Thinking Outside The Box (2015)

Chapter 1: The Invisible Trap of Social Standards




Mary sat with her friends at the cafe. They were talking about their daily routines. “Sometimes I just get tired, believe it or not, of doing the same thing day after day. Don’t get me wrong. I love my family and I wouldn’t change them for the world. But, sometimes, I just think I need some spice in my life.” She paused a moment and added. And I don’t mean an affair.”


Is that how you feel about your life? Do you look back at your high school days and even college days and think back to how much more creatively you thought back then? If you wanted to pack your suitcase and head for a trip to New York City or San Francisco or just wander aimless for a weekend, you’d do it.


Today, if you tried that there would probably a chorus of a thousand voices telling you socially responsible people just don’t do that. You have to plan these things out. You have to make sure you get the right airline ticket price. And God forbid you take your car. What would happen if it broke down?


Even if you haven’t yearned to travel you’re probably like most of us, you approach it from just about every aspect of your life from “the box.” Most of us are rather satisfied with this life. Many individuals refer to this as their comfort zone. It’s the area or activity in which they feel at ease.


This is the zone in which we accept who we are in life and where we are. After all, wasn’t this the purpose of growing up and becoming an adult, to fit into society with a minimum of disturbance? And having a “comfort zone” is much better than constantly feeling anxious, feeling as if something bad is about to happen, but not knowing when or even why.


Comfort Zone or Stagnation?


But there’s also a danger in that comfort zone and it’s called stagnation. With that content, for some, comes the inability to see life any differently than what it is right now.


There’s a theory that you’re the average of the five people you associate with. What that usually means is you’ve adopted the social standards of these people. You’ve either adopted their interests or sought these friends and kept them because of your shared interests, similar careers or any other number of reasons. Support groups, by the way, are built on this concept.


If your friends are video gamers, for example, you’re far more likely to be one as well. If they’re interested in crafting, the chances are good that you’ll be interested in that hobby too.


And that, is where the “box” comes in. As long as you’re following the social standards of the group spend time with, you’re probably not thinking outside of the box -- you may not even recognize that you’re in a box. You certainly don’t consider yourself “trapped.” Or perhaps you do.


Either way, you’re reading this book, which is probably an indication you’re interested in jumping out of your box and getting out of your comfort zone. Why is it difficult for many of us to step out of our comfort zone, think outside of the box and think differently from the rest of the group?


When was the last time you stopped to think about what you really wanted -- and still want -- out of the life? Do you allow yourself to dream about an awesome vacation or starting writing that blog? Do others shoot your thoughts down right away, telling you it’s a waste of time? So you return to your comfort zone and working within your box.


You do know it doesn’t have to be that way, don’t you? You can defy social standards and begin to do the things you’ve always wanted to do, the way you wanted to do them.


So, what’s stopping you -- besides those so-called friends? Sure, their intentions are sincere, but ultimately you have to do what you feel is best for you. If you’re weary of playing video games with them, tired of facing another scrapbook party without moaning and groaning about it or even can’t take another episode of some “true crime” television show, then it’s time to examine what’s holding you back.


Here are several reasons why most of us are fearful of looking at life from any perspective than the one we’ve always have, that is our box.


  1. But we’ve always done it this way.


Have you ever seen this sentiment in a poster:. “But, we’ve always done it this way.” That is the biggest reason people resist change. In effect, they’re saying that everything is perfectly fine the way it is. You’ll hear this same sentiment expressed as “Why change horses in midstream?” This is their way of rationalizing their efforts to stay within their comfort zone.


You may have even heard the saying “If it ain’t broke, why fix it?” These people are conveying the exact sentiment. The general opinion is that if something -- anything -- has served us well for so long, “don’t rock the boat.”. When you do try to change things or “fix” things, you may be making things even worse.


  1. Trapped by your own personal method of thinking.


You along with everyone else around you may be locked into a familiar, comfortable way of thinking. Up until this moment, you may never have even thought about doing anything differently. Why, everyone around you is doing basically the same things and they seemed perfectly satisfied. Your dissatisfaction, you presume, only means there’s something wrong with you -- not with the social norms.


