Lockdown Lounge #6 – Reframe, refocus and refresh your perspective

Lounge [lounj] verb

  1. to pass time idly and indolently.
  2. lie, sit, or stand in a relaxed or lazy way.

Also:

  1. to meet up in a warm, supportive environment, taking models from the world of mentoring and coaching to review life in lockdown.
  2. to reconnect with fellow creatives in the Lockdown Lounge, curated by the Guildhall Coaching and Mentoring Faculty.

On the 15th July 2020, another meeting of the Lockdown Lounge rolled round – the sixth one since our first date on the 6th May.

Returning Loungers and first-timers convened to share experiences and to bring fresh lenses to look at the challenges and opportunities that the previous four months had brought.

And who knows how many more months to come?

Refreshments will be served

Greetings and welcomes were offered by Jo, our host for the afternoon. In charge of the conversational menu was our principal mixologist for the day, Trevor, with PatCarlos and Chris on hand as waiters, stewards and bar staff.

Physically distant, socially close

Respectful behaviour within the Lounge means that we make no assumptions about where the other Loungers are coming from, physically, emotionally or socially. The room is confidential, the atmosphere positive and curious.

“Be curious, not judgmental” wrote the American poet Walt Whitman, and the Lockdown Lounge could do worse than to have that as its motto.

Life lessons from a Traffic Warden

Trevor promised us a session to help us to reframe our issues in a way that makes our reflections a positive or useful experience. He kicked off with this quote from Hamlet.

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In this scene, Hamlet is explaining his state of mind to the servants Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. To him, Denmark is a prison. They disagree… and he points out that because he thinks it’s a prison it becomes one.

His reality is created by his thoughts. It’s the fact that he’s so self-aware that makes him unhappy.

Hang on, what’s Hamlet got to do with traffic wardens?

Trevor pointed out the largely laid-back reactions of traffic wardens when confronted by disgruntled drivers. The traffic wardens are polite and courteous, no matter what insults are thrown at them.

They choose to see the encounter as just part of the job – they reframe the experience.

Rather than focus on the personal attack, they see it as a symptom of frustration. They have a choice.

Either they carry the wounds of the meeting around with them all day, or they can decline the invitation to join in with the drama.

Which would you choose?

Choice and Focus

No matter what situation we find ourselves in, three choices are always available to us:

  • What we focus on
  • How we frame it
  • How we respond

For the first part of the discussion, Trevor chose to focus his focus on focus.

He gave the example of two parents, talking after their young child has put a plate covered in peanut butter into the dishwasher.

One parent might lament the fact that the peanut butter is going to go everywhere and mean that the whole load has to be done again – and the other parent might celebrate the realisation that at least the child thought to put the plate away.

The classic half-full, half-empty issue.

Where do you focus?

Habits of focus

Where we focus affects how we feel, and that choice to focus will change depending on how resourceful or not we feel on any given day.

If we focus on…

The past…

This helps our learning. By being curious about what happened, we can use our experiences to our best advantage.

The present…

We are better able to set targets. Where are we now? What is that telling us?

The future…

We can plan and question what it is that we actually want.

The views of others…

This helps us to operate in society. We balance our own needs with the needs of others.

What we can or cannot control…

We can find acceptance. What might look like helplessness might just allow us to explore the areas in which we do have agency.

Trevor introduced us to the Habits of Focus tool that can help us to think about where our focus is at any given time. By adjusting the sliders on these five areas of focus, we can investigate our instinctive reactions to challenges or triggers.

(The interactive version is available from the Linden Learning website here).

What’s your habit?

The Loungers were more than ready to compare notes.

Trevor stirred the contents of the brew and ensured the waiters were ready with their stimulating salvers and conversational condiments.

We were indeed ready. Time to taste three simple questions:

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Regulars to the Lockdown Lounge know that the Loungers rarely hold strictly to the conversation brief, and newcomers soon discover that.

In the breakout room that I was in, the discussion largely focussed around the reframing of ‘helplessness’ into ‘acceptance’. We can learn to accept that lockdown broke down many of our routines, and many people have found their own ways to take back control.

We have been adapting our artforms, taking up different ways to express our creativity, writing and even exercising differently – cycling and running, for many Loungers, had become our way of maintaining a feeling of agency over our current challenges.

Other conversations flowed around the ideas of when it is most useful to change focus and to ask ‘what can I control’?

We need to accept that it is effortful to find new ways to be and that we might need to move our attention to past decisions, present behaviours or future goals depending on our level of resourcefulness.

“We need to reflect on opportunities to grow and keep our sense of discovery”

Frames of Mind

Trevor brought us back into focus.

He talked about two simple exercises that can help us to reframe issues in a way to make them more manageable.

Reframe by size

We know we all have bad days.

But what happens if we expand the frame? It might be a bad day, but is it a bad week? A bad month? A bad year?

We can change our focus by changing the size of the frame – and in that way we put the issue into perspective.

Think about these two statements:

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The first statement draws a catastrophic conclusion from a single incident.

This would benefit from expanding the frame. What’s the bigger picture?

  • What are you proud of?
  • When have you been a positive influence?

The second statement is a result of overwhelm – there is so much to cope with!

Here it would be more beneficial to shrink the frame.

  • Which bits are in your control?
  • What’s the smallest change that would make a difference?
  • Where are the exceptions?
  • Where would be a good place to start?

In any given situation, try asking yourself this question:

What am I pleased about in how I’ve responded to this challenge?

