How to reframe your life into a work of art.
The happiest person I have ever met is my husband’s grandmother. Whenever I see her, she has a smile on her face, and you can’t help but feel the joy radiating from within. At age 94, she is still active, always in high spirits, and usually has a joke to share.
Hoping to solve the mystery of her never-fading smile, one day I asked her, “Savta, what’s your secret? How are you always so happy?” She looked at me with a twinkle in her eye and responded with a chuckle, “Secret? It’s really no secret. Just don’t think about the bad things in life. Only focus on the good. That’s it!”
Could the secret to happiness be so simple? But the more I contemplated her words, the more I realized the profundity of her advice. We choose how to perceive and interpret the events that happen in our life, and we can choose to look at the positive.
When God created the world, the Torah says, “God saw that it was very good.” Over the course of creation, this phrase is mentioned a total of seven times. It would have been sufficient to write the phrase once at the end of creation to wrap things up. Why does the Torah repeat this phrase numerous times?
Human beings are hardwired for critical thinking. This amazing capability allows us to assess the world around us in an intelligent way. But this trait can also color our perspective to see the world through a negative lens. The Torah repeats the phrase “God saw that it was very good.” to emphasize the point that we need to constantly be focusing on the good, every single day. That is the key to happiness.
Reframing is a powerful technique that can turn any negative situation into something positive. Visiting my parents in Atlanta, I saw a beautiful piece of art hanging above the mantel. Although it was small, it looked like it had come from an expensive gallery. I asked my mother, “Where did you get this beautiful piece from? It beautiful!”
She laughed and said, “Oh that? I picked it up at a garage sale for five dollars! It had such an ugly frame so I just had it reframed. The frame cost a fortune, but the art cost practically nothing!”
We have been blessed with the incredible power to reframe and train ourselves to put things in proper perspective. Our lives are comprised of thousands of images and experiences, a painting if you will, which we may view as ugly. But if we can take the time and energy to approach them in a different way, these images can be transformed into beautiful works of art. The key is in the frame; by putting time and effort into our reframing, we can see our lives for the masterpieces they really are.
For example, imagine standing in line at the pharmacy waiting to pick up your prescription. You are behind 10 people, and you wait and wait. Apparently, it’s the pharmacist’s first day on the job. If you want your medicine, you are going to have to wait it out.
How do you feel?
Situations like these can be incredibly frustrating. As the anger builds, you hear yourself saying, I am wasting my time! I am wasting my time! and as the minutes tick upward, so does your anger level.
Now try to reframe the situation. Are you really wasting your time? Here’s your opportunity to work on mastering patience and anger management. This can become a very meaningful endeavor for self-improvement. How fortunate!
Reframing has the power to change the way we look at the world around us, from something as simple to standing in line at the pharmacy, to the largest, most impactful events in our lives. Practice reframing with your kids. Throw out a scenario and ask them how they can reframe it and look at it in a positive way.
The more you get into the habit of seeing the good, the happier you will be. Just ask my husband’s 94 year old grandmother.
Dedicated for the complete recovery of Mahtle Blima bas Raizel.
"Savta Sr" (Miriam Lindeberg Z"L) passed away on December 4, 2016, just shy of her 96th birthday. She died unexpectedly yet peacefully in her apartment in Jerusalem. She was healthy, happy, and had a sharp mind for all of her days. We attribute her longevity to the fact that she always saw the good no matter what the circumstance. May this article serve as a reminder to us all to on how to really live life to its fullest in happiness.
L'Ilui Nishmat Miriam bat HaRav Tzvi Shalom Z"L.