Box Schmox!

Meet the Box
You’re familiar with the term, “Think outside the box.” The box refers to conventional understanding or traditional thinking. In the business world, this might include organizational constraints. Regardless, the box is typically a comfort zone.

Meet its Residents
There’s a tendency for those who think (or live) inside the box to ignore things that don’t fit into its confines. In-the-box thinking (or living) typically stems from a need to control anxiety—trepidation that occurs when something doesn’t fit in the box.

“Instead of thinking outside of the box, get rid of the box.” — Deepak Chopra

“Instead of thinking outside of the box, get rid of the box.” — Deepak Chopra

Beyond the Box
There’s nothing wrong with conventional wisdom as long as it’s not stale or limiting. But exploration—which requires leaving the box, or at least opening the flaps—leads to the discovery of original thoughts, creative ideas, and innovation.

When was the last time you rendezvoused, flirted, or hung out with inspiration?


63 thoughts on “Box Schmox!

  1. As teachers we heard this “think outside the box” mantra all the time. Over the decades I presented many innovative and creative ideas to administrators but always slammed down for not following chain of command, trying to usurp administrative leadership, trouble making, disloyal, not knowing “my place”, challenging and disrespecting authority, etc. Many of my ideas were implemented, however, but authorship claimed by my superiors.

  2. It’s my experience that the world is never made for out-of the box thinking souls..The world recognizes only stereotyped emotions. I am not being pessimistic. It’s the way I have felt. It’s the way which has happened in the past..Socrates told truth. He was offered poison.

    “Galileo’s ideas also got him into trouble: condemned by the Inquisition for espousing a heliocentric world system, which violated Catholic Church teachings that the Earth was the center of the universe, he spent the last years of his life under house arrest.”

    …All I can say for now is that : “The way of this world is, to praise dead saints, and persecute living ones.”

  3. It isn’t easy to accept new ideas, but no change, innovation or progress comes without them. It’s good that we have people brave enough to challenge the norm. Thanks, Laurie, for a thoughtful post!

  4. To live outside the box also means to not follow the herd. In my experience, it is actually a wild ride, if one afford to live that way. But sometimes the stakes are high and one has to go for conventional wisdom.

    • Subhabrata – Ahhhh, I think what you’re pointing to is balance. With that in mind, I share this quote:

      “Balance, peace, and joy are the fruit of a successful life. It starts with recognizing your talents and finding ways to serve others by using them.”
      — Thomas Kinkade

  5. Working for the corporation it is pretty much impossible to think or live outside the box, even though at every meeting somebody would use that expression. “We need new ideas, folks, we must think outside the box.” But really, thinking outside one box you were still enclosed in the larger one. Since taking the giant leap outside of that larger box, life has really opened up for me personally. But it’s a tough road, and very tempting to jump back inside the comfort of that box, and I wouldn’t recommend it for everybody.

    • RMW – I left the corporate world well over a decade ago and I’ve never regretted it. However, you’re absolutely correct that just because it’s right for one person, doesn’t make it right for the next. This type of decision must be made on an experiential, on-by-one basis. Thank you for the gift of your reflection.

  6. Gee, well, I’m not a cat, I will not crawl inside one just because it is empty, I took a lot of friendly fire as a young person because I would not stay in the box, of course it was not called “the Box” then, it was called conformity. Life would have been more comfortable inside the Box, I just simply didn’t want to trade my freedom for comfort. So I remain outside the Box on most days, waving my paintbrush and shouting, ” Here, Inspiration! Come on Home, here, Inspiration!”

  7. I’ve been peeking my head out of the box for the past few weeks now, Laurie, and I am delighted to report that I’m excited by what I see! (That’s not to say I won’t find a new box to jump inside whenever I get the chance, but for the time being, stepping outside of my comfort zone has been an okay process.) 🙂

  8. My perceptions and thought-life have never been in the box, but it’s much more of a challenge for me to be open with that part of my personality. It tends to get slammed! So you’ve encouraged me to embrace more daily authenticity in this area, Laurie. The older I get the more padding I have to withstand the blows! 🙂

  9. In – the – box thinking is part and parcel of our growth. We all go through in the box thinking. It’s conventional thinking and its the necessary launching pad in to post conventional thinking – out of the box thinking. The problem is when we prefer to stay in the box.

