Skip to main content

What does it even mean to think outside the box?

To think outside of the box is to expand and look beyond your normal way of thinking, to explore your thinking in places that it has never wandered before … to go beyond, above and through your normal way of thinking.

Yes …. it is breaking through your comfort zone of thinking and bursting through your boundaries of being, in simple words, ‘detaching from oneself’.

This is not just for individuals …. It applies to organisational and business thinking too!  For organisations and for businesses it is time to discover beyond your industry boundaries and explore – that might be a new horizon, a new frontier, and a new edge to break free from your existing barriers and limitations as a way to test the waters to get better results.

Box thinking is a metaphor for cognitive limitations — whether it is an internal or external driver.

‘Box thinking’ describes how we go about making decisions because the brain will resist change and it may feel uncomfortable initially, but you don’t have to settle for what you are, or what has been imposed on you … instead you get to create a brand new you.

Out of limitations comes creativity

Take a moment and cast your mind back when you were a child at primary school. Do you remember how the teacher would give you a picture to colour in and every time you went over the lines, you were told never to go over the lines….

No wonder most of us find it difficult to think outside the box! And yet it’s a skill we need now more than ever – we need to be agile in our thinking. This is the new norm.

But it can be challenging for that very reason because we have been conditioned to stay within the lines … imagine if we were conditioned or taught to colour outside the lines instead …. Then what?

Albert Einstein did say that “You have to colour outside the lines once in a while if you want to make your life a masterpiece”. 

Creative people colour outside of the lines

Well, to colour outside of the lines could be as simple as saying ‘yes’ to something and figuring out ‘how’ you are going to do it later.

Staying within the lines could also mean that when an opportunity arises rather than falling for the narrative that you are ‘not good enough’, or that you are ‘not the perfect’ person for this opportunity. Instead, you give it a go even if you have never done it before.

It’s about letting go of your perfectionism, social comparison, expectations and allowing yourself to try new things.

Things that you have never done before.

See limitations as opportunities

‘Agile’ is a bit of a buzz word now and there are many organisations that are looking for employees and partners who think outside the lines. Especially for those that want to embark on new challenges … to respond to laborious, arduous, or tricky things that present.

When we talk about outside the box thinking … we are talking about ‘colour outside the lines’ thinking … the type of thinking that is beyond your boundaries, or in other words, beyond your box.

Furthermore, you can be incredibly passionate with your words and colour outside the lines with endless ways of going deeper into a topic to get to the root cause with your thinking.

Dare to colour outside the lines

There is so much freedom that comes from colouring outside of the lines!

And yes, it is going against what we have been taught as children but that is the entire point my dearest one.

We must break away from old habits, old programs, and old patterns to be anything that we want to be.

If there is not a way, then make your own … or if there is no way, create one. If there is not a path, make it and if there is not a building, build one.

Thinking outside of the box is how you create magic and colouring outside the lines is your basic spirit birthright.

We were not meant to be perfect; we were meant to be whole … nothing was meant to be perfect as you deem what perfectionism is for you because there is so much beauty amongst the chaos if you step outside of your box, outside of your lines and boundaries.

Creativity is saying yes to new ideas

Colouring outside the lines requires more awareness, originality, imagination, and more creative intention that an individual, a leader, a team or a business that is necessary because you are breaking free from your reality, your paradigm, and your model of your world.

It is also a calling for courage to move beyond the fear.

If you look around … there is little room for colouring outside the lines when it comes to mainstream anything and yet the most creativity happens when you colour outside the lines.

So, how do we do it?

Start by asking a ‘what if’ question

I remember hearing a lecture and this doctor was talking about Nelson Mandela. He was sharing with us the story about how he was locked away for life, and for many years he was saying repeatedly — ‘I will never get out of here. I will never get out of here.’

Then one day, Nelson said to himself … ‘what if I was to get out of here?’

And of course, we all know how that story ended …

‘What if’ questions moves your attention, focus and thinking to your neo-cortex or your pre-frontal cortex, the executive part of your brain.

This is where all the changes take place. The ‘what if’ question opens your mind up to possibilities and opportunities.

Walk in someone else’s shoes

We know that action speaks louder than words and sometimes getting comfortable with being uncomfortable may be a lot easier said than done!

The final step is to step outside of your shoes, yes … leaving your comfort zone. If it helps you visualising, you are stepping outside of the box and throw the box out altogether.

Or another visualisation that you can use is to step out of your own shoes and into the shoes of another. This can be a very effective way of shifting your thinking or being. Sure, it can feel a little weird and uncomfortable at times, but I promise you only growth will come from it.

When you think outside of the box, or you are letting loose and colouring outside of the lines.

And change doesn’t have to be monumental … it can be as simple as doing the opposite to everyone else … which means colour outside the lines occasionally, what have you got to lose?

Here are some other blogs that may help you bust through your norms.

Sometimes Questions Are More Important Than Answers…

Show me. Don’t tell me.