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Cognitive Reframing: 6 Steps to Stop Your Brain From Working Against You

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Do you love Cold Calling or can you think of an infinite list of things you’d rather do?

“Everything can be taken away from man but one thing—the last human freedom, to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances.” —Viktor Frankl

If you’re like most of us, in the “not a big fan” camp, there is hope.  A psychological concept from the 1960′s (Aaron T. Beck) called Cognitive Reframing is currently being used to improve memory, reduce test anxiety, and help parents and children cope with disabilities [link: PDF].  

Disclaimer: I have no formal education in psychology.  Any knowledge comes from my casual study of consumer behaviour, NLP, and self-improvement from well-known authors and various internet sources.   

The premise of much of the work is that stress-related behaviours are initiated by perceptions and that these self-defeating perceptions can be changed.  Practitioners in the NLP field have developed a 6 step process to overcome these self-defeating perceptions, those steps are laid out below.

1. Identify the pattern/perception/behaviour to be changed. 

“I know I should spend more time cold calling but I don’t like it and am going to have another coffee and…  mmm… donuts…”

2. Establish communication with the part of your inner voice that is responsible for the thought.  Identify and listen to where the voice is coming from and what it has to say. 

You: “Hello inner-cold call hater.”  

Inner brain: “Waaaaazzzzuuup?!?!”

3. Separate the intention from the behaviour. Even negative or self-defeating perceptions have a positive or self-serving/preserving motivation rooted beneath them.  Ask yourself, why did this behaviour develop?  If your inner brain talks back, try the 5 whys approach

You: “Why are you trying to prevent me from making my calls?”

Inner brain: “Because failure sucks, and cold calling requires massive failure before you can succeed.  I only want you to feel good.”

4. Use your sales skills to sell your Inner Brain on an alternative response or behaviour to the negative action. 

You: “Our company brings huge value to our customers, remember how happy our last customer was?”

Inner brain: “Oh yeah, they were so happy they named their first son after our company… which was weird because he was already 17.”

You: “So by making these cold calls, even though we might be interrupting their day, we’re giving new companies the chance to be that happy.”

Inner brain: “Werd! It almost seems rude to not call.”

5. Make an agreement with your inner brain to form the new habit.

You: “So… about these cold calls, next time we need to do them, lets think about all the potential good we could bring to the companies, OK?”

Inner brain: “Roger that.”

6.  Visualize yourself experiencing the behaviours in the future.  See yourself acknowledging the old response and actively choosing to respond with the new alternative behaviour.  Make a note to remember this visualization next time you encounter the trigger.    

Reframing takes time and it can take multiple encounters to reframe and reprogram your inner brain with the new response.   Be persistant, review your thoughts regularly, and then celebrate once the new response sticks.  You now have the power to reprogram your brain. 

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