  10. Hi Laurie,
    I dislike boxes although pre-move I am surrounded by them. These boxes serve a purpose however. Mental boxes don’t – except for organizing.

    • SuZen – As you said, those moving boxes will serve a mighty fine purpose in helping you get from Point A to Point B. I like what you’ve eluded to about mental boxes for organizing (as in organizing one’s thoughts). I’ve never thought about that, but you know what, I do have “categories” (file boxes, if you will) in my head. Thanks for taking it another step 😉

  11. Cute photo, Laurie.
    Last Saturday I sailed across the waters to a sister island–Galiano Island. There in a breath-takingly beautiful Inn I was surrounded by readers and authors. I sat captivated as authors spoke about their work. Talk about inspiring. : ) I have photos and will share Thursday…

  12. I love how you ask questions like this! I also love how the Universe had you asking this question today–and me answering it–simultaneously. You gotta LOVE the Universe! And deer outside the dentist office! And friends like you…

  13. I have found that the best place to hide is right beside the box also with nose tucked nicely inside a book.

    I have always found a good person to share my creative ideas and then they are activated and doing something that is helpful for others and I am keeping the speaker supported and accomplishing the big things. Now I sneak the good things into my blog posts – they stand beside the box or the book reviews boundaries.

    My goal is for my life to be the model, and how I lived it every step of the way. I wanted to be like Julie Andrews for years but have found that quietly changing is a very powerful place to be.

  14. Hi Laurie

    Totally align with your call to think outside the box, and comfort zones can certainly be an aspect of the boxes we create for ourselves, and there is another aspect also.

    For anyone who hasn’t done the 9 dots puzzle it is worth doing.
    Take a pencil and paper and put 4 dots in a square, Now add another 5 dots half way between each of the 5 pairs of dots (the 4 edge pairs and the diagonal pair) – to give 3 rows of three equally spaced dots.
    The objective is to connect all 9 dots with 4 straight lines, drawn without lifting pen (or pencil) from the paper.

    If you haven’t done it before, stop reading and Try it.

    I’ll give the solution a little further down, and it is a beautiful illustration of how boundaries implicit in the question often limit the context of our thinking.
    This just seems to be how minds work (that side effect of storing and retrieving information as interference patterns thing happening again).
    It actually takes a lot of conscious effort to explicitly make all of the implicit boundaries clear to the conscious, before we can easily step beyond them.

    If we do not make ourselves aware of these implicit boundaries in life, then they limit us, in so many different ways.

    The solution to the puzzle, is to recognise that the outer dots form an implicit edge, and our minds are reluctant to go beyond that edge, even though there is nothing actually stopping us.
    If you haven’t solved it on that basis, then try the following. Start at one corner, and go along an edge, and go beyond the next corner, to the point that allows you to come straight back through the centre dots of the next two sides, and out past the edge of the box again, and then turn and go down the 4th side to the starting dot, then go out the diagonal including the centre dot, and the dot on the far side of the square. All 9 dots, in 4 straight lines.

    So much of what we see as possible in the world is framed by the implicit and unexamined boundaries in the concepts we use.

    This is perhaps most noticeable in how we think of money and value.

    If money is supposed to be a measure of value; then how can it be that we have people who want to produce goods and services, and people who want those goods and services, yet the economic experts are telling us that we need austerity (more deprivation). To my mind, this is utter insanity.

    We have the technical ability to produce prosperity and abundance for all, yet the implicit boundaries built into our dominant social valuation tool (money – a market based mechanism), prevent us from delivering abundance and security to every individual.

    From one aspect this seems insane, yet from another aspect it is simply the necessary consequences of undistinguished boundaries implicit in using markets as a measure of value.

    I work at having daily flirtations with inspiration (several times an hour if possible). When I’m at my creative best they can flow faster than I can write them down – at other times I just sit an stair blankly out the window at the ocean and mountains.

    • Ted – You can’t begin to know how much I appreciate your providing a tangible, measurable exercise for the rest of the readers. Thank you, it’s AMAZING!

      I tried it when you said, “Stop reading and try it.”

      As it turns out, I’m not such a smarty pants after all — but then we already knew that, didn’t we 😉

      It wasn’t until AFTER I read your user-friendly instructions that I got it!

