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Why Learn to Think Outside the Box?

Have you ever really considered what it means when someone tells you to, “…think outside the box?” Sure, you’ve likely heard the expression more times than you care to count, but have you ever stopped to think about what it truly means? Or maybe more important than that, what the person who tells you to “think outside the box” is really saying?

Are they telling you to be more original in thought or action? Be more confident or be more innovative?

Are they asking you to go out on a limb they can chop off if they don’t like what you come up with when you step out there?

What is “the box”?

A “box” has four sides that close together to create an “inside” of the box and an outside.  In theory, inside the box is where most people reside, both personally and professionally. Inside the box is not about building self-confidence or demonstrating leadership.

Inside the box is the place where actions and reactions are typical and predictable, following the norm and what is known—tried, tested, and true. Generally, inside the box is where you can find safe and stable answers or solutions to the questions that may arise in your life and results that are expected—both positive and negative.

Why should you learn to think outside the box? What’s wrong with being – and thinking – inside the box?

For some people, being – and thinking – inside the box is not too bad. In fact, it may be desired. In industry, for example, persons working or operating an assembly line need to think inside the box. However, a Supervisor of those people may need to learn to think outside the box if a certain process or procedure is no longer working or working effectively.

To truly thrive in life, personally and professionally – to really be more confident and be happier – living inside the box is not an attractive thought.  It’s cramped, uncomfortable, constraining, and even claustrophobic inside the box.

Just the words – “inside the box” – can evoke panicky thoughts for many. Yet, for some, considering “outside the box” is a little scary and frightening. It can imply going “out there” where it’s unknown and where you’re kind of on your own. Neither option – inside the box or outside the box – evokes empowering subconscious imagery.

How about this… how about we throw the box away?!

Instead of thinking “inside the box” or “outside the box”, what if there was no box?! Would you be more confident? More ALIVE?!

It’s widely accepted that with age comes experience and with experience, comes knowledge. Many, at the end of their lives, express regret they didn’t live their life – or run their business – on their terms. They wonder what would have happened, what could have been, if they would have gone through life authentically? Would this have made them feel happy or like they had more personal power? Would it have made them actually achieve more or be more successful professionally?

Authenticity means not striving to do the norm or expected because you’re afraid of going to far outside what’s accepted or expected. It’s also not taking crazy chances just to be different or appear to be more confident and self-assured.

Living an authentic life and running an authentic business is doing what is true for you and yourself or your business because it’s what is best and for no other reason. It’s about taking chances when you believe there is a good reason and it’s about playing it safe because it’s the right thing to do at the time. It’s not born out of fear or recklessness.  

It takes some people a lifetime to understand this. Others are born thinking this way. No matter which group you belong to, it’s never too late to take the box and just throw it away! Then, just watch and see what happens—how amazing and exciting your personal and professional life without the box can be!


Susan Sly is a best selling author, speaker and entrepreneur. She has appeared on CNN, CNBC, Fox, Lifetime Television and the CBN. Susan is the mother of four children and resides in Scottsdale, Arizona.



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