• Matthew Trethewey

Perception vs Circumstance

Perception vs Circumstance is a reframing technique. Reframing helps people find solutions and break free from the problems and emotions that are blocking their progress.

Perception is a belief or opinion, often held by many people and based on how things seem. A circumstance is a fact or event that makes a situation the way it is.

Reframing a perspective is moving a client from one disempowering perspective to another, empowering perspective. The idea behind this power tool is to shift the client's thinking from a disempowering perspective blaming their circumstances to an empowering view and to change their perception so that their thoughts, feelings and actions align with achieving their desired outcomes.

In our lives, we have all kinds of circumstances occur. Are they good circumstances? Are they bad? It depends on our perception. How we act and feel are not caused by the circumstances but rather by our perception of them.

We bring ourselves down when we perceive a circumstance as bad, and we bring ourselves up when we perceive a circumstance as good. If we could see that it's within our power to switch perceptions, we'd be free to create the day we want.

The perception we have of anything is always what drives our thoughts, our feelings and our actions.

So, would we be more effective in managing circumstances or managing perception? Which could change our life faster and more effectively?

Behaviour always flows from perception. And the good news here is that we can change perception. A circumstance can be anything. We can keep shifting our perception of that circumstance until it's in alignment with our mission.

Imagine a life in which you are welcoming to every circumstance. There are times in people's lives when they perceive life in such a way – when they are in a good enough mood when things are "breaking their way" – that whatever circumstance appears, whether on the news or over the phone, they welcome it. In those beautiful moments, they realise that it's always a matter of perception.

Lindsay's Brady's profound book on hypnosis, As the Pendulum Swings, discovered, after working with over 20,000 clients, that perception is what drives human behaviour. We behave based on how we perceive things – not based on how things really "are".

Let's say that you strongly believe in marriage. You think that once a couple gets married, that's it. And you certainly do not believe in divorce! However, the circumstance in your life is that your marriage has been deteriorating for some time. And then, one day, without warning, your spouse asks you for a divorce.

Now, look at your thoughts. Look at how you behave. Look at your actions. There is disbelief, denial, confusion, and resentment. Soon you are in panic mode, and you begin to pace back and forth. The mere thought of being alone terrifies you, and all of a sudden, your future seems so bleak.

But imagine now that you perceive marriage differently. You believe that once a couple gets married, the marriage should remain so but only if that is what both want; in some instances, divorce may be necessary or unavoidable.

The circumstance in your life remains the same: your marriage has been deteriorating for some time. However, this time, when your spouse asks you for a divorce, your response is different. There is understanding, clarity, respect and acceptance. Soon you begin to feel relieved. You may even feel happy! The thought of being single again excites you, and all of a sudden, your future seems to be brighter.

Look at those two different ways of responding to the divorce. So different. The circumstance here was the same: the spouse wants a divorce. But the perception was different, and you can see that the perception drove the two opposite kinds of behaviour.

If we are going to create the life of our dreams, then we will have to take 100% responsibility for our lives. We have to stop blaming our lives on outside circumstances.

Dr Roberts Resnick, a psychotherapist in Los Angeles, California, talked about a straightforward but essential formula that made this idea of 100% responsibility even more apparent.

The formula is:

E + R = O (Event + Response = Outcome)

Another way of looking at this is:

C + P = O (Circumstance + Perception = Outcome)

In coaching, using the E + R = O Reframing Technique is a simple but yet powerful process. When this technique is applied consistently, people's imaginations, thought patterns, behaviours, achievements, and lives transform. That's when people take full responsibility for their lives and the results they produce.

The basic idea is this: Every outcome people experience in life (whether it is success or failure, wealth or poverty, health or illness, intimacy or estrangement, joy or frustration) results from how they have responded to an earlier event or events in their life.

If people don't like the outcomes they are currently getting, they can make two basic choices.

  1. They can blame the event (E) for their lack of results. In other words, they can blame the economy, the weather, the lack of money, their lack of education, racism, gender bias, the government, their wife or husband, the boss's attitude, the lack of support, the political climate, the system or lack of systems, and so on. No doubt all these factors exist, but nobody would ever succeed if they were the deciding factor.

  2. They can instead change their responses (R) to the events (E) – the way things are – until they get the outcomes (O) they want.

With the C + P = O approach, it simply means changing people's perceptions (P) to the circumstances (C) so that their thoughts and feelings change, and they then go on to take continued action until they get the outcomes (O) they want.

If people don't like their outcomes, they need to change their responses. People have control over three main things in their lives:

  1. The thoughts they think

  2. The images they visualise

  3. The actions they take (their behaviour).

How they use these three things determines the outcomes they will experience. If they don't like what they are producing and experiencing, they have to change their response:

  • Change their negative thoughts to positive ones

  • Change what they visualise and imagine about

  • Change their habits and behaviours

  • Change what they read and watch

  • Change their friends

  • Change how they talk to themselves and others

So how do we get people to change? If we try to coerce them, they will resist. Instead, we use the coaching process to empower people to want to change. Then we support them to make the change happen. We start by listening, observing, using our intuition, and asking powerful questions, using a simple yet powerful Reframing Technique according to the E + R = O formula.

Here is one scenario that demonstrates what happens when people reframe and change a different response to create a different outcome that they want with the help of a coach.

Case Study: E + R = O (C + P = O) Reframing Technique


Jenny and her colleague worked very hard to get promotions. After 12 months, her colleague got promoted, but Jenny did not get a promotion.


Jenny felt unfairly treated and jealous of her colleague. She blames others, felt demoralised, and wanted to quit her job.


Her relationship with her boss and colleague deteriorated, and her performance on the job dropped drastically.


Same event

Jenny and her colleague worked very hard to get promotions. After 12 months, her colleague got promoted, but Jenny did not get a promotion.

Different Response

Jenny talked to her coach about how to take responsibility for the results that she wanted. She spoke to her colleague to find out what her colleague did to get the promotion. She sought advice and feedback from her boss about where she stood and what she needed to do to get the promotion.

Different Outcome

Jenny obtained helpful and positive input from her boss and her colleague about what actions to take. With the support of her coach, Jenny continued to improve until she received her promotion six months later.

The E + R = O Reframing Technique is instrumental in enabling people to take responsibility for changing their thoughts, imagery, and behaviour to produce the outcome that they want. Reframing helps people change their mindsets and redirect their energies to focus on positive things and opportunities. These become available when they replace these self-defeating reactions with empowering reactions to achieve their desired results.

As coaches, we can use the Reframing Technique at the appropriate time when we pick up red flags such as limiting and self-defeating thoughts and interpretations, poor attitude, and assumptions that are creating problems preventing people from achieving their goals. The Reframing Technique will help people move from being stuck to becoming resourceful, from being preoccupied with doom stories to focusing on creative success stories.

Here are a series of questions that will help coaches prepare to allow clients to use the E + R = O (C + P = O) Reframing Technique.

  • If you could change your response to produce the outcome that you wanted, what would it be?

  • How can you look at this issue in a different way that gives you a positive feeling?

  • In what way can you think, imagine, or act differently to get the outcome that you want?

  • What would be a different response to this event that could give you a more favourable result?

  • Assuming you are not able to change others, what could you do to make the situation better?

  • Since you can be in complete control of your responses, what choices could you make?

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