Because of this, you approach your problems from a limited point of view. Of course, we have always done it this way -- who am I to even dream of doing it another way. You can blame your “inner critic” for censoring your potential  “out of box thinking.”


  1. Trapped by your emotions.


Stepping into the realm of creativity -- especially if you haven’t been thinking in that way for a while -- can be intimidating, to say the least. As you’ve already seen, you find yourself straying from your comfort zone. That leads you into an uncomfortable realm. It’s here you’re more than likely begin to feel a general anxiety growing. As you begin to think differently, you’re entering an unknown world, filled with “what if” incidents. What if, one of those options you’re considering is less than optimal?


Or worse yet, what if you take this momentous step and your friends and family think you weird? What, if after all is said and done, the outcome is embarrassing to you -- or even painful in some way?


What you may not realize that all of these emotions are just different ways your body resists change. It’s hoping that you’ll eventually cave in to these fears and qualms and just plain procrastinate on this concept -- whatever it may be.


  1. It’s hard to be creativity with personal problems hanging over your head.


If you’re beating yourself up because you can’t, for the life of you, think outside of the box, you may want to stop and examine your life for a moment. Are you going through some personal crisis or problem? It’s hard to be creative when you’re struggling with a major life change. You may be experiencing financial hardships at the moment or even going through an emotional event like a divorce.  At these or similar points in your life, it’s all most of us can do to just hold our own with the life we have.


Sometimes, though, this is the time when you may be digging up some of the oldest and deepest held regrets about what you didn’t do with your life and you begin to daydream about “what might have been.”


If this is the case, you still may want to wait to make any type of creative changes in your life. If you ignore these issues and continue to plow through with trying to be creative anyway, you may be just setting yourself up to failure.


  1. Searching for the “right” answer


You’ve probably learned this habit in school. Every question, according the tests you’ve taken in school, has either a right or wrong answer. Think about the how many true and false tests you’ve taken and how many multiple choice quizzes you’ve sat through. After approaching an education in this fashion, you may discover your creativity stilted, at least initially, by considering whether what you’re planning falls in one of these two categories either right or wrong.


Without a doubt, there are advantages to this categorization habit, but it does nothing to further your creative thinking. Right about now, you may be thinking that a three-week vacation to New York City is in order. But one of your dearest friends tell you this isn’t the right time. That’s not the proper decision right now.


Never mind the fact that this might be the “right” answer for you to clear your mind for a while. Or perhaps you’ve made a decision on some other aspect of your life, but here again someone or your instincts tell that isn’t the “right” answer for you.


It hinders your “out of the box” thinking. Once you realize that the vast majority of issues we deal with on a daily basis can’t be viewed in either black or white. There is a spectrum of shades of gray that can lead you to happiness. Issues that pop up in real life usually have more than one answer. When someone tries to assign a right or wrong way to a problem or try to impose one on you, they’re missing the valued concept that the issue may have more than one “right” answer.


  1. Viewing creative, outside of the box thinking as “destructive.”


Here me out on this one. Perhaps you don’t even realize you’re thinking this, it may be so ingrained and enmeshed in your thinking. If you choose a different way of doing even something as simple as changing your morning routine, your subconscious may feel that it’s being a destructive force in the world. After all, if someone wanted to point at you and accuse you of ripping the fabric of society as we know it apart, he might be right. “Rules,” they may say “are that simple and are created for a reason. Who are you to deviate from them? What makes you special?”


You may believe, at first glance, that this is a block that makes little or no sense. But you’d be amazed at how many individuals follow all the rules, even though they aren’t working for them. There’s a person I spoke to once who said before she takes any specific actions she asks herself, “How does this serve me?” If it doesn’t serve her -- make her life better in some way -- she tosses that “rule” aside. Step by step, she’s remaking her life in a very creative way, by thinking out of your own box.


Have you noticed that that people praise and admire some of the most creative thinkers in the business world? Think about Richard Branson and his marvelous success and the brave moves he made to make it happen. But they refuse to break even a small rule in their life. Perhaps you should think twice before you start admiring someone like Branson -- and start breaking some rules of your own.


Seriously. Are you ready to consider not only thinking outside of the box, but actually kicking it wide open and allowing some truly creative thoughts into your life? Then you’re ready to move to the next chapter. That’s where we’ll get the process moving.