Everything we are or ever will be is the direct result of the way we think. If we improve the quality of our thinking, then we improve the quality of our lives. In this post, you’ll learn how to think outside the box and boost your creativity so that you’ll set yourself up for living your life to the fullest, instead of having the handbrake on.
"As you think, so shall you become". - Bruce Lee
WE ARE BORN CREATIVE GENIUSES, YET THE EDUCATION SYSTEM DUMBS US DOWN
We are born with the potential of a creative genius, but from the moment we enter the school system, our natural gift is stifled.
Yes, you read right, we were born a GENIUS!
A longitudinal study conducted by Ph.D. George Land in 1968 proved it.
The study aimed to test the creativity of 1,600 children from three-to-five years old.
Land re-tested the same children at 10 years of age, and again at 15.
The results were mind-blowing.
The proportion of people who scored at the “Genius Level”, were:
- amongst 5-year-olds: 98%
- amongst 10-year-olds: 30%
- amongst 15-year-olds: 12%
What about adults? How many of us are still in contact with our creative genius after years of schooling?
Sadly, only 2% of all adults scored at genius level!
“What we have concluded,” wrote Land, “is that non-creative behavior is learned.” (Source: George Land and Beth Jarman, Breakingpoint and Beyond. San Francisco: HarperBusiness, 1993)
By the time we finish school, we’re much less creative than when we started.
We learn to color between the lines, to do and say what our peers do; and to say and do as we are told. We learn to conform, to think inside the box.
Over time we lose the wonderful fearless spontaneity of youth and learn to suppress ideas and insights that are unusual or different.
We no longer think outside the box.
SOMETHING WE HAVE IN COMMON WITH OUR ANCESTORS
It's enrooted in our DNA not to challenge the common set of principles.
Thousands of years ago our ancestors used to instruct the younger generations too.
They used to advise them about what to eat and what to avoid, how to hunt, what animals to chase, and what animals to run away from.
What did ignoring the advice mean?
In most cases death.
Outside-the-box thinking meant dying of starvation, of thirst.
It meant being mauled by predators; being poisoned by plants, or being excluded from the tribe.
Remember: we are tribal beings!
The priority of our existence is still survival.
The need for acceptance and belonging to a group is so great that we end up conforming to standard ways of thinking and behaving.
Have you ever been afraid of expressing an idea that seemed good to you for fear of being judged?
We fear making a fool out of ourselves by thinking differently, thus, we prefer to follow the crowd.
As a result, we conform and we give in to our creativity.
The good news is that since creativity is our birth gift, it can be suppressed, but not killed!
In other words, your creative potential - your inner genius - is simply sleeping.
It only needs to be reawakened and rehabilitated.
So, what can you do to bring back this lost creativity?
What can you do to think outside the box again?
The first step is to challenge your belief system, your assumptions, and presumptions.
It is important to understand that whatever view you currently hold of the world, is partly - if not wholly - the result of some form of cultural or societal indoctrination.
“We must look at the lens through which we see the world, as well as the world we see, and that the lens itself shapes how we interpret the world“. - Stephen R. Covey
Here are 17 strategies to challenge your belief system so that you can reawaken and beef up your out-of-the-box-thinking gift.
As a result, you’ll break the repetitive standardized patterns that stop you from living life to the fullest.
1) DOING THE OPPOSITE OF WHAT YOU USUALLY DO
Creativity thrives when you don't stay stuck in the same old routine.
Even the tiniest changes can have positive consequences for getting you out of a rut and encouraging creative thinking.
Doing the opposite of what you usually do helps you activate underused parts of the brain which rebalance those that are always "connected".
For example, if you always dress smart, challenge it, dress casual, or vice versa. If you are a speaker, challenge it, become a listener. If you only eat healthy, challenge it, choose the "wrong" food. If you are always in a rush, challenge it, slow down and “smell the rose”. If you take path “A” to go from home to work, challenge it, take path “B” or “C”.
Be spontaneous. Occasionally do things that you haven't planned for.
This will force you to adapt to the moment and overcome problems on the fly.
2) FEELING THE MENTAL RESISTANCE, LEANING TO IT, AND DOING IT ANYWAY
When faced with a challenge, most of us stick to what is familiar and choose the path of least mental resistance.
We draw upon tried and tested ideas that have worked well in the past.
There is nothing wrong with this approach or a strategic and risk-calculated formula.
However, forcing yourself to take a different approach to tackle the challenges can encourage you to come up with original and exciting solutions.
Each day, break your daily habits and try to break away from your usual way of doing things.
This helps you past those invisible but very much present constraints that we have built ourselves.
3) MAKING MISTAKES IS FINE, IT’S PART OF THE GAME
Thinking outside the box requires risk-taking, and with risk-taking, mistakes happen.
Nothing restricts creative thinking quite like the fear of failure.
However, when you look at some of the greatest innovators, Sir James Dyson, Thomas Edison, and Albert Einstein you realize that failure was the catalyst for their successes.
When it comes to thinking outside the box, it’s essential that you are prepared to take risks and make mistakes.
If not, you come to a standstill before you’ve even begun.
Instead of focusing on everything that may go wrong, focus on all the things that could go right.
Some of our best accomplishments are born from our mistakes, temporary setbacks.
4) PAYING ATTENTION TO WHAT IS AROUND YOU
Go out for a walk and start observing what surrounds you.
Look right, left, look at the ground and learn to look up too.
Do you remember when you were a child and looking at the clouds you came up with different raffigurations?
Well, it’s a great way to stimulate your out-of-the-box thinking mode!
We tend more and more not to look around.
We walk with headphones always ON, or even worse, with our eyes turned to the black mirror.
Learning to observe what surrounds you can give you ideas to create something new or to improve something that already exists, but does not work as it should.
Also, changing your perspective, and looking at things not only in a different way but from a different point of view, can help you discover things you didn't notice.
5) TRAINING YOUR IMAGINATION
A holiday from the everyday self.
What would you like to be or become? What does your dream life look like?
Since everything starts within your own mind, visualizing and daydreaming rosy prospects can positively influence the course of events, provided you take action on your dreams.
6) USING AN OBJECT CREATIVELY
Imagine creative uses of an object - a chair, a brick, a toothpick, a cup of coffee - different from the usual ones.
Take any object and imagine new ways of using it, ways that do not belong to the conventional use of the object.
You have 3 minutes.
The goal is to draw up a list that includes as many uses as possible.
There is a rule that must be respected, no judgment!
Come up with as many ideas as possible, without judging whether they are valid or not.
Immerse yourself in a creative flow and write on paper whatever comes to your mind.
Quantity and not quality wins.
Let the child in the video below inspire your creativity.
7) TRANSFORMING 30 CIRCLES INTO RECOGNIZABLE OBJECTS
Take a piece of paper with 30 empty circles drawn on it.
Set a timer for 3 minutes.
Turn as many circles as possible into recognizable objects within the time limit.
This exercise promotes mental agility because it requires you to generate results even conceptually distant from each other (e.g. a face, the moon, a basketball, ...) in a very short time
8) LEARNING NEW THINGS
Never stop, never be satisfied.
Feed your brain daily, challenge yourself to learn something new every day whether it is a new word in a foreign language or a new concept.
The more you broaden your horizons the more connections your brain is going to be able to make.
The more information your brain has access to, the more it's able to come up with unusual ideas.
Is there anything you don't think you can learn? Perfect, that should be the object of your next study.
There are no innate skills, everything can be done with study, concentration, and application.
Learning is the only thing that matters!
Always study something new, as a result, your brain will always stay young and ready to tap into its creative potential.
9) PAYING ATTENTION TO HOW PEOPLE THINK AND PROCESS INFORMATION
Read interviews, speeches, and even novels.
But, focus on the way people think.
Focus on the ways they process their reasoning, the logical patterns they activate, the assumptions on which they base their arguments, and the ways they process information.
Concentrate on the people or characters who have nothing to do with your profession or environment.
People such as sportsmen, painters, managers, captains of industry, priests, trade unionists, magistrates, lawyers, writers, and singers.
Evaluate how much their reasoning conforms to their professional context and how much (and how) they think outside the box.
Approach other people's ideas and points of view with curiosity instead of judgment.
10) GETTING BORED
The mind tends to wander more when you are bored.
Nowadays, there are so many distractions to fill even those moments, which are pivotal in the creative process.
