two things you don’t like doing right now. It can be something like washing up or doing your laundry; what’s important is that you try it now.

Start small at first and see it for yourself. It will change your life, just like it changed mine.

Remember, this is practical advice, not just another theory, so do go out and try it, and let me know how you went.

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