Personal Growth

How to Change Your Outlook and Reframe Your Perspective Even if You Can't Change Your Circumstances

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how to change your outlook
Photo by The Roaming Platypus on Unsplash

Maybe you can’t change your circumstances, but you can always change your attitude regarding your circumstances. Sure, sometimes you do need to make drastic changes when it comes to your health, career, or living situation. But if you only focus on the external, you might find yourself recycling the same old problems again and again. When you learn how to change your outlook, though, you can radically transform your life.

A Tale of Two Perspectives

After being diagnosed with epilepsy and having my driving privileges revoked, I’ve had to rely on government transportation. I’ve gotten to know some of these drivers quite well.

One route involves taking Mulholland Drive, a popular tourist destination that takes you through the winding Hollywood hills, offering scenic views of the city. One driver was delighted by the views, saying she wished she’d brought her camera.

The next time I had to go to this location, I had a different driver. She asked me for the best route and I recommended Mulholland, since she mentioned she didn’t like freeways. As we went up the first hill, she started yelling at me, saying she was afraid of heights. The whole ride, she rode the brakes, cursing about how scared she was.

Another time, this same driver took me to a different location. She spent the whole time complaining about how far it was, the traffic, etc., even asking several times, “Are we almost there?”  Yet I had another driver who took me to this same location and kept remarking how beautiful it was and even how cool it was to have a job where you got to see new places.

What’s the Difference?

I don’t mean to sound ungrateful. I’m of course happy that the government provides this service in the first place, and no doubt the drivers (who are very good at what they do) are underpaid. I like all the drivers, even the complainer. She can also be quite funny and entertaining.

I only tell this story to illustrate how two people can have the same experience (in this case, driving route) but completely different perspectives. Perhaps if the driver had accepted that she had to drive this route anyway so she might as well make the most of it, she would have enjoyed herself more.

Often it is our resistance to the situation, rather than the situation itself, that makes it seem so bad. I’ve learned to stop dragging my feet when it comes to situations I’ve been putting off.

In short, the only difference between one driver’s experience versus another was their outlook.

How to Change Your Outlook: Three Methods

What do you do when you can't change your circumstances? One thing you can always change is your attitude. Discover how to change your outlook and radically transform your life. | renew | mindset | positivity | reframing negative thoughts | optimism | perspective shift | release negative energy |

1) Release

By releasing all the unpleasant emotions that are obscuring your outlook, you’ll begin to feel calmer, happier, and more in control.

Now, releasing may seem similar to “venting” (i.e. complaining). After all, in both cases you’re getting those emotions outside of you, right?

The difference is that with releasing, you acknowledge and silently part ways with your emotions before unleashing them on innocent bystanders. Because at worst, you end up taking your frustration out on your loved ones or an unsuspecting stranger. At best, maybe you feel better for a second. Maybe your listener even agrees with you and joins you in the complain fest.

But afterwards, usually you feel worse than when you started.

Why? Because negativity breeds negativity.

That’s why you meet chronic complainers. People who always have something to be upset or indignant about.

Releasing, by contrast, clears out the negative to make room for the positive.

By releasing, you also address your emotions immediately, rather than suppressing or trying to escape from them. I’ve tried both these strategies, and trust me, it doesn’t work. When that emotion comes back (and it WILL — like your favorite horror movie villain), it usually manifests in the form of an outburst because it’s been brewing for so long, gathering in strength.

Larry Crane of the Release Technique describes releasing as what happens when you wipe the dirt off the windows and suddenly everything is shinier and more clear. That’s what happens when you wipe away the toxic emotions that are obscuring your outlook.

You can learn more about how to achieve complete emotional freedom by clicking below.

2) Reframe

Reframing is what it literally sounds like. It is examining your issue through a different frame, or lens, which broadens your perspective. Often, our unhappiness arises from limited thinking.

reframe perspective
Photo by Tony Webster

In this case, I’m referring to reframing issues as opportunities.

