By Darcey Pollard
We all know that “thinking outside the box” means to find another option or solution. At times this can be challenging, whether we are searching for a solution to a new problem at work, moving through a personal struggle or trying to change something within our life. Solutions don’t always come easily, so I went in search of a simpler and more effective way to find them.
My mission was to find someone to model who could teach me how to instantly, on-demand, think outside the box so that, along with taking action, a solution would be inevitable.
To do this I knew that I needed to find the answer to three questions.
- Who excels at this kind of thinking?
- How does this person do what they do?
- How can I replicate this to achieve similar results?
I began exploring my library and speaking to the most successful people I knew to find out what they all had in common when overcoming adversity and challenge. It turns out that at one time we all had this ability, and it developed in childhood. In fact, I found that kids are the best when it comes to this kind of “instant-solution” thinking. Any parent can tell you that if you ask children any question, they will quickly have an answer for you. Whether that answer is right or wrong is irrelevant as we are searching for ways to generate options because any answer can be a preliminary option.
My focus then turned to the next question, “How do kids do this?” How is it that children have this amazing ability to always come up with a plethora of options, and when they grow into adults they seem to lose this ability? The answer seemed to be two-fold.
First: Children are not as worried about being criticized, judged, or dismissed for their answers in the same fashion as adults. In today’s society, adults have a fear of being judged by the people around them and, even worse, to be completely dismissed as being wrong. People just go on without saying anything, rather than risk being made to look foolish.
Second: Although children filter their world in relatively the same way as adults, they tend to believe that more is possible because they’ve had fewer setbacks and therefore are somewhat more optimistic about possibilities. Within our brains, we all use the same groups to sort information including memories, attitudes, values and beliefs, rules about time/space/matter/energy, language, rules around how we process information and references to decisions we’ve made. The differences between adults and children lie in what information is important to them, what they believe or distrust and, most important in this context, their evidence base of what is possible.
Dare to Dream
Both of these factors affect how big people dare to dream and how likely they are to achieve those goals. With an understanding of how they do what they do, we need to distill the information a little more and work out how we can replicate and apply it to our lives. We know that we have internal filters that narrow down our focus of the world around us based on what we include within them; children’s filters are broader as they take in all that they can with nothing being irrelevant to their learning. Adults are narrower, as our learning tends to be more specific. We take on a certain curriculum at school, move into a particular career path and gain more focused information from varying arenas throughout life such as the Internet, media outlets, schools, institutions and religious, social and cultural groups. It is a natural progression, and it is how we master certain skills.
To help broaden our focus to devise more possible solutions, there are three things that we can begin to do today to temporarily step out of our narrowed filters to allow us to dream bigger and come up with possible solutions to any problem almost instantly.
Ask great quality questions. The quality of the questions that you ask yourself is a direct reflection of the success you can achieve and how well you can broaden your focus and come up with solutions. For example, instead of asking, “What do I want from life?” ask, “If money was no object and nothing could stand in my way, what would give me an even more fulfilling life?” Same question, different grade.
Get curious. Children are naturally inquisitive. They are constantly learning about their world and are always trying to work out why and how things are. Being curious gets us to explore ideas and concepts that we would otherwise have dismissed as not being relevant. Ideas breed other ideas.
Model. When toddlers look to acquire new skills and to belong, they model their parents. Likewise, teenagers model their favorite celebrities. If you have a problem, I can assure you that you weren’t the first, and you can simply seek out somebody who has successfully overcome the problem or who has achieved the outcome that you want, and then model what they did. Simply: find the person, find out how they did it, and then find a way to adapt and apply it to your life.
It is all too easy to forget what is possible in life. We put blinders on, just go with what we know and, when faced with a problem that seems comparable to the size of Mt. Everest, we get overwhelmed and don’t believe we have the skill or prowess to handle it. By taking a step back and thinking as our younger selves would do, we have a unique opportunity to take a fresh look at our lives and come up with solutions to seemingly impossible problems that we never before thought conceivable.
You have it all within you right now to remove “The Box!”
Darcey Pollard is a success strategist based in Melbourne, Australia who has helped clients internationally achieve new levels of success in both their personal and professional lives. He also works with business’ to improve team productivity, communication and leadership skills. A person who holds high expectations from both himself and his clients Darcey is constantly seeking those that are “doing it better” so that he can then learn their principles to success and put these into a system everybody can use. Darcey can be contacted directly at firstname.lastname@example.org and through his website www.mrdarceycoaching.com.
This article is a chapter in the co-authored book Transform Your Life! Order your copy today! http://transformation-publishing.com/book/transform-your-life/