Stop in the box thinking

by Mary Ann on March 21, 2013

Getting out of the box can lead to more happiness

Getting out of the box can lead to more happiness

In the box thinking can happen at home!


We usually associate in the box thinking with business, either in creating new products or repairing business relationships.

Let me share a story about in the box thinking that has nothing to do with business. I have lived in my apartment for almost ten years. I love my apartment except for one thing, there are not many electrical outlets and they don’t all work well. I know, I know, I should get them fixed but as with most things that don’t cause enough discomfort, I just think about doing it, feel frustrated and suffer.

Because of the outlet situation I have always plugged my vacuum into the outlet in the bathroom which is just down a short hall from the living room. It is high on the wall by the mirror. It doesn’t hold the plug tightly and it frequently falls out and I have to plug it back in. It makes me so exasperated every time that I vacuum and usually by the time I am done I am angry at the vacuum and the plug, as if they are living things just out to make my life miserable. I have even been known to yell at the vacuum or the plug as if that is going to do any good. I was a victim to a home with lousy outlets! When I am ready to vacuum I sometimes think about how exasperating it is going to be. I am bugged before I start.

Getting a little help from a friend

Getting a little help from a friend

My daughter was helping me the other day and I noticed that she had plugged the vacuum in the kitchen which is also right off of the living room. I was amazed because it had never occurred to me to do that. I had always plugged it in the bathroom. I was often upset over the situation but I was busy and had a time line to meet. It was just get it done and get on to the next thing. This is an example of classic in the box thinking.

It took an outside view to help me to see another alternative to the problem that I was having. The next day she had another idea. She showed me that if I still wanted to use the bathroom plug all I had to do was wrap the cord around the towel rack hanging just above the plug and it would stay in. Imagine, two new possible solutions to my problem in two days after ten years of frustration. Both solutions were simple and workable.

I had gotten into the box when it came to vacuuming. Being frustrated and bugged and angry and feeling like a victim of bad outlets had become a habit for me.

I am sure you are saying to yourself how silly I am, how foolish to put up with a bothersome situation so long when there were some perfectly easy solutions right under my nose. You are right but that is what in the box thinking is…moving down one road and not taking the time to consider other alternatives,   feeling put upon, bothered, stuck and victimized.

I am telling you this story because this is what happens in our families. A child is bugging us, we can’t figure out how to solve a problem in our school efforts, we can’t seem to “fix” our schedule, the kids won’t do their chores,  and there are an abundance of other things.

We are all very busy moms and dads and sometimes we just do not take the time to step back and think out of the box in order to resolve an issue in our families  It is easier to just put up with things that are bugging us until they begin to cause real pain. By then we can be in real trouble.

It is also easier to blame someone else just as I blamed the vacuum cord and the plug. The real problem was easy to solve for my daughter who didn’t blame anything, who wasn’t willing to be frustrated and who was willing to STOP, look and see what other options were available.

Once we climb outside the box, all sorts of possible solutions emerge. Thinking out of the box is associated with creativity, it causes us to move in diverging directions, to consider a variety of solutions, to not feel like victims.

We all need help to get out of our boxes. If we make the effort we can find more peace in our families and in our relationships. When we learn to stop and look at our relationships in new ways we can solve our deepest, most difficult and persistent family problems.

 STOP in the box thinking

  • If you feel like a victim  that is a big red flag you are in the box
  • Stop blaming whatever is bothering you…a child, a spouse, a neighbor, a plug!
  • Take responsibility for the problem even if you think it isn’t your problem
  • This opens your mind to alternatives

Books to help you learn to stop in the box thinking

  • Leadership and Self Deception by The Arbinger Institute
  • The Anatomy of Peace by The Arbinger Institute
  • The Choice The Arbinger Institute
  • Bonds That Make Us Free The Arbinger Institute


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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Sandra March 22, 2013 at 11:01 pm

Mary Ann, I really had a laugh when I read this. I can so easily see myself in your place. And yes, my daughter has come along with the thinking outside the box…
Thanks for the laugh,


Mary Ann March 23, 2013 at 7:40 am

Nothing as good for the soul as admitting your foibles to the world. : )


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