Going back to the example of the long drive, both drivers took the exact same route. Yet one chose to complain about the length of the drive while the other chose to enjoy the scenery.

Traffic and driving time is a huge source of misery for many people, especially where I live in Los Angeles where traffic is frequent and it can take over an hour just to get from one neighborhood to another. But while traffic is something we can’t control, we can control our attitude as well as how we use our time. We can listen to our favorite music, use it as an educational opportunity with an audiobook/podcast, meditate (with eyes open, of course), or simply enjoy all the sights.

Not only do these things make the drive more tolerable, but they open you up to experiences that would not have been possible without the drive.

On the flip side, when I found out I couldn’t drive, I was very upset. I love that in-control feeling that being behind the wheel gives me and hate being dependent on others. Drivers don’t always show up on time (through no fault of their own). The bus never shows up on time.

But I quickly saw the opportunity this afforded me. Now I could use my rides to catch up on reading, emails, writing, or grading papers (sometimes all at once). As a woman sitting next to me on the bus joked, it’s like I have my own portable office.

Sometimes the driver talks to me, which kind of annoys me at first. But then I’m always relieved because it lifts me out of my workaholic hermitude and reminds me that human interaction is good for the soul. Even on a purely pragmatic level, it helps me improve my conversation skills.

3) Renew

renew outlook
Photo by Helena Lopes

Sometimes when your outlook turns gloomy, you may not be able to pin it to an obvious reason. It may stretch for days, manifesting as sluggishness, boredom, or apathy. You may lose interest in things you were formally passionate about.

I’ve realized that when it comes to these situations, I can be downright dense. I’ll go for weeks or months following the same routine, listening to the same songs, visiting the same websites.

Then it dawns on me that I live in a city with endless sights to see. That even if I don’t want to leave the house, I have an infinite array of websites and music at my fingertips and unread books on my shelf.

I think often we do this to ourselves mentally. We lock ourselves in a cage and then realize we held the keys all along.

With this renewed outlook comes a sense of empowerment as we remember that we’ve been in charge the whole time.

Renewal is hitting the reset button on your life. You can do this by trying something new (even something as small as a new food or a different route home) or rediscovering an old interest.

For me, reading fiction was such a major part of my life but is something I lost touch with after finishing school. Now I’ve dived back into fiction (plus as an English teacher, I have to) and it feels so good to be immersed in a story.

Another passion I’ve reconnected with is tennis. I became obsessed with tennis in high-school, but I stopped playing after graduating. A couple of years ago, I took it up again my boyfriend. Now he’s even more hooked than I am!

In his video Feeling Lost? How to Find Yourself Again?, Tony Robbins opens you up to the power of reconnecting with your dreams and passions.

Become a master of your outlook and transform your life with Robbin’s Ultimate Edge program below.


Can I Be Optimistic While “Keeping It Real”?

Now, some people think that having an optimistic outlook means carrying around a sort of fake cheeriness where you always have a smile on your face and don’t acknowledge anything remotely dark. But that’s not true. In fact, I think optimism is the most realistic and pragmatic approach you can take.

If things turn south, rather than wallowing in your sorrow, you can quickly hone in on other angles and alternate solutions. Finding the opportunity in every challenge creates an endless latticework through which you can gracefully climb out of any pit you fall into.

Tell me: What’s a potentially negative situation where you changed your outlook and as a result, improved your experience?

26 thoughts on “How to Change Your Outlook and Reframe Your Perspective Even if You Can't Change Your Circumstances

  1. This was the perfect post for me to read today! I’ve been getting overwhelmed and stressed by the holidays, and I need to readjust and appreciate all the wonderful things about the season.

    1. Glad to hear, Christa! It’s fun how that works, isn’t it? Holidays are meant to be a time for joy and celebrating family, but for many people, they can be overwhelming…I think because there’s so many expectations attached to holidays, especially if you have children or guests to entertain for. I’m glad you were able to take back your power, though, and use the holidays as a time for joy and appreciation.

