How To Know When to Change You or a Situation



“Very often a change of self is needed more than a change of scene.” — Arthur Christopher Benson

Have you ever gotten advice from somebody that was irrelevant for you?

For example, maybe, they wanted to talk about the problem so you could feel better, but what you really needed was new better skills or techniques to tackle the problem.

Or, maybe you’ve spun your wheels on a problem, only to later realize that you all you needed to do was change your approach?

There is a way you can more consistently improve your results and increase your chances at success.

The key is to first figure out is where you need to change.

The Situation Assessment Framework:  Change You or the Situation?

Here’s a simple frame I’ve been using to help my mentees at Microsoft understand where to change, so they play their best game:

Category Change
  • Thinking – Do you need to change your strategies, thinking, or thought patterns?
  • Feeling – Do you need to change how you feel?
  • Doing – Do you need more effective techniques or take more action?
  • Adapt – Do you need to change yourself for the situation?
  • Adjust – Do you need to change or tailor the situation to set yourself up for success?
  • Avoid – Do you need to avoid the situation (if it’s not right for you)?

The frame is organized by you and your situation.

It’s a simple frame, but that’s part of the power.

You can very quickly analyze just about any situation or piece of advice against the frame.

How To Use the Situation Assessment Framework

As simple as this frame looks, it’s very powerful.

If somebody gives you advice and you feel a tug in your gut that it’s not helpful, there’s a good chance that it’s not the advice itself, but it’s at the wrong level.

Telling you how to think about a problem won’t help when you really need a technique and action for the problem.

You can use this frame as a vantage point and to analyze your approach to be more effective.

Changing You

The fastest and most effective thing you can change is yourself.

You should also know that changing your thinking, changes your feelings, changes your actions.

If you know this, it’s a powerful concept.

If you don’t have the energy you need to get results, then you might have to start with changing how you’re thinking about it.

If you’re stuck in analysis paralysis, then you might just need to start taking action and tuning your results.

Changing the Situation

Some people spend too much time trying to change for the situation that’s not right for them.

They ultimately change, but at the expense of their strengths or passion.

Another approach is to get better at figuring out up front where you can play to your strengths.

While you want to be flexible and adaptable, you also need to be self-aware.

If you know your strengths and weaknesses, you can either avoid situations where you won’t be successful or you can set situations up for your success.

If you know your strengths and weaknesses, you can also be more deliberate about how you change for the situation and whether you are giving up your strengths.

Adapt, Adjust, or Avoid

You need to know when to adapt yourself to the situation, adjust the situation to better suit you, or avoid the situation so you don’t get burned.

For example, if you are used to position authority for getting results, then you’ll want to either find those situations where it works or you’ll want to avoid them.

If you want to be more effective across a wider range of projects, situations and roles, then you’ll want to learn how to influence without authority.

The key to remember is that it’s not a question of can you change for the situation — of course you can.

It’s really a question of should you, or is there a way to set the situation up for your success, or is another situation a better fit for you.

You Might Also Like

My Best Rituals for Results that Will Help You Be More effective
How High Performers Use Positive Action Over Positive Thinking
When It’s Cold Shiver, When it’s Hot Sweat
Why It’s Great to Be Able to Make Mistakes


  1. Hey, JD!
    If you get Vista by chance for Xmass, pass it to me. I really like it.
    Happy holidays!

  2. Yes, changing your approach is almost always the way to go. Funny, but I still remember all the things my stage performance / singing coach tried to drill into my head years ago, but it’s only been these past few years I’ve been at last ready to understand what she meant. Guess it had to do with me being finally open to really hearing them. That ever happen to you?

  3. @ Jannie

    I know what you mean. It’s great when things finally click. What’s happening lately for me is that learning things in new areas, makes old things click in other areas. It’s like having enough pieces in place to make out the puzzle.

  4. @ Juliet

    You bet! Here’s a few examples ….
    I used to get frustrated when I would run into traffic, or when my computer would crash or when the printer wouldn’t print. Then I learned that a low frustration tolerance is one of the biggest causes for unhappiness. That was all it took for me to raise my frustration tolerance. Just that one new piece of information, changed my thinking, changed my feeling. It was instant and permanent. To change a feeling, I had to change a thought.

    One of the ways I combat analysis paralysis is I count my actions. Sometimes I realize, all I did was think about something intensely, but didn’t take actions to either test my thinking or put my idea into action. whenever I’m stuck, I walk the frame very quickly and if I’m not taking action, I start, and if I’m taking action, but it’s not working, then I check whether it’s my technique or the situation itself. The Change Frame gives me an immediate lens.

    In terms of adapting, adjusting or avoiding, I use this one a lot. If it’s a project where I won’t be using my strengths, I avoid it and find one that will. In one of my projects, I was the right person, but the situation was off. There were two people that could block the project success, so I adjusted the situation so they had input but weren’t controlling votes. In another scenario, I’m normally results-oriented, but the success for the project was more about the process than the results, so I adapted my approach. However, if adapting would have meant playing to my weaknesses instead of strengths, I would have avoided it or reset expectations. I’m a fan of follow your passions and strengths.

    Adapting, adjusting or avoiding was a really important piece of insight because I used to just take on any challenge, because I like to test myself. With this lens I got smarter about evaluating options and for setting projects and myself up for success.

    For another example, I mentor a lot of people at work, so I use the frame to quickly check whether somebody needs a new strategy, take more action, or change their situation. Before I had this lens, I ended up wasting time in the wrong place, simply because I didn’t have a map of where to look. Usually, when I just show somebody the frame, lightbulbs go off and they have fun analyzing their scenario from a new vantage point.

    Does that help?

  5. Hi JD,
    I like it! This idea of a “change frame” – and what it can mean toward choosing the “right” path. It really makes me question some of the choices I’ve made in the past – and how they might have been different had I looked at it this way. It’s really a very simple approach – and that’s the beauty of this – simplicity. Thanks for sharing this, JD. I’m going to be trying it out!

  6. @ Lance

    Thanks! I’d love to hear how it works for you. It’s served me very well, especially with asking better questions.

  7. […] how to use frames to solve problems. And he shares some excellent frames he created, including The Change Frame, and The Life […]

  8. […] Thinking, feeling, and doing patterns.  First get a handle on whether you’re trying to change how you think, feel or act, or all of the above.  For example, if you’re trying to get out of bed earlier in the morning, don’t wait until you feel like it or try to think yourself into it.  Just get out of bed.   Eventually motivation will follow.  Eventually you’ll have the habit of hopping out of bed.  If you’re trying to change how you feel, you might start by changing how you think or what you do.  In the process, you might find you have a recurring thought pattern that gets you stuck.  Start with that.  The key is to catch yourself, interrupt the pattern, and change it.  See The Change Frame. […]

Comments are closed.