This. Is. The Box.

It’s the one we are told not to be caught dead in. Conventional wisdom says inside-the-box thinking won’t allow you to consider creative solutions that are innovative, original, mind-blowing, yada yada.

Note the quote that has been travelling social media since forever:

“Instead of thinking outside the box, get rid of the box.” – Deepak Chopra

I beg to differ.

You know how when someone says “Don’t look at that thing over there,” it just makes you want to look at that thing? The Box is sort of like that. To be pressed to think outside The Box – or get rid of the box - just makes you concentrate even harder on it and all the stuck-in-the-box ideas you’ve come up with.

That’s because you’re trying so hard to come up with a monumental idea no one in the history of mankind has ever seen before. So, your artistic process shuts down. It’s Forest-Trees Syndrome. We can’t see beyond the confines of The Box that’s not supposed to be there.

I’m no Deepak Chopra, but I believe starting inside the box is not a bad thing. Since everybody knows there’s nothing new under the sun, that we can only tweak what has come before, there’s no sin in starting with box-shaped rules as a base and moving up from there. Use the box as leverage, then beat it up, wring it out and kick it to the curb.

I have learned not to fret about beginning a design project inside the box. Frankly, sometimes that’s as far as my creativity will take me for the moment. I have to trust that, as I go along, more meaningful results will emerge.

The take-away here is to start something. And if that something is plain and ordinary rather than rock ‘em-sock ‘em, off-the-charts visionary … that’s ok.

Just begin. Work the problem. Work it again, layer upon layer. Trust your instincts. Follow through to a finish – at least for the moment – even if it’s not perfect. No wait -- especially if it’s not perfect!

Let the box work for you, just for a little while. Then, set your work aside to marinate in a blend of perspective and objectivity.

Later, when you revisit your work with fresh eyes, you’re more likely to see an even better direction to take it. At minimum you’ll get some much-needed clarity: toss this part, keep that part, take this corner of an idea and push it outside the box and run with it. Or very possibly, your first attempts weren’t as far inside the box as you thought they were.

When you’re tripping on your own fears and self-doubt, forget inside or outside. Instead, use the box to your advantage, a kind of stepping stone to higher thinking. Remember that The Box means you’re at least doing something, moving forward. And movement begets motion which begets momentum. And off you go.

The box hasn’t got a chance.

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1 comment

  • Blair Smith: May 30, 2023
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    Definitely an interesting post!

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