It's a new year so why not a new you? Color Up, Get Unstuck! We’re used to making New Year’s resolutions, putting new plans in place to improve ourselves, and our lives. And there’s the rub. Waiting for the first of the year, believing it’s a special time to take action, thinking a change has to be a big deal, and making pronouncements about it, risks ending up making little “progress” at all. Thinking that there’s a special time to make change is a framing problem.
In our book, Color Up to Create the Life You Want to Live, we define framing as what happens when you describe and interpret situations in fixed and limiting ways. Believing that big life changes should happen on January 1 is a framing problem. Believing there are just two alternatives is a framing problem. When a situation is framed as having only two options, either this pile or that one, you typically end up with inadequate and often incorrect information. Framing a problem too narrowly means losing out on possibilities of being more flexible and creative—not to mention the opportunity to learn something new or even be surprised completely. Framing a problem in limited ways usually means staying stuck.
What if you saw every decision you make as an opportunity to make change? So instead of waiting around for a special moment to arrive in which you will do a drastic make-over of your life, what if you made every moment special—special in that you can choose to frame the situation differently?
You can choose to always see more than two options. In Color Up, we used the color wheel to literally help you create new choices for your life. We don’t expect you to carry around a color wheel and consult it when you have the opportunity to make a new choice, but it can be a constant reminder for making sure you always have more than two options when making decisions. You can start with always finding a third option, and then you can try to find four, five, six.
Make it a game! It’s a game that will be much more rewarding than vowing to lose five pounds by March. That’s because when you open up your frame, you open up your world. In COLOR Up, you have the opportunity to expand how you view your life dilemmas. Invite more things into your world by opening up your frame.
So what does this mean in practice? The next time you find yourself stuck, trying to make a decision, color up to get unstuck. Come up with at least three ways of approaching the situation. Maybe it’s something as simple as whether to attend a friend’s destination wedding 200 miles away, to let your 10-year-old have the cell phone he’s been wanting, or to attend a holiday party at your in-laws’ house instead of the office party where you know you’ll have fun with co-workers. How many in-betweens of this or that can you come up with? Let’s start with the destination wedding. Can you use it as an opportunity to also visit friends near by? What about not attending the wedding but going to see the newly married couple for another long weekend, when you can all catch up with the frenzy of a wedding as backdrop? Yet a third option--What if you sent a very nice gift that they could use at the site of the wedding? Are they getting married at a mountain resort? How about hiking poles and a picnic lunch? Are they getting married at the beach? Would they like a whale-watching excursion, a day of deep-sea fishing, or a romantic dinner at the beach?
Now what about your son and that cell phone? If you truly believe 10 is too young for a cell phone, stick to your guns and color up to get unstuck. Can you offer alternatives that will move the decision out of either or? Perhaps you let him use your iPad for an hour a day on the weekends. Perhaps your son gets to choose a family activity for the weekends—a Ping-Pong tournament, hiking a mountain you haven’t been up before, or training for a 5-K fun run.
And, if you’re trying to decide between a party at your in-laws or with your co-workers, what about attending a little bit of both events? Can you stop in at both parties? Or do something special with the group whose party you choose not to attend? Invite your in-laws to a nice lunch or afternoon tea. What about sending a nice floral arrangement to your in-laws that will add a nice touch to the holiday party that you won’t be attending? What about inviting your co-workers for a happy hour in February, when the holidays are over and the winter doldrums are back?
Coming up with more than two options, maybe even four or five, is in fact an excellent way of making your life more colorful in all the seasons because you appreciate the range of options that are always available. You are constantly getting yourself unstuck by coloring up.
If it’s hard for you to think of more than two options, get a little help from your friends. Ask your spouse to help think of options over coffee at your favorite café or a glass of wine by the fire. Even your kids can be helpful. They will often come up with silly ideas that may not be practical in and of themselves but can lead you to think more imaginatively yourself. So make color up, get unstuck your mantra for the New Year, and you will be happily surprised at how every decision becomes an adventure, an opportunity to create anew.