How often have you been asked to think outside the box?
Someone comes to you and says they’ve hit a snag, and they need to think outside the box to come up with a new idea, a new way of doing something. The implication seems to be that if you get outside the box, you’ll suddenly see the things that were outside it, waiting to be discovered by an open minded, un-boxed-in person.
I always wonder who they think did the boxing in to begin with? them as a manger, or employee or servant of the company Way, perhaps? Certainly, not as a leader; leaders don’t box people in.
Leaders know the truth; the box is like the emperor’s new clothes. There is not and never has been any box for you to think outside of. No-box thinking acknowledges this, and is my of reminding myself and the clients I mentor and coach, that we do ourselves a disservice when we believe in boxes.
When I was growing up, I noticed I was often put into these boxes by adults who played important roles in my life. Adopted, challenging child, musical, obstinate teenager, stubborn patient and show-off. It hit me that far more of the boxes adults put us in were negative than positive. I remember wondering when that changed, because I did not think of my friends that way.
In adulthood, I discovered that we do this as part of a group behaviour, often triggered by a need to fit in, to be accepted. We tend to slip in to this habit and soon, we believe the boxes define us and those around us. And I believe we miss so much when we do this, often failing to see how multi-layered and multi-talented others are, because we had them in a certain box.
Not believing there was a box to think outside, meant that when I was told my health issues were going to make certain dreams or goals of mine “impossible” I was able to respond with total conviction that this was not true in my world, and applied only because the assumption had been made that I fit in the box containing pre-destined outcomes. No box, no standard to follow, so I’ll create my own set of expectations and outcomes.
When we decide the boxes do not serve us, and often allow us to remain trapped in negative patterns of behaviour, we can make significant change to often lifelong negative habits. I believe we do not make change when we are in a place that feels comfortable; why bother to go through the pain of change, if we can manage as we are? The question I ask, is what is it about the box you have chosen to stay put in, that makes you feel too comfortable to leave? Perhaps you’re getting something from staying put that reinforces a message you tell yourself, like “I can’t change” or “I’ll let someone down if I fail” so you stay safely in the box.
Try asking yourself what succeeding at change might feel like and a positive message that you could create to replace your negative ones.
No-box thinking makes change into an adventure rather than a thing to fear or accommodate. When my husband, John, and I decided to move to Wales, and buy a woodland a field, we were completely re-defining our world. We embraced the change as we approached our fifties, with total belief that it would work, that we could adapt and thrive. We did not fear failure, so we didn’t define what the move and new life would be like in some box, we wrote the simplest life plan you can imagine:
1. Move to a cottage in the woods
2. Spend as much time working outdoors, together, as possible.
That was it, and we made the rest up as we went along. Four years along the journey, we’ve learned and built and planted and grown and nurtured and laughed more than I imagined was possible. No-boxes here thank you, just possibilities.
Dinah Liversidge / Photo by Unsplash