      And I’m on board with everything you said about the way we tend to think of money and value. More so, I’m glad you’re trying to impact the world with a change that’s positive, uplifting, constructive, and healing.

      • Hi Laurie,
        I didn’t get it either first time ;( .
        Now I’ve learned a meta pattern, that I tend to look for implicit boundaries everywhere, including at the conceptual level (meta meta level).

      • Ted – When I first read your word “meta” — I saw it as “metta” (in the Buddhist sense) and then I quickly saw that it only has one “t.” But in thinking about it as it pertains to your dream for humankind, “metta” works for you, too: generous mind, loving-kindness 🙂

  15. I am now at this point in my work life Laurie… I can’t continue doing what I do it is not me, but to go outside the box will take a huge leap of faith. But you are right in your last words in this post… I need inspiration, creativity, excitement and LIVING in my life! 🙂

  16. Each situation is different and everyone’s life circumstances are also has to go outside the box, trusting oneself is the main key ,then one can answer the call of inspiration and go find that rainbow.

  17. Ah, leaving the box. One of my favorite expressions to denote creativity beyond the norm. I try and leave the box with some of my classroom strategies. Last week I decided to have students in one of my fourth grade literature classes to assume different parts in a dramatization of Roald Dahl’s “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.” Obviously this gave a number of students the chance to assume the behavioral aspects of some of the book’s dysfunctional characters, as well as a few more with heroic qualities. It is hoped this expansion with allow for a far better appreciation of the work.

    Wonderful post Laurie!

    • Sam – Oh how FUN! One of the questions I asked my Life Harmony clients in their mid-week check in email this morning was:

      If you could be any age just for a day, what age would you choose? Why that particular age?

      If I had to answer the question, I’d go back for a day to be a student in your class!

      As the father of five, you know first-hand (up-close-and-personal) what it takes to engage and retain the interest and cooperation of a room full of students. My hat is off to you!

  18. I think effective parenting requires a lot of thinking outside the box – each unique child needs a slightly different environment in order to learn and thrive. It takes a lot of creative thought to figure out how to provide just the right balance of structure and flexibility for each individual to blossom and shine.

    • Barbara – Isn’t that the truth?! My parents, for example, had two entirely different people in my sister and I. What was a not-so-fun consequence for one: “go to your room” was a delight to the other (me — I’d read, and read, and read).

  19. some great advice!!! I have way too much trouble getting out of the box and breaking down the walls my fears and anxieties build up around me 🙂 appreciate the thoughts about getting out of my comfort zone. I could really benefit from it!

  20. The funny thing is that staying (or living) inside the box doesn’t end up controlling our anxiety at all, but rather, it actually multiplies the anxiety, because there are less options or choices visible to us when we are (living) in the box. The very thing that we think is protecting us, is actually confining our ability to live a life that is about experiencing joy.

    My own experience has been that we become so accustomed to being surrounded by the walls of the box, that stepping outside of the box becomes less and less likely as the years tick by, until someone generously shares the view from the other side. Even then, we have a hard time believing that their view could be our view, because we’re so accustomed to being boxed-in and confined by our fears. Stepping outside of the box is our ticket to freedom, and yet we cling to the box, surrounded by our fears, because it is what we know. It is where we are (uncomfortably) comfortable.

    I love it that you equate stepping out of the box as an invitation for inspiration and creativity and innovation … who wouldn’t welcome more of that injected into their life? Rather than view it as a scary process of leaving the familiar, why not view it as opening the door to inspiration and creativity? Step out of the box, and see life with fresh eyes.

    Nice post … love how you convey so much, with so few words. That’s an art form that eludes me, but that doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate a good thing when I see it. What a perfect photo to accompany the text. The photo is like the pretty bow that makes a treasured gift extra-special. Nicely done, Laurie!

    • Ntexas99 – Thank you for the gift of your reflection. I especially appreciate your observation:

      “The very thing that we think is protecting us, is actually confining our ability to live a life that is about experiencing joy.”

      Well said. Well said, indeed.

  21. What box? Never been there. I had teachers echo this idiom. It always seemed idiotic to me after all, the only ones mentioning ‘the box’ were already safely in ‘the box’ hoping somebody would come up with something to enable their release. Unfortunately, they had to figure their own way out. No one could do it for them.

  22. Pingback: Beyond the box | Ted Howard NZ's Blog

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