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Thinking inside the Box--How limitations can encourage creativity




When I was a child I thought simply. I didn't over analyze things the way I do now. Ask me a question and what you would mostly get is the simplest answer possible. I would think it's the same thing for most children.


As we get older, though, thinking becomes more advanced. Right around middle or high school we're encouraged to think more analytically. Dive deeper. Explore. Come up with an idea that is unique. Think outside the box. From that point on we're always looking for an answer that seemingly doesn't exist. But what if going outside the box isn't always the answer to solving a problem? What if working within our constraints, within our boxes, was?

Think inside the box. Really?


I watched a TED Talk by Phil Hansen, Embrace the Shake, and it changed my perspective on thinking outside the box. Not that I discourage its use or would advocate for people to stop doing it. The talk just gave me a different perspective on how I work and view creativity.


While Hansen was an art student he developed a shake in his hand that prevented him from creating art through his usual method. Out of frustration he eventually left school and didn't create any art for three years. One day he decided to see a neurologist and learned he had permanent nerve damage. As he's thinking about how he'll never return to art, his physician said to him, "Why don't you embrace the shake?" By embracing his shake, Hansen embraced his limitations. He asked himself,

"Can you learn to be creative within the confines of limitations?"

Listening to his talk made me question whether I had missed out on opportunities to grow, and create, because I was so focused on thinking outside the box instead of utilizing all of the tools or resources in my possession.


Embrace your box


Creators are always trying to create something new. Something the world has yet to see and so there is this assumption that you have to go outside the box, outside of what you normally do, in order to achieve success or to be recognized for your talent. In some cases what could be our saving grace, and move us forward, is looking towards what is already in our possession. Looking inward and asking,What's in my toolbox that I have yet to explore?


Personally, I needed to embrace communication. I'm a writer. And although it took me some time to embrace that title, it's what I am. Unfortunately, it's also what I hide behind. I use my love of writing to keep myself from having to explore other facets of communication. For example, video creation. Majority of the content I create is written. But I tend to overlook the fact that not every person loves to read, or has time to. For the commuter, or person that is short on time, occasionally, a video is easier. I needed to reach into my toolbox and create content that spoke to another portion of the population. I created videos before, but for fun. Creating videos around my writing, or business, that was scary. So, I chose not to do it. I purposely left a resource untapped. As much as I didn't want to, I knew I had to tap into this resource if I wanted to grow.


I also needed to take heed to advice from those around me. Often times we forget that one of our greatest resources are the people we surround ourselves with. They see potential in us in ways we either do not, or cannot, see it. I had received countless tidbits of information from my circle. Everything from placing all of my stories onto a website to expanding how I use social media. These were things I knew and had tucked away into my toolbox. They might have stayed there if I hadn't decided to stop looking outside the box for change or influence.


Looking inward encourages growth


If I hadn't taken the time to look inside my box, and to also take the advice of people that see the world, and me, differently, I would have passed on an opportunity to explore every resource available to me. My mindset would have remained I have to look towards what I do not have in order to create change. Through exploring my box, I'm learning, and understanding, that we don't always have to go outside our box to figure out something new or to innovate. It's looking inward and doing a little soul searching to assess whether you've done all you can with what you have that can create an equal amount of change and creativity.


With this information, perhaps we can begin to shift our thinking about creativity by embracing the idea that the inside of our boxes are "as infinitely big as the outside."

Here's to good thoughts and even better stories.

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