Kaarin Anderson Ryan, PhD, BCBA, LBA. 1.15.20
We love it. That phrase, “Think outside the box”. It makes us think of creativity, progress, innovation, independence. Thing is, there is so much creativity and innovation on display out there, and it is so easy to find now with the internet and social media. It kind of makes us wonder, now that everything seems to be being done, what is outside the box anymore?
Well, let’s just take a look at our own lives, and what might be outside our own boxes. Whether it’s looking at yourself and your own personal habits, or looking at your role at work, or looking at how you approach parenting, there might be some ways you have trapped yourself into a box. So it’s time to ask yourself, what are your own boxes, and what is on the outside?
We all have habits we would like to change both personally and work. Maybe you get stuck in the same routines? Maybe you have a hard time keeping up with your list of things to do? Maybe you have some difficulties with interpersonal relationships, and the things you’re trying to do to make this better aren’t working? This is where your personal outside-the- box thinking can jump in and help you out. There is that famous saying about doing the same thing and expecting different results is the definition of insanity (apparently Einstein is NOT actually the one who said this). But even though it is over-used and mis-referenced, it does make a good point. Think a little about your past week, and how many should-haves and would-haves you can count. Now, think about how you might have approached those things just a little bit differently to have had better outcomes.
Try making a list of what consistently works for you to give you the outcomes you need. Setting reminders, using good coping skills, going to the gym, etc. Now, make a list of the common habits you have that get in your way of having positive outcomes. Some of these habits may be things you do or don’t do, and some of them may be things you think or don’t think. I can tell you that sitting in my warm car outside the gym when it’s nasty outside can trigger some pretty compelling thoughts about why I don’t really need to go into the gym. These are not good thought habits. So my list would have to include that particular thought habit – talking myself out of doing something I know will be good because in that one moment it seems just a little.too.demanding. Thinking outside my box here will require me to stop and reconsider that habit.
Now let’s apply this to our interactions with other people. If you’re a parent, you may struggle with managing difficult behaviors form your kids – some common things would include kids not cleaning up after themselves, not listening to instructions, or not putting their devices or video games away when asked. What are you doing right now to deal with common difficulties you have as a parent?
Most of my posts include specific information for special needs or autism, but in this case the outside-the-box tools apply to all parents, and really to all relationships. Think about what is difficult about one of your relationships, be it with a friend, a sibling, a spouse, or a child. Answer the question about what you are doing to manage those difficulties right now. What is working consistently? What isn’t really working at all? Make your lists and evaluate what kind of thinking you need to do to process these relationships and situations more effectively. It is always best to build on what has been working, and think about letting go of the tools that are just not working at all.
So what is outside the box for you?
Thanks for reading and stay tuned for my next post!