Don't Just Think Outside The Box; Act Outside The Box
Think outside the box is what they all tell you. Not too long ago, I had the privilege of sitting down and chatting with David Neeleman, the founder of one of the world's most popular airlines — Jet Blue. What most people don't realize is that Neeleman suffers — if suffers is the right word — from ADHD. While ADHD is mainly viewed as a disorienting disorder, Neeleman doesn't see it as such.
In fact, he claims that much of — if not all of — his success is due to him having to deal with ADHD. According to him, it allows him to “think outside the box.” And there it is again — thinking outside the box. I have found, however, that thinking outside the box is not only difficult, but also misleading. At the end of the road, thinking is just thinking — regardless of whether or not it's inside, outside or atop of the box.
So what exactly is the box and why think outside of it? The box can be defined differently depending on what it is exactly that you are trying to accomplish. There are two basic boxes: the box that outlines standard conformity of the status quo, and the box that outlines and holds our comfort zones. Assuming that the end result of any of the endeavors we pursue is some sort of change or separation from the norm, then the first box that we must look outside of is our comfort box.
Take a look at your life from a distance. Imagine that you are looking at yourself as someone else would look at you — from a third person's perspective. The life that you are looking at is the result of all the decisions that you made, from birth until now. All the decisions you made were based on some logic that you must have at some point or another deemed appropriate and correct.
The thoughts and actions that were a result of the questions or problems presented to you and the answers — actions — that you gave in response are the steps that brought you to the place that you are now. Yes, there is much to be said about outside forces influencing us, nurturing us to become the people that we are today. However, it isn't the situations themselves that have an effect on us; it's the way that we perceive them, understand them and respond to them.
We could go into a long discussion of nature versus nurture, but that would be unnecessary. For the time being, we aren't interested in the basics that make up our nature, but rather how we can create the change that we are seeking to create. Because that is how change happens — it isn't something that we wait for; it's something that we will into being.
All the actions that you took and all the ways that you responded to stimuli throughout your life have brought you to where you stand today. These actions and the line of thinking that they are a result of are what make up your comfort box. There is no set standard for what fits inside your comfort box because it is different for different people. You may not be comfortable with doing some things — such as playing with full grown lions — but there are people who have grown accustomed to almost every and any circumstance imaginable. People have the ability to adapt to their surroundings — you have that same ability.
The way to think outside of your comfort box is in a sense a form of adaptation. You first define the borders of your comfort box, decide how you would like to restructure those boundaries, and then find action that can be repeated until the borders are broadened. Stretching the limits of your comfort box is necessary before moving on to the next important step: thinking (and acting) outside the box of the status quo.
This is what most people claim to be “the box” that we must think outside of. There is a crucial reason as to why thinking outside box — or rather, acting outside of it — is necessary for success. It's based on a theory in economics that has proven to hold true time and time again.
Assume that the average person works within the box and does all that he or she can do to reach goals that are also within the box. Now, imagine that the majority of the people in the world are also aiming for such goals and others that are also inside this box. We now have a box that, although holding all the socially acceptable goals, has billions and billions of hands rummaging around inside of it. Inside this box we have the common job, the common life, the common routines and the common dreams. Now outside the box, on the other hand, we have the things and goals that are unimaginable by the masses. We have becoming a billionaire.
We have finding love that lasts forever. We have traveling the world and living like a king. All of these things are outside the box and believed to be unattainable by the status quo. Do you see the issue? All the things that we believe to be in our reach are already being sought after by the rest of the world. And those things that we believe to be impossible…only a handful are going after those in comparison. Life is a competition in large part; the larger the competition, the less likely a successful result. Tell me, where are you hedging your bets? Where you have the most competition? Or the least?
Thinking outside the box is — always — better than thinking inside the box. Whether it's your comfort box or the box that contains our universe and all possibilities, it's always smarter and more beneficial to look outside of it. However, thinking — whether inside our outside the box — is useless without action. We are beings that exist on a physical plain and we must learn to turn our thoughts into actions in order to get results.
Thinking outside the box is not enough; we must act outside the box in order to create the imaginable that is thought to be unreachable. Don't just think outside the box — act outside the box. Do outside the box. Live and breathe outside the box. Push the borders and see what discomfort you can turn into comfort. See what the world really has to offer. The further you push the limits, the more and more you come to realize that there actually aren't any.
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