Meredith Oliver


IT’S TIME TO ALT (Part 1 of 2)

January 16, 2020

alt part one lightbulbs

If you haven’t read the first two blogs in the Reframe series, I encourage you to do so before you continue on!

Many years ago, when I was competing in the Miss America Scholarship pageant system, I placed first-runner up not once, not twice, but nine consecutive pageants in a row. For those of you unfamiliar with the world of pageantry, you need to know only this: No one wants to be first runner-up! It’s considered the least optimal place—in fact, I would have rather been the fourth runner up.

But before I come off sounding ungrateful, let me explain why this is the case. First runner-up essentially expresses the sentiment that you nearly won but didn’t quite score high enough to be named the winner. And I think you can all admit that typically, we view being someone’s second choice as a negative. Right? Because it means you weren’t quite good enough to be first choice.

But here’s a thought: What if we reframed the concept of “alternate” to mean something different? What if we chose to view the alternate status as the opening of a door to new opportunities and freedom from old habits, beliefs, and actions that weren’t achieving our goals? Well in that case—or at least in mine—you may finally win your first local title, Miss Sanford.


We previously discussed Cognitive Reframing as well as the first step of this tool called CTRL or “Control Your Frame.” You may recall that in the CTRL step we became brutally honest about the situation, relationship, adversity or obstacle we are facing. When fully immersed in this step, you might find yourself mourning the way things used to be or angry at where things are now. That’s okay. The feelings mean you are being vulnerable and honest with yourself. You are seeing things how they truly are.

BUT if your goal is to get unstuck, then we can’t stay in the sad, angry, confusing CTRL phase forever. That’d be exhausting! So when you’re ready, we’re going to dive into the second step of Cognitive Reframing called ALT or “Find an Alternative Frame.”


The ALT mindset is quite simple—but it calls for you to turn OFF your opinions and turn ON your analytical mind.

Start by making a list of the facts regarding your situation. What do I mean by this? Facts are quantifiable, verifiable statements. Which means that facts and opinions? Not the same thing! Consider that your opinion is a judgment, view or appraisal “formed in the mind.” And so we’re both clear on what that means, let’s look at some examples:

“My boss hates me” is not a fact. It’s an opinion.

“My boss gave me a 92 out of 100 on my performance evaluation” is a fact.

“I will never get out of debt and buy a home” is not a fact. It’s an opinion.

“Most banks require a 580 – 620 credit score to qualify for a mortgage and my credit score is 500” is a fact.

Seeing the difference? Most of the time our frame is created from our opinions. What’s more, our opinions come from long-held beliefs, fears, and emotions. But the moment you separate your opinions from the facts, the things that once seemed impossible, overwhelming, and frustrating become much clearer and more attainable. That’s because focusing on the facts moves you from a mindset of the victim of a situation to a proactive, problem-solver who is moving forward!

Now back to your obstacle that we discussed in CTRL. Take some time to write down as many facts about this obstacle as possible. List both positive and negative facts. And remember: If you can’t quantify or verify it, then it’s not a fact! Cross it off the list and keep writing.


Do you have all of your facts about your obstacle laid out before you? Excellent! You’re ready for the next step in ALT which is: Challenge your facts by asking yourself, “what else is true?”

Let’s use the example above about your performance evaluation score. We could also add to the list of facts that no one in the office received a score of 100. Wow—that’s liberating! Keep going. Let’s also consider that your boss listed two specific opportunities in the comments section to raise your score next year. Finally, it’s a fact that with the score of 92 you will be receiving the year-end bonus—in the same quantity as those who scored higher.

See how this works? Now, keep digging until you’ve amassed as long a list of facts as you can. Worried opinions are rampant in your list? No problem. Sit down with a friend or co-worker and ask them to challenge each one, ensuring they aren’t opinions or interpretations but true facts. Not comfortable with that? Turn to online research to help verify what is fact versus an opinion.

Stay tuned for next week where I’ll reveal Part 2 of this ALT tool and give you the perfect example of how to “ALT” your frame in a tricky situation!

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