Getting Out of Our Boxes
OK, I know we've all heard that phrase so much that it makes us want to get back into the box and close the cover, but I heard it again this weekend, and just wanted to share what opened up for me.
I attended a seminar this weekend and the presenter used that analogy, but he described it in such a way that I actually felt the walls of the box around me (consider jumping into a refrigerator box, and then adding your family members and your personal history, all the things you've learned over the years, and throw in a couple of close friends).
What all of us bring into that box with us, whether we know it or not, are all the experiences that make us who we are today. What the presenter talked about was how we might be able to start making our way out of our boxes by thinking about something different - trying a new restaurant, having an original thought, or thinking like an entrepreneur, for instance. What usually happens is that as soon as we talk about a new idea - or a new political candidate, or a new kind of automobile - those people we've got in our box with us become gunslingers, as the presenter called them: people with six shooters ready to shoot down that new idea.
If we're prisoners to our past and stuck in that box, we'll immediately pull back that new idea for fear of looking different and we'll perpetuate our lives in the box.
Now I'm not here to say that there's anything wrong with that box. Many of us have lived there so long we've got pictures on the walls and curtains in the windows. And the truth is, we've survived this long in that box that we're going to survive the rest of our lives that way. There's nothing wrong with the box.
But if the box is starting to feel kind of tight and the window is looking more appealing, there is always an opportunity to offer up another idea with a different intention. If the intention is to shoot down the gunslingers before they shoot you down, that might not yield the most positive results. But if the intention is to be true to yourself and to explore life beyond the box, you never know what you might find. If you're ready to get beyond mere survival, there might be an opportunity to thrive outside the box.
I'm reminded of another story I heard somewhere about a remote village which was many, many miles away from any other village. The people of the village shared a common well which provided water to all the people, and lived their lives there without any thoughts of venturing beyond their boundaries. But one young boy decided that he needed to see what else was out there, so ventured out.
While he was gone, a great plague overtook the village and tainted the water supply, and all who drank of it slowly went mad. But having no outside influence, they had no way of knowing the water was tainted.
The boy returned to his home village to teach all that he had seen and learned. But it soon became clear to the boy that something had happened in his village while he was gone. The people were much more closed and irritated than they had been when he lived there, and when he tried to tell them what he had learned, they were convinced that he had been poisoned by the outside influences.
The paradoxical question is: who is tainted, those who stay in the box or those who venture out?
I've read two books which have provided a lot of support as I ask myself those questions. The first is Paulo Coehlo's The Alchemist and the second is Andy Andrews' The Traveler's Gift. I'd love to hear from others about those books or about how you've gotten out of your box. Let's form a support system for others who are ready to venture out!