Reframing: Flexible Thinking for Personal and Global Wellness


Lannie Kanevsky, Ph.D.

Associate Professor, Faculty of Education, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, BC




Bright, hungry, passionate minds don’t have an “off” switch. They are constantly, intensely whirring . . . wondering . . . . This has the power to change their lives and the world for the better when its strengths are constructively focussed on difficulties.


Sometimes the churning can get stuck, mired. For example, we’ve all experienced some constraints to our lives lately that seemed dominated by down-sides. With the Covid-19 restrictions, it’s been easy to notice all of the things we can’t do the way we used to. It’s harder to think about the opportunities created by those constraints. The latter involves flexible thinking and an intentional shift in perspective. That shift is called “reframing” (Dinkmeyer & Losoncy, 1995, p. 95-98). It comes naturally to some and can be quite a struggle for others, no matter how brilliant they might be. It’s a technique that’s used in many situations and professions, from scientific problem-solving and advertising to therapy.


I’ve used reframing in workshops with adolescents and others who are trying to make sense of themselves and their place in the world. Some are stuck. Reframing is a great way to get unstuck by viewing themselves and their situation from another perspective.


We do an exercise in which they make a list of a few words or phrases describing things they consider their flaws. These are referred to as “liabilities” in reframing jargon. I invite the participants to trade lists. Then I ask them to reframe their partner’s liabilities as strengths or “assets.” For example, if their partner identified stubbornness as one of their liabilities, stubbornness might be reframed as persistence or perhaps values- driven. Or, if their partner sees themselves as bossy, it might be reframed as leadership.


After they finish reframing their partner’s liabilities as assets, they return the list to their partners and they talk. Owners of the traits resist, their partner insists, they clarify, they laugh. What initially felt threatening is lighter. Perceived weaknesses take on a dimension of strength and new possibilities. The general consensus has been that they’d never thought of themselves so positively and this is kind of fun.


After the first round, I invite them to come up with one or two more liabilities. This time they reframe them for themselves. I see smiles; it feels good. They feel stronger. The next time they can only see their flaws they just might try reframing.


Then we talk about other times that reframing might come in handy. We zoom out to global dilemmas. Can they be reframed as opportunities to achieve global wellness? Instead of feeling paralyzed by their enormity, can we reframe them as opportunities for action? What might they do? How might they get involved? How would that feel?


We can choose to view global dilemmas, like the pandemic or climate change, from a passive or an active perspective. It’s easier to get stuck when viewing them passively.


Yes, the pandemic is a horrific nightmare. A passive approach to it would be to learn about Covid-19 and its consequences without doing anything. How does that feel?


An active approach would be to learn about it and then do something to change it, to help, to get involved. Efforts can be large or small. Put that whirring mind to work. The possibilities for action endless and empowering. How does that feel? According to Abe Tannenbaum (2009), gifted children are defined by their POTENTIAL to become gifted adults who “enhance the moral, physical, emotional, social, intellectual or aesthetic life of humanity.


” The ability to think flexibly plays a fundamental role in the development of their talents, whether they are using it to understand themselves, a global dilemma, or anything else. Let’s do what we can to ensure they have skills and opportunities to reframe and the courage to act."



Dinkmeyer, D. Losoncy, L. (1995). Skills of encouragement: Bringing out the best in yourself and others. CRC Press.

Tannenbaum, A. J. (2009). Defining, determining, discovering, & developing excellence.

In J. S. Renzulli, E. J. Gubbins, K. S. McMillen, R. D. Eckert, & C. A. Little (Eds.), Systems & models for developing programs for the gifted & talented. (2nd ed., pp. 503-569). Prufrock Press.


About Lannie Kanevsky, PhD.

Dr Lannie Kanevsky is Associate Professor in the Faculty of Education, Simon Fraser University, California. Her current research investigates why, when and how high ability students want to learn in individual and collaborative group settings. She has worked with parents and educators in the USA, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore and Europe.




Posted as part of the 2020 New Zealand Gifted Awareness Blog Tour, run by the New Zealand Centre for Gifted Education.

The views and opinions expressed in the Gifted Awareness Week Blog Tour are solely those of the original authors and other contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of NZCGE, their staff, and/or any/all contributors to Gifted Awareness Week.


Reframing- Flexible Thinking for Personal and Global Wellness

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