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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:

The outside is a mental space that challenges you to create a reality different from the one you are currently experiencing. As such, it can feel unrealistic, vast, overwhelming, or downright scary. Which, for some, may cause them to return back to their comfort zone. Maybe something like this:

But this is precisely what you want to feel. It's actually a good thing. And this next step will help you approach and navigate the junction of your known rational reality and the unknown irrational ideal.  

Step 2: "I am NOT my current circumstance."

The core exercise in Step 2 is separating yourself from your current circumstance. This is challenging for some because it requires you to recognize that you are not defined by your current situation or circumstance. It involves understanding that you are only bound by the limitations that you permit to be placed on you. When working on this shift in perspective, watch out for your Gremlin, who may be answering for you. Your Gremlin is the inner critic that says, "I'm not ______ enough." When you are about to push past your current limitations, the Gremlin will frequently show up. If you're interested in learning more about your Gremlin, I've written a short ebook that you can get free by clicking here. 

Here are some exercises you can do to help you to explore your outside:

  • Sit with your eyes closed and repeat an intention such as:

    • I AM free of all boundaries and limitations.

    • I AM a source of creative and practical ideas.

    • I AM the architect of my goals and of the path to achieve them.

  • Ask yourself, "What would I advise someone to do, trying to reach the same goal and currently in a similar situation as my own."

  • Answer the question: "What are 3 things that must happen for me to achieve my goal."


This brings us to the last part of outside of the box thinking, the Think part of it. The good news is that if you've made it to this step, you've already done most of the heavy lifting. Identifying your box and having the courage and creativity to explore a reality outside of it involves a considerable amount of what's known as 'Inner Work.' So, kudos to you for making it this far. The Think portion of outside of the box thinking is where you start to get specific as to the change or goal you desire. It's the specificity that is the essence to outside of the box thinking. Begin by stating in detail what you WOULD LIKE to happen. Read that last sentence again! Not what is possible within your current situation, resources, or reality. But instead, what you WOULD LIKE to happen. Once you know what you would like to happen, the only task left is to create the circumstances to make that a reality.   

STEP 3: Brainstorm and Recruit

This final step involves two parts. The first is brainstorming, so grab a pen and paper and get ready for some mental catharsis. Set a timer for 10 minutes and set your goal as the focus of your brainstorm. Start the timer and begin to write down EVERY idea that comes to your mind regarding achieving your goal. There are no wrong answers or ridiculous ideas. Remember that you are in a limitless place with no box and no rules. Write, write, and keep writing until the timer is done. If you get stuck before the 10 minutes, remind yourself that you are not writing what is possible given your current situation or resources. You are writing ideas within what you would like your current circumstances and resources to be like. Once you are done with your brainstorm, you can begin the second part of this step, recruiting.   

Take a look at your brainstorm list and start to ask yourself, "What circumstances can I create or people and services can I recruit to make these ideas happen." (Note: Making a 5-year plan and working backward can be very helpful with this step.) Here's where you start to explore resources like virtual assistants, online courses, mastermind groups, peer groups, networking events, bartering, and working with a coach. 

So, that's a 3 Step practical and effective approach to Thinking Outside the Box. The most important thing to remember is that if you have a big idea, dream, or goal that you can't stop thinking of, then it's worth pursuing. And you owe it to yourself to try everything in your power to make it happen. If you feel stuck at any point or are not progressing as fast or effectively as you'd like, you may want to consider working with a certified coach.

I always look forward to engaging with my community, so what's your "Thinking Outside the Box" story? How did it turn out? I'd love to know. Lastly, don't forget to follow @CoachMarcoB on Instagram and Facebook and, most importantly, share this blog to help someone that might need a little bump in the right direction.

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