  2. This was a great read. It’s very interesting to see that two people react very differently to the same situations. I definitely need to work on myself, I’ll check out the release technique!

  3. I really enjoyed reading this. When I beat cancer I was determined to be an optimist. For years I was a cynic and pretty much negative all the time. It stemmed from being unhappy with the circumstances. Up until a few months ago I had been a completely changed person! Everyone around me noticed the change and loved it! A few months ago my mom fell ill and things have just weighed a lot heavier on myself and my kids being caregivers. Lately I could see that negativism creeping back in. I vented a lot over the last couple days. I’m really glad I read this because I feel it was exactly what I needed to hear!

    1. So glad to hear that, Shannah! Yes, we definitely have ebbs and flows in our lives. I’ll find negativity creeping in as well when too many things pile up, and releasing, reading my favorite authors, and writing posts like these help to remind me to get back on track!

  4. This is a fabulous way of looking at life! You’ve done a great job re-framing your situation. Epilepsy can be a difficult diagnosis. I loved your comparison about the two drivers in the beginning of the post!!

    1. Thank you, Stephanie! Yes, now when I find myself judging other people, I ask myself, “How is this person a mirror? What can I learn from this experience?” Because all too many times, I have resorted to complaining when I should have made the most of my situation.

  5. I’ve had so many negative experiences in life. As a result, I am the better because of it. At time, I didn’t know how I would get through them. But I did.

  6. Great post! I can relate as going through job searching issues where it kind of makes me feel discouraged. Thank you for the great tips it’s so important to stay positive and do things that make you happy otherwise those emotions will take over

    1. Thank you! Oh man, I can definitely relate to your feelings on job searching! I remember in one interview in particular, the woman who interviewed me was very intimidating and I was so nervous I was literally sweating. Afterwards I felt terrible because I knew I wasn’t going to get that job. But in retrospect, it was for the best because I don’t think I would have liked working for her, and a couple of weeks later, I got accepted by a company that was a much better fit.

  7. I love,this post! A recent example of this for me was a day spent in an overcrowded, badly organised greek airport trying to get home. I could have ranted and raved (as some others were, I was sure one man in particular was going to give himself a heart attack!) Instead I turned my focus to others who were struggling with it all and tried to brighten their day a little. I was also very cheery and chatty with the staff. Everyone I interacted with on that day reacted positively and it made the whole thing much more bearable!

    1. Yes, Alison, such a great way to handle what could have potentially been a bad situation! I remember once on a plane ride, my parents and I all had separate seats (I think we got the tickets last minute) and my dad was seated next to a woman with a crying baby. For most people, this is a nightmare scenario and I’m sure the woman was very embarrassed, but my dad managed to cheer her up and even got the baby to stop crying.

  8. Love your outlook. I am disabled and started my blog despitepain.com because I believe outlook has so much to do with how we cope with pain. If we can accept it and try to enjoy life, we cope so much better. Stay well.

    1. Thanks, Liz! I agree that with pain (whether physical or mental), though sometimes it can be near impossible to focus on other things, our resistance to the pain makes it even worse, whereas accepting it and being intentional about keeping a positive mindset really can make all the difference.

  9. So true. How we view things makes the world of difference. Thanks for a great article on staying optimistic in the face of adversity Kate.

  10. Great advice Kate! I loved this especially…”Often it is our resistance to the situation, rather than the situation itself, that makes it seem so bad. I’ve learned to stop dragging my feet when it comes to situations I’ve been putting off.” And I just might try the renewing strategy. It sounds like a good one for when you just start getting exhausted…

    1. Thanks, Trisha! Yes, one thing I learned with my seizures is that they seemed to happen when I was literally pushing my brain too hard instead of taking time to rest and reset. Luckily the seizures are kept at bay now with medication, but they taught me some important lessons about knowing when it’s time to call it a night and start fresh the next day.

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