When I first quit smoking, years back, I came across a bit of advice from a guy who had successfully quit years before but still trolled the QuitNet boards, offering his hard-won wisdom to us newbies.
That advice made the difference to me then, and it continues to improve my life even today. It’s amazing to me how many different kinds of context this piece of advice can be applied to successfully.
This powerful nugget of wisdom was first stated to me in the context of giving up a habit and was phrased something like this: “When you get that craving, stop thinking ‘Oh, crap. Another craving. I want a cigarette soooooo much!’ Instead, think ‘Yay! A craving! I wouldn’t be having a craving if I hadn’t successfully quit smoking, so this is working! Yay ME!'”
In simpler turns, my online sherpa was trying to turn me on to the fine art of recasting.
What Is Recasting?
Recasting is the term I use to describe the process of reframing events and outside triggers, changing them from negatives to positives.
Simply put, it’s consciously changing your mind about something that causes you stress or panic.
Here’s an example: your month-end review of your accounts receivable shows a stomach-churning percentage of unpaid invoices. Bills are due and you’ve got folks out there owing you five grand for work you turned in ages ago.
Your first reaction, if you’re like most humans, is to think something along these lines: “Oh, damn, what am I going to do? This is horrible! I’ve got to call these people and email them and write them again. It’s the third time in as many months, and they are just not gonna pay me. Whatever will become of me?”
OK, unless you’re one of those old-timey melodrama heroines, you’ll probably use different phrasing but basically, that’s the response.
Now, it’s a logical response. It’s a fair response. It’s a valid response.
But it’s not a helpful response. All it does is continue to feed your fears, prey on your aversion to homelessness and going hungry, and cast you and your business, in the depths of your shadowy consciousness, as Big Fat Failures.
Instead, recasting would mean you take a moment and consciously choose to tell yourself something like this: “Fabulous! Look at all that money that’s coming in to me! I must be doing something right or I wouldn’t even have that many invoices sent to begin with! Wow, an opportunity to go after what’s mine without being a jerk! Isn’t this awesome?”
What this does? Is kind of remarkable.
First, it calms you down. Puts you in a physical, mental, and emotional state that’s much more conducive to problem-solving.
Secondly, it squashes the fear bug dead. It’s hard to be afraid of something when you’re looking at it positively.
Finally, it primes you for action. Instead of sitting at your desk and tearing your hair out, you’re ready to go out there and take some kind of action to change the situation.
A Few Warnings on Recasting
Now, here’s the rub. You can’t recast just any old way. It won’t work, for instance, if you simply say to yourself, “Yay! Accounts receivable! What a JOYFUL event!”
You’ve got to be specific, and you’ve got to be internally credible. Whatever recast you choose, it’s got to be something that you can buy, at some level.
That doesn’t mean you have to swallow it hook, line, and sinker. When done correctly and mindfully, the recasting technique is perfectly capable of actually changing your automatic thought patterns.
But you do have to give your brain a fighting chance. So pick a thought-flow that has a hook that grabs you, something that makes you go, “Well, yeah, I can kinda see the logic in that … ”
Practice Makes Perfect
Last tip: recasting doesn’t come automatically. This is something you have to work at, and you may even have to stop and remind yourself of the “new thoughts” a number of times before they become second nature.
Give it a try. Next time you feel the panic rise over some external stressor, take a deep breath and recast your thinking. Then see how you feel.
Have you ever tried recasting, maybe without even knowing what it was or why it worked? Share it in the comments!