Do you ever feel like you’re moving throughout your day on autopilot? Doing the same things, dealing with the same situations, without realizing you have a choice to respond in a different way?
There’s a problem with the phrase “think outside the box.” Before you can start to think in a different way, you have to see that the box of your typical patterns exists.
It’s much easier to fall into the habit of making the same choice over and over again, and most of the time you don’t even realize you’re doing it!
We often forget that, in every situation we face, we have the ability to choose how we respond. We are not limited to just doing what we always do or following our familiar patterns.
And because we have this ability to make a choice, we have the freedom to make changes in our lives that can help us grow.
Let me share with you an experience that really opened my eyes to the “rules” I was unconsciously creating that limited my choices.
One morning while staying at my brother-in-law’s house, I moved sleepily into the kitchen around breakfast time to boil some water for tea.
I grabbed a cup, selected one of the tea bags, and poured myself a much-need cup of tea.
At the kitchen table, I was perfectly content enjoying the tea’s soothing warmth, until my brother-in-law came to make a cup for himself.
I was shocked when I saw him placing TWO tea bags in the same mug. Was that even allowed????
It had never occurred to me that you could use two tea bags to make one cup of tea. I mean, they’re wrapped individually for a reason, right? The box tells you that one tea bag is enough to make one cup of tea…
I liked my tea nice and strong, so why had I never tried this? It’s like I was living by an unconscious ‘law’ that said, “You can only have one tea bag per cup.”
I hadn’t even realized that I was limiting myself with this rule. I didn’t ever stop to take the time to consider the possibility that there might be another way… a way that was different from how I always did it.
How could I have noticed that I needed to think outside the box, when I didn’t even know that I was stuck in a box?
Noticing Your Box
If you want to become more conscious of the choices you make, start looking at any assumptions, laws, or rules that drive your behavior.
Questioning your actions and the motives behind them can help you create a sense of fulfilment inside yourself, and become more connected to your inner voice.
It can be hard to remember that, even though you’re being paid to do certain things at work, you often have freedom in how you approach your workday, your tasks, and your interactions with others.
Even when you feel like you’re locked into the rules and culture of your workplace, you still have the power to decide how you react and respond to it.
You can notice what habits and patterns you’ve unknowingly fallen into. Start tuning in to your inner wisdom so you can see where you might be able to make a change.
Actions to Consider
Here are a few strategies that you can try out to help you start noticing where you might be stuck inside the box of unconscious routines at work…
- Look at your office space with a fresh perspective.
- What would you think if you were seeing it for the first time?
- What do you like or not like about it?
- How could you create a space that supports your goals?
- Reflect on the structure of your day.
- How do you use your time throughout the workday?
- Do you feel in control of your work, or overwhelmed by it?
- What creative ways can you organize your day to be more efficient and more enjoyable?
- Notice your interactions with others.
- How are you affecting the people around you?
- What effect do they have on you?
- Are there changes you could make to work efficiently and respectfully with others?
These three simple actions can help you understand yourself so that you can start improving. Once you can notice habits or patterns in your day, you can start to make changes that will help you grow.
You have the power to influence and improve anything you set your mind to. Just take the first step and notice.
And if you’d like some support in this process, head over to my services page to see how I can help you see your boxes and break through them.
Jessica Hartung is a partner, coach, and guide for those leveling-up their personal professional leadership, their teams, and their communities to a better future.
Jessica has a passion for inspiring and preparing people to grow from their work to improve their lives. In 1998, she founded Integrated Work, a consulting firm that brings top-notch professional development to mission-driven leaders, while being a learning laboratory for innovative work practices.
Jessica provides self-directed professional development tools to leaders at all levels striving to create positive impact.