It is a popular and common expression, and most of us have been encouraged to think outside the box and many of us believe that we do think outside the box – yet in my therapy rooms, in my classrooms, and in other areas of my personal and professional life, I encounter many people who very rarely (if ever) actually think outside of the box and it’s something that I am choosing to write about today.
“If everyone is thinking alike, then somebody isn’t thinking.” – George S. Patton.
You cannot possibly think outside the box unless you understand the nature of the box that binds your current thinking. It’s important to understand your current rules and conventions that guide your decision making process.
To “think outside the box” is to think beyond the ordinary or the obvious. Once you have stepped out of the box, you stay outside the box and constantly think about new ways to get work done or to live effectively. Make no mistake, thinking outside the box sounds great but is not necessarily easy and requires some application on occasion.
The following will help you think outside of the box and come up with new creative ways to achieve your personal and professional life goals.
1. It pays to keep an open mind!
Maintain a liberal, open mind, unconventional wisdom, the zeal to be different, and a nonconformist approach to uncover things. Look beyond the traditional ways of accomplishing tasks. If you have always done it the same way, how about trying a new strategy that could prove more productive. There is often a better way to get something done, you just may not have discovered it yet!
This is a favourite topic of mine as you’ll know if you follow my blog with any regularity. Have a read of this article on a related subject to delve deeper into the notion of expressing your own individuality: Why and how to express your individuality and uniqueness.
2. Challenge yourself, and you will grow.
Learning a new topic will not only teach you a new set of facts and figures, it will teach you a new way of looking at and making sense of aspects of your everyday life or of the society or your business. You should be willing to take new perspectives to your day-to-day work.
Actively seek other ways to challenge yourself on a daily (or regular) basis and you’ll develop new ways of thinking in line with that.
3. Find a new door.
When was the last time you questioned the existing convention, conceptualised problems differently, approached problems in new, innovative way. It’s about time you figured out what could be improved, challenged, done different, done with less effort to achieve more.
Start questioning everything. Consider everything. Go through as many possibilities as you can until you know for a fact it can or cannot be done (in a new way).
Read this related article as it’ll help you reframe life’s challenges effectively: Learn to enjoy life’s problems.
4. Stop speaking and start listening.
You must be capable of listening to, supporting, nurturing and respecting others when they come up with new ideas. Don’t shoot down new ideas from others, give them a chance to make sense before count them out.
Some studies on this topic suggest that we should not to think too far outside the box. According to researchers at the University of Pittsburgh (Chan, Schunn & Dow, 2014), when seeking creative inspiration, the best strategy may be to look at how your people close to you are solving similar problems. At least to start with.
5. Break free from routines!
Doing the same thing, day in and day out, will dull even the smartest person’s mind. Find ways of minimising some of the routine in your life. At least, don’t take the same approach to solving problems. Look at the same thing as everyone else initially and encourage yourself to think something different too.
Get up and move yourself. Keep moving until you no longer have a routine and then enjoy the new ideas you will be ready to implement! If you find yourself stuck in a cycle that slows your process, immediately review your routine and make changes where necessary.
I promote the use of routine when it comes to productivity, but when seeking creativity and inspiration and problem solving, you can abandon routine thinking strategies and stretch yourself outside of the box.
6. A great to-do app is what you need.
Get yourself a productive note taking app. When an idea comes to you or you see something that you think could be useful later, don’t hesitate to save it. Adopt the save-as-you-go attitude. Check out awesome to-do apps such as Evernote (my personal favourite, but there are many others).
I get a lot of my best thoughts when running or training at the gym, and make a note of them there and then using my phone and refer to them later on.
7. Get rid of habits that inhibit your ability to change.
Negative attitude, fear of failure, perfectionism, following conventional rules without questioning their efficiency have all proven to inhibit creativity. Thinking “inside the box” may not be necessarily bad, but when you refuse to review your processes to verify if they are actually given you the best results you should achieve, you will stand in the way of your own growth.
Learn to reflect upon what you do and gain insight into the way you think most effectively.
8. Never rule out a new location.
To get out of your own designed box is always a challenge when you surround yourself with the same people, the same 4 walls, etc. Go to a new place, find a fresh location, try a coffee shop, or go to the beach for example.
I find when you go to different places, you can think differently more naturally and easily.
9. Start doing something outside your scope.
Start doing something artistic. Start pointing, or drawing, just scribbling. Or maybe learn to play an instrument. Drawing is a good example – pick a piece of paper and a pencil and just start drawing. You’ll (perhaps) feel stupid at first, but that’s good – again, work yourself through the discomfort.
Read entirely different things. The discomfort you get is your brain trying to wrap itself around something unfamiliar. Try as much diversity as you can – Philosophy, Foreign Literature, Hard Sciences, Social Sciences, try a little bit of everything. There is so much accessibility to information, articles, books and videos of talks these days that we can watch and help shift our thinking for a period of time.
10. Meet new, interesting people.
Expand your network. Same people inside of our comfort zones tell the same stories and keep our minds stuck in the box. Be brave. Reach out. Live or online.
Encountering different cultures is another great way to broaden your horizon. Trying to explain yourself without knowing the local language forces you to be creative to survive. In addition, it’s fun. I’m not suggesting that you have to go to foreign lands, but into scenarios and with people who will help you change, who will enable you to step out of your comfort zone. Read these articles for more on this subject:
11. Use ‘no limits’ thinking.
That’s a great way to think outside of your box. Image there are no limits in time, money or other resources. How would you deal with a problem? What would you do?
We often have goals and immediately think about reasons why it’s not achievable. We see the problems first. This approach let’s you see solutions first.
12. Alter Perceptual Positions.
Imagine how it would be to step into the shoes of another, to see hear, feel and think as that person would be in your situation or circumstance. Try on other people’s beliefs and opinions, wear them like clothes and see if you come up with different options. Consider stepping out of the scenario or situation altogether and being a ‘fly on the wall’ who is neutral and watching your situation from a wholly objective perspective and shift your perception and thinking process that way too.
Finally, don’t constrain yourself to
what has already been done. What can you take from other experiences you’ve
had? What can you learn from something completely unrelated to the problem at
That is how you think outside of the box. It does not have to be that difficult. Just like everything else, all it takes is a little practice. The next time you have a problem that needs solving, look at it from a different lens and see what you can come up with.
“Don’t spend time beating on a wall, hoping to transform it into a door.” Coco Chanel
Practice doing things differently every day and you’ll find yourself thinking outside of the box more regularly and in more beneficial ways.
Have some of these themes here resonated with you? Then have a read of these pages:
1. Do you need help or support in a particular area of your life?
Coaching with Adam Eason Or Hypnotherapy with Adam Eason
2. Would you like a satisfying and meaningful career as a hypnotherapist helping others? Are you a hypnotherapist looking for stimulating and career enhancing continued professional development and advanced studies?
Adam Eason’s Anglo European training college.
3. Are you a hypnotherapist who is looking to fulfil your ambitions or advance your career?
Hypnotherapist Mentoring with Adam Eason.
Likewise, if you’d like to learn more about self-hypnosis, understand the evidence based principles of it from a scientific perspective and learn how to apply it to many areas of your life while having fun and in a safe environment and have the opportunity to test everything you learn, then come and join me for my one day seminar which does all that and more, have a read here: The Science of Self-Hypnosis Seminar. Alternatively, go grab a copy of my Science of self-hypnosis book, it’ll help you live with integrity!