Goodbye Arizona (a lesson in reframing)

I moved to Arizona in July of 2015.

I came for a PhD program at Northern Arizona University and was to study linguistics and become a professor.

However, I ended up dropping out before the end of my first year.

Now, I could frame this whole event in several different ways.

First of all, I could say that I’m a total failure and a fuck-up, and yet again something else didn’t work out for me. The anxious and dark side of my brain often goes to these places.

However, I could also easily frame it in a positive light. On the bright side, I didn’t waste my entire life stuck in the drudges of academia totally hating my life just to impress other people.

You see, nothing is black and white in this world. Everything requires framing of some sort.

While really shitty things definitely happen, if you reframe them, you can often find the beauty in even the ugliest events.

It’s your choice what type of story you chose to apply to events in your life.

The best way to test this is to think of a failure in your life from a long time ago:

When I was in high school, I bummed around for a semester and totally blew my GPA. I was unable to go straight to university. I missed having a real freshman year, and I had to go a crappy community college in Nevada. 

If you read the last paragraph again, you’ll see that I’m spinning the event negatively.

Let’s try again:

In high school, I took some time off to get mentally healthy, and not burn out like most of my peers were doing. Instead of going straight to university, I saved a ton of money and took general education classes for a fraction of the cost while getting to live with my mom and my brother and sister in Nevada. I ended up going to my dream school, University of California, Santa Cruz and I got to spend the last two years of university enjoying my life by the beach.

Sounds way cooler, right?

You can also use reframing for future pacing events that will happen and seeing both sides of it so that you can eliminate fear.

For instance, let’s say you have to make a difficult decision about whether or not to quit your job. Maybe you love certain things about your job. Perhaps it’s good money and the commute is reasonable. However, it’s soul-crushing to wake up every single Monday and hate what you’re about to do. You’re bored as shit, and you know you gotta move on to be happy.

Here’s what framing quitting your job in a negative light looks like:

I’m going to quit my job, and then have no way to pay my bills. I’ll probably get evicted from my apartment, my girlfriend will break up with me, and I’ll have no money to go out with my friends. I’ll end up having to get an even shittier job on the other side of town. 

Meh. Sounds awful. 

Now let’s try to reframe this same event:

I quit my job, and I started working on my passion for photography. I had no idea how I was going to make money but I started taking pictures and posting them on Instagram daily. I learned a little about hashtags and started growing a following organically. I lived off odd jobs, freelance work, and maxed out my credit cards. A few months pass, and suddenly your little freelance photography business is booming. You set up a Shopify site and sell your work. Suddenly you’re working on photography whenever you want and making more money than you would at your previous shitty job. 

Well, damn. Doesn’t that sound like a dream? 

Maybe reality will be something in-between the two. It normally is. However, what good does it do to frame things negatively? Did you ever think that you may be creating things to happen by reinforcing them in your mind? It’s possible.

So as far as leaving Arizona after two years, I have to say that I learned a lot about myself.

I learned that I don’t want to be a professor. It sounds awful. I might want to get a PhD later down the road or I might not. But I don’t want to be an academic. I respect the profession but it would make me miserable.

I learned that I need to be happy and that making a lot of money doesn’t guarantee my happiness.

I learned how to sell nearly anything, but also that I don’t want to sell just anything. I want to make an impact on the world and make money in the meantime.

I learned that I can make a lot of money or a little but if my mindset isn’t right then so what?

I learned about the importance of knowledge, mentorship, investing in myself, marketing, and the power of the subconscious mind.

Most of all, I learned how to reframe negative events, and I practice this daily.

Reframing will save your life because your life is just the stories that you tell yourself.

What kind of story do you want to tell yourself?

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