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How to Think Outside the Box in 3 Simple Steps

The saying "Think outside the box" is so commonly used that it's become another way of saying, "Just do something.....ANYthing... just take action!" And while that may seem to be a reasonable interpretation and advice, it really misses something essential of the imagery it attempts to convey. Let me walk you through what I've come to understand: "Think outside the box," means and, most importantly, HOW to do it!  

First, you have to understand that outside of the box thinking and, ultimately, living is not a new concept. Throughout history, many people have taught and exemplified this concept. A relatively recent example of this would be Steve Jobs. His outside of the box thinking allowed him to create a new technology genre with the development of the iPod and iPhone. But even historical texts as far back as the bible mention this, as is written in Romans 4:17 when it says that Abraham "…calls those things that do not exist as though they did." The latter example really begins to touch on the HOW of outside of the box thinking. Let's break it down.  

The secret to learning HOW to Think Outside the Box is to break down the phrase and approach it in reverse.   

The Box:

The box is the most important and also the most challenging aspect to understand and undertake. Why? Because the box is our current state or the current parameters in which we view our options within the world. Here are some common examples of "boxes":

  • You work long hours to provide income that sustains your family, but your family wants you to spend more time at home.

  • You are the parent of a child that requires extra time and attention, but you long for time for yourself.

  • You are self-employed and exhausted, but your business and income depend on you working.

  • You manage a department and hire more people to help, but "Nobody does their work right," so you work double to "Get things done the right way."

  • You want to write a book, but you believe nobody will ever read what you have to say.

  • You want to start a business, but you don't have the money to do so.

  • You want to go back to school, but you don't know how to find the time.   

As you can see, the box can be complicated and personal and often defines us, or more accurately, how we believe we must define ourselves. Interestingly, we only recognize it as a box when something of equal or greater significance than that role calls us. Which brings us to the first step to thinking outside the box: 

STEP 1: Identify Your Box  

The box is relative to the goal you would like to accomplish. Therefore, the secret to revealing your box is to state your goal. When you clearly identify your goal and then hit a mental wall, Voila! You've found your box! Other good indicators that you've found your box are statements like: I can't, I could never, It's impossible, In my dreams, Maybe in another life, They need me, I have bills to pay, I'm too old/big/small/weak/etc.… Once you've identified the box, it's time to explore what it would be like to exist outside that box.   


The second part of Identifying Your Box is to begin to explore the outside. This part will tap into your creativity and courage. It's where you start to leave your safe, rational, and present mental space and design the transition points you'll need to achieve the goal(s) you feel drawn to. It's in contemplating the outside that methods such as The Law of Attraction, The Power of Intention, Visualization, Meditation, etc.… become directly applicable.   

Now, the outside can sometimes seem like a strange, irrational space. Kind of like living in a Picasso painting or like that scene from the movie Inside Out when they entered abstract thought: