think outside the box

Learning to Think Outside the Box

We hear about the proverbial “box” and the directive to learn to think beyond it.  At times, it seems like everyone is obsessed with thinking outside the box. Yet little is shared about the origin of the box or how exactly to think beyond its margins.  For most, to think outside the box  means approaching tasks in atypical ways, thinking creatively, and  challenging to the status quo.

The Box and its Beginnings

From the time you were young, you learned certain ways of doing things. These were taught and expected by family,  friends, teachers and coaches. These specific ways of thinking and acting became patterns. Some patterns may feel unnatural to you.  Those patterns that feel unnatural are one key to pushing beyond the box.

Why Think Outside the Box?

Call it creativity, seeing new connections, or seeking innovative solutions. These are reasons to think outside the box. The ability to take a new perspective or view of a problem is one trait of someone able to think outside the box. Those who do so know how to reshape their thinking.

Steps to Reshape the Box

There are various ways to reshape thinking patterns.  The most important and often most challenging is to identify and change ways of thinking that have developed over the years.

  • Routinely question the status quo.  Ask “What if?” and “Why not?”
  • Widen your prospective.  Rotate between different concepts to find new connections.

Learn to Think Outside Your Usual

Creativity springs from the ability to form thoughts in fresh, expansive ways. This can begin by releasing your usual patterns. Here are some methods to do so:

  • Print or write with your non-dominant hand.
  • Take a different route to work.
  • Focus on your breathing for five minutes.
  • Close your eyes and draw a box. What does it look like?

What Next?

Note changes you notice as you play with thinking outside the box. Do something each day to push the edges. Remember, learning to reshape thought patterns takes practice and patience.


For more innovative thinking tips, check out Habits of Highly Successful People.