23/02/2016 06:29 GMT | Updated 22/02/2017 05:12 GMT

Out Of The Box Thinking

I expect many have heard people say- "we need to think out of the box", but what on earth does that mean? In business it is called Strategic thinking and I have written a few posts on using strategic thinking to enable more effective business processes. However, it is a bit of a dry subject and doesn't mean much to your everyday person faced with a dilemma.

Are you in a box with the way you think?

Let me ask you a different you tend to react the same way to a problem? Perhaps your heart races and lots of old feelings about not being able to cope rise to the surface? That is certainly not uncommon with anyone who has suffered a trauma, and it is certainly something I can relate to. Many of our reactions to a problem or a challenge are embedded in our childhood experiences or our view of ourselves in our teens. I have a really skinny friend who cannot quite shake the image of her large, plump 16-year old self. How we think and feel about difficulties can be changed by shifting our instant reactions to a problem. This could be seen as out of the box thinking for ordinary people.

You don't have to be an Einstein or a Steve Jobs to look at things differently. You might have to do a bit of work on it though.

picture courtesy of

Steps to encouraging out of the box thinking

Step 1. - identify your current thinking

What is your default emotion when faced with a problem? We tend to have similar reactions to situations and taking a long hard look at them can help us change them. You know when you stub your toe and as the pain rises so does your anger level? This is the body's natural mechanism for dealing with pain. What if the pain is emotional, not physical, is anger your default emotion?

Or do you want to cry, hide in a corner and feel sorry for yourself (even as you know that is not helpful?) Perhaps you want to find someone to blame when stuff goes wrong? Or does emotional upset drive you to displacement action? Another friend of mine scrubs her kitchen floor when times get tough- I am actually pleased to see her house untidy on occasions because I know it means she is happy.

Step 2. - stop those thoughts

Delay tactics. To shift your thinking, you need to put a pause between your normal reaction and a more useful one. Grandmother's advice to count to ten has some real value here. When faced with a problem you have to look at what you are thinking immediately and say to yourself, stop, is there another way to look at this?

Step 3. - think out of the box

This is where out of the box thinking comes into play. Think of the most outrageously different way you could tackle the problem. At the very least this will make you laugh and diffuse the tension and at best it will shift your thinking to a totally different angle. Somewhere in between is probably the solution that works for you but is not your usual approach.

Remember Einsteins' quote...

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

If you are not getting the results you want in life, relationships and/or career; time for some out of the box thinking.


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