You have heard people tout the need to think “out of the box”.  But what does that really mean?  The phrase “out of the box” is overused almost as much as the words “paradigm” and “synergy” – and like those terms, it is almost always used incorrectly.

To get understand what it is to think out of the box, you need to first understand what your box is made out of.  In other words, what is it that is confining you?

Your box is the set of rules and fears that govern the way you live and do business.  It is what makes you feel structured and secure.  And it also makes you rigid and inflexible.  Your box was built by you – probably without you even realizing it.

A box is a structure that keeps the “stuff” inside it – and inside you – together.  Getting out of the box is not just about being creative.  It is about stretching yourself past the very boundaries that you have set for yourself.

Why have you set these limits?  Is it because you are afraid to fail?  Well that particular fear doesn’t make you smart or even special – we are all afraid to fail.  But you cannot and will not truly succeed if you don’t fully put yourself out there and try something new.  Functioning within this fear clearly doesn’t help you, but more importantly it doesn’t help the people who work for you.   You should be inspiring others strive farther and reach higher.  So lead by example and go for it.

Are you still doing things the way they have always been done?  And here is the real question… why?  Albert Einstein famously said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.  So listen to dear old Uncle Al — if you want to make something different happen, do something different… and make it happen!

You are the architect of your box.  You are the one who built it up and only you can tear it down.  And you need to do it now, because you aren’t the only one trapped in it — everyone who works for you is stuck in there too.

As a box protects, it also conceals what is going on inside.  When you are working in the box, you are still doing just fine.  But boxes are straight and square and really boring.  So think about how you can break yourself and everyone around you out of it.  The difference between being in the box and out of the box is the difference between surviving and striving.

But wait.  But this is business, not anarchy. There need to be rules, right?  Wrong.  The best part of looking at the rules is choosing to forget about them and try something new.

It is understandably difficult to break out of the box. Boxes are sturdy – they protect their contents and keep them organized.  They are the structure that helped bring you to this pivotal point in your career.  But now you need to open that box and see how much farther you can go.

There is nothing to be afraid of. Make a conscious decision to let go of whatever it is that is holding you back.  Instead of worrying about what will happen, ask yourself, “What is the worst thing that could happen?”  You will not fail if you do not try – but you will not succeed either.  So get out of the box… and get out of your own way.

ASK YOURSELF:

How do I get out of my box?

Am I inspiring my employees to try new things?

Is there an opportunity to push myself outside my comfort zone this week?

What is the worst thing that could happen?