Think Outside the Box About Thinking Outside the Box

Tyler Leahy

Opinions Editor

leahyThink outside the box: it’s an idiom that quickly bordered on cliché, and not because of what it means. It’s certainly a positive to have the capability to think beyond convention. The question is, then—why are you confining yourself to a box in the first place?

I have found myself asking this question quite often. The reality of the situation is that a person can seem quite ordinary, yet their personality is a meld of bold, unconventional trait combinations. A person can think outside the box when faced with a problem, or they may never be surrounded by four humdrum hypothetical walls to begin with.

We place ourselves in a closed space, within an idea of who we should be for ourselves or for others. The ironic part is that when we open up the space, we are our unadulterated selves. The beauty of this wunderkind is that the people creating their own angles, living their own ways, don’t always notice that they’re different. They’ve figured it out and they don’t even know it.

I know what you’re thinking, but hold your horses before you ask me to get off my high one. I can’t act like an expert on the matter, because maybe I don’t have it figured it out—but maybe I do. It’s so subjective that really only you can decide yourself if you’re living life a little differently than the average Joe or average Josephine.

There’s something to be said about being a little different. It’s something to strive for. Why live life by the book? There is no book that will give you all of the instructions, but with all of the preconceptions we allow to rattle around in our brains, we really do have our own unwritten books wired into our thoughts. We tell ourselves what we should do rather than trusting ourselves. I’m guilty of it myself, even if at times my hunches seem closer to clairvoyance than plain intuition.

Everybody has the opportunity to avoid being a carbon copy of any individual of 7 billion others in the world. You don’t have to be downright weird to be different, and your perspective can be entirely its own.  Then again, what you consider weird might be a figment of the confined, inside-the-box thinking we’re used to doing.

Daring to be a little different doesn’t guarantee you’ll change the universe. I would equate this to the way stand-up comedian Aziz Ansari jokes about his work ethic that usually results in wasting time on the internet. For him, this means becoming the authority on all things researchable about Joe Pesci. Useless information, sure—but it’s still different.

On the more innovative side of being different, people often think of Steve Jobs. I’ve even seen him chronicled as a humble narcissist. Not everyone can be the genius that shifts the paradigm for modern life, but again, everyone is capable of being different.

Think of your life as a story. Would you want to read all of the way through a novel that seems to be the same as ten different ones you’ve already read by different authors? You want your story to be sweet as a cookie, just not cut like one. You have all of the control. Sure, you have an audience in mind that might play into how you shape the story, but you call the shots. You toss in all of the ingredients you want to. You’re the narrator.

Think of people you know, and keep in mind that not every amazing story has the most absurd circumstances. Who does things a little differently, unashamed in a way that really works for them, and is really admirable to others? These are the people that have figured it out, and often the people who admire them are other people that have figure it out, too.

It’s not a new concept; I’m not shifting any paradigms here. I’m a little more jobless than that guy Steve who had it right in his surname.  Still, be conscious of yourself. What are you doing to set yourself apart? What do you do that you feel good about, regardless of input by others trying to put you in a four-walled box?

When you wake up one morning and think ‘I think I’ve got this figured out,’ be conscious of that moment, too. Don’t let it go to your pretty little head. The humble narcissist is admirable; the one-dimensional narcissist, though—not so much. After all, the word ‘narcissist’ derives from Greek mythology about a hunter, Narcissus. When Narcissus saw his reflection in a pool of water, he fell in love with it, not realizing what a reflection is. He drowned.

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