Have you ever heard of Nick Santonastasso? If not, let me educate you a little bit. Nick Santonastasso is a man who brings true meaning to the word limitless. Born with a rare condition called Hanhart syndrome, he possesses one arm and no legs. He’s also an entrepreneur, bodybuilder (yes…bodybuilder), model and inspirational speaker. Apart from the obvious, many things make Nick special. Unlike most people, he does not let his physical ailment define or limit him. Nick credits his ability to reframe all the challenges he’s faced in his life with becoming a successful entrepreneur and highly sought after public speaker.
What is Cognitive Reframing?
Have you ever been involved in a shitty situation, like being stuck in traffic while trying to make it to an appointment, or sustaining an injury right before a big race? What about something more serious, like suffering a loss or being diagnosed with a terrible disease? While I know we’ve been taught to believe that everything happens for a reason, I tend to believe something slightly different.
All situations that happen to us in life have no inherent meaning. We are the ones who assign meaning to everything that happens. We see various situations through certain frames or lenses. With cognitive reframing, we change the way we look at things and consequently change how we experience them.
Remember the serenity prayer? Well, this kind of an approach enables us to implement the ancient wisdom that we can’t always control what happens to us, but we can certainly control how we react to different situations – no matter how tough or shitty the circumstance.
I know what you’re thinking—this is easier said than done–which is an obvious point, but I maintain… ‘the work’ is always in the doing. Besides, what’s the alternative? Asking ‘why me?’ or lamenting over the fact that life isn’t fair–which it isn’t. This gets us nowhere. But cognitive reframing does. In fact, the minute we decide to reframe a shitty situation, is the minute we exercise our ultimate power. The situation no longer has control over us. And this is exactly what Nick Santonastasso has done so poignantly. He credits reframing with changing his life. Growing up his biggest suicidal trigger was the idea he held about women not wanting to be with him. When he reframed his beliefs about himself, it lead to a new found confidence and self-acceptance. Nick now believes that if a woman doesn’t want to further a relationship with him because of his physical differences, then his physical differences are an authentic filter, filtering out the women he shouldn’t be with anyways. This is what he calls finding a more constructive interpretation of what is happening to you.
The main point of cognitive reframing is to find a more positive interpretation, view or experience of unexpected adverse events, concepts or even ideas that we dislike. With cognitive reframing, we challenge ourselves to illuminate positive sides of challenging situations, avoid seeing only the negative, and identify a brighter narrative of what is happening to us. And while this is far from easy–it’s extremely effective.