Patient: “I know I’ll feel better about this in the future.”

Therapist: “Why wait?”

Reframe by type

We don’t always focus our lenses on the most helpful part of the problem.

All too often we stare helplessly at the problem when we could be looking for what’s possible.

“Whoever does not know how to hit the nail on the head should be asked not to hit it at all.”

Friedrich Nietzsche


Think of all those times when you’ve thought yourself a failure when something goes wrong, rather than regarding it as feedback to improve your future – as a message to your most resilient self.

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

Thomas Edison

“If you haven’t failed today, you’re not trying hard enough.”

Adapted from Jennifer Crusie

When you find yourself saying “I can’t…” or “He can’t…” or “You can’t expect it from…”, try reframing to become an explorer.

What actually is possible in this situation? What are the opportunities? What previously unseen openings appear when you start exploring?

“Nothing is impossible – the word itself says ‘I’m possible’”

Audrey Hepburn

Shifting perspectives


Putting those reframings simply, Trevor asked us to look at these significant frame-shifts…

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… and once again turned his hand to the available ingredients to mix his personal heady cocktail.

The menu was prepared: as prompts for discussion – with Lockdown Lounge these are never set topics that must be followed – he asked us to consider the following questions:

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More than in any of the other Lounges, the sense of having to accept the limitations of lockdown emerged from the discussions. We’ve all had to adapt in ways that we never thought possible before.

“I’ve got to give things time – forget the mindset that says ‘I’ve got to solve it right now’”

“If your heart is in something and it fails, that hurts – but at least your heart was in something

One Lounger considered the parallel with climbing.

When you approach a wall, always know what your first three moves are going to be, and the third move must leave you in a positive body position – a place of rest. From there you can reassess and look for your next three moves. Life in lockdown – with so many uncertainties – can be helped by planning your next three moves, even if what happens after that is unknown.

Other responses were around strategies to handle this feeling of uncertainty.

“Better than the fight or flight response is the upgrade – fight, flight or laugh”

“We almost always have the right answer as long as we ask the right question”

“When we look at other people, it’s easy to see the ‘emblems of success’ – we don’t see the stumbles and failures on the way”

“There’s a moment of freedom when things get so bad that they can’t get worse”

Also emerging from several Loungers was the need to be observant of our reactions.

“You can’t reframe if you’re not aware”

“Breathe, observe, check in – just notice”

Reframing exercises

In his notes to his waiters, Trevor offered some reframing exercises which, although not used in the session, are worth looking at.

Reframing problems into solutions

Focus on the goal

  • What do you want instead?
  • How would you know if things were getting better?

Find exceptions

  • When are things better?
  • When is it worst and when is it best? (looking for the range of the challenge)

Use the word ‘how’ rather than ‘why’?

  • How could you move things towards your goal?
  • How would you benefit from reaching your goal?

Reframing failure into feedback

Acknowledge it as an opportunity to improve

  • What have you learned?
  • How would you do things differently?
  • In what way are you better off for the experience?

Expand the frame

  • How will you feel in 6 months?
  • How might others interpret it differently?
  • Which bits were a success?         

Value mastery over short-term results

  • What skills have you developed through this experience?
  • In what way are you more capable than you would be had you played it safe?

Reframing impossibility into explorer

Recognise that ‘unlikely’ or ‘difficult’ is not the same as impossible

  • How much effort will it take to give you a chance?
  • What would make it more likely?

Break it down and focus on the bits that are doable

  • What is doable?
  • Where do you have influence?
  • Where would you start to explore options?

Explore alternative ways to achieve the same outcome

  • How many routes are there to the summit of this mountain?
  • What’s the higher intention for your goal and how else might you achieve this intention?

Last thoughts

In summing up, Trevor reminded us that three things are always under control

  • What we focus on
  • How we frame it
  • How we respond

In that way we get more choice in our responses – firstly our internal responses and then our behavioural responses.

Focus on where we have confidence and focus on where we do have control.

And with that, we were again off into the warm July evening, reframed, refocussed and – hopefully – re-energised.

The Loungers were again generous in their farewell messages:

“Thank you so much – all of you!! Great session. Just what I needed.”

“The power is within our control. Thanks!”

“Choices to remember in times of dismay and distress”

“I struggle with finding my own solutions to re-framing so this has been fantastic to hear those of others that I can model my own on.  See you in two weeks!”

Lounge [lounj] noun

  1. a comfortable room in a house where people sit and relax
  2. a room or area in a place such as an airport where people can sit and wait
  3. a public room in a place such as a hotel,  university, or hospital where people can sit and relax

See also:

Lockdown Lounge [lok-doun lounj] noun

  1. a place of mutual support and friendly conversation, offering a range of useful tolls from coaching and mentoring, run fortnightly by the Guildhall Coaching and Mentoring Faculty.

To find the date of the next Lockdown Lounge meet up and to book a place at the Zoom meeting, send an email to: coachingandmentoring@gsmd.ac.uk headed ‘Lockdown Lounge’.

Please note that numbers may be limited.

Dictionary definitions adapted from various online dictionaries including https://www.dictionary.com and https://www.merriam-webster.com.

(The exercises offered to our readers at home are sometimes slightly modified in the light of feedback from our Loungers.)

… and if you enjoy my writing, why not buy me a coffee at Ko-fi.com/chrisbrannick? It’s not expected or demanded, but I’d be really touched. I live on appreciation and coffee… in that order

Photo by Oleg Magni from Pexels

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