A method to stimulate the mind to be creative is therefore to turn off any source of distraction and allow yourself to get bored.
In this way, your brain begins to wander and rework all the various information and notions it has absorbed, and draw something out of them.
11) SURROUNDING WITH PEOPLE WHO THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX
“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with”. - Jim Rohn
Your creativity skyrockets when you work or befriend people who inspire that creativity in you and in your work.
Do you have any friends who are revolutionists, who don’t follow the crowd, but think outside the box instead?
If not, set a goal to find and spend the most time with them.
Likewise, make sure to not hang out with conformists, otherwise, you’ll keep thinking inside the box and limiting your personal development.
Pick a topic, set a 5-minute slot, and write as fast as you can without stopping to edit.
It flows best if you do it with a pen and paper rather than on a computer.
The timer adds some pressure to keep writing, forcing your brain to think creatively instead of conventionally.
13) BEING OPEN TO NEW EXPERIENCES, PEOPLE, TASTING, AND PLACES
Try everything, at least once (except what is clearly harmful).
The goal is to know and not to judge.
Travel, go to seminars, try courses, read books you would never read, follow in the footsteps of desire.
Opening up to new things helps to change perspectives and spur your out-of-the-box thinking mode.
14) TURNING THE PROBLEM UPSIDE DOWN
This is a drawing of an old lady. To see something different change your perspective by turning the picture upside down.
Reversing the way you look at it changes the drawing into something different.
It’s the same with ideas; revert the way you look at your problems!
Our brain is so used to following the same patterns that it often excludes many others and we are unable to see them until we change our point of view.
15) STARTING FROM THE END - WORKING BACKWARDS
Something we tend to do when faced with a problem is to focus too much on the problem itself, losing sight of the goal we want to achieve!
An excellent out-of-the-box thinking strategy, therefore, consists in starting from the end.
Define the final result you want to achieve precisely.
Imagine what the step immediately preceding the finish line should be.
Keep regressing, one step at a time, until you have reached your current situation.
16) USING ALL THE SENSES
Most of us have five senses, sight, touch, hearing, smell, and taste, but we very rarely use them all to solve problems.
Generally, we only use sight to process things.
But, the use of the other 4 senses can give us a better picture of the problem, and lead to useful results.
For example, when faced with a problem, why not express your thoughts aloud and record them on your cell phone?
When you listen, you may find something that you would otherwise miss.
17) ADOPTING MENTAL MAPPING
Write down the problem you want to solve or the goal you want to achieve in the center of your map.
Then expand on this problem/goal by surrounding it with terms that better describe what you need.
Once your mind map has this first level, add a second level to each of your needs by describing how you might be able to solve these individual challenges.
Keep adding items to your mind map using the steps above until you've broken down the problem/goal into manageable chunks.
Use as many images and colors as possible!
They serve as anchors for memory, besides making your map more readable.
Images and colors can help you organize information and draw attention to specific points.
Since mind maps are visual aids, they require your brain to adapt its mental processes, which can often help you find answers unexpectedly.
Mind maps give you the opportunity to put all your ideas on paper and then step back to collect your thoughts and gain clarity.
Ultimately, mind maps can be a great way to improve your lateral thinking or thinking-out-of-the-box mode.
Our creativity and ability to think outside the box are like muscles – they need exercise to stay in shape.
Without stimulation and a healthy dose of challenge, it can be easy to get stuck in a rut, in your comfort zone, and revisit the same ideas over and over again.
Thinking outside the box is all about challenging the obvious and digging deeper to unleash your genius mind’s potential.
Do you have any other strategies for thinking outside the box?
Share your tips in the comments below. Let’s grow together!
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2 thoughts on “HOW TO THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX AND LIVE WITHOUT LIMITATIONS”
Strategy one made me laugh straight away – my first thought was: i’m always faithful to my wife 🙂
Well – I have to admit that this is thinking outside the box and changing that would boost my creativity!
Other than that – great ideas. I’m planning to do the 30 circles with my daughter 🙂
I am glad you have found something valuable and something that made you laugh too 😁😁.
I am looking forward to hearing how your daughter finds the 30 circles game to think outside the box.
Till next time, all the best!