One day when my youngest son was eight years old, he came home from summer camp with a riddle.
“Mom, pretend you are in a box that is sealed shut – air tight – with no doors and no windows.” OK,” I replied, picturing walls on all sides of me.
“How do you get out?” he asked.
I offered some lame solutions, each of which compelled him to roll his eyes and shake his head. When I saw that he could no longer take it I said, “I give up. How do you get out?”
“You stop pretending!” he said with a wide grin spreading across his face.
This little riddle has profound implications for all of us.
Because we have a way of creating our own boxes every day of our lives. Sometimes we do it when we wake up with preconceived ideas of how our day is going to be.
We do it when we make a judgment of whether or not we believe people will come through for us, or whether we will be able to come through for ourselves.
We create boxes that keep us walled off from our greatest potential and the myriad of possibilities that exist all around us when we believe that the chances of achieving something are less than optimal.
We are often told that being truly creative requires that we “think outside of the box.”
And I believe this is true. Perhaps we can also increase our creativity and effectiveness by recognizing the ways in which we create our own boxes to begin with so that we can prevent them from reigning us in altogether.
Anytime you believe an assumption, you’ll tend to act in ways that validate it.
If you believe you are not capable of doing something – speaking in public, taking a stand, initiating a conversation with someone, pursuing some kind of opportunity – with the belief that you don’t have what it takes to succeed, you’ll behave in ways that make that assumption true.
As the saying goes, “you can’t win if you don’t play.”
You may believe you cannot do something because there is no evidence that suggests you can. But the lack of evidence is a direct result of believing something about yourself that is based completely in conjecture.
Many times the only real evidence we have is actually a lack of evidence.
Your beliefs of what is possible also have a direct impact your ability to find solutions to problems and challenges.
You won’t be motivated to find answers to problems you don’t believe are solvable. And though there may be potential solutions all around you, with that mindset you likely will not see them at all.
But when you move beyond a belief that something is not possible, you’ll have access to a whole new field of possibilities you never would have otherwise entertained.
We are all to prone to “believe it when we see it”, but perhaps in reality a good portion of what we see is actually a product of what we are believing.
Your beliefs can impact people around you too.
When you believe an assumption about others that suggests they are not capable of achieving something, you may well act in ways that can bring out their insecurities and doubts, thus inhibiting their performance. It is not uncommon for people to accomplish amazing feats in front of some audiences and become all thumbs in front of others.
And sometimes other people’s beliefs about us have a way of boxing us in.
But there is a way out of that trap.
If you find yourself intimidated by others who may have doubts about your abilities, you need to be aware of the fact that their doubts are not what is inhibiting you at all. Their doubts are only triggering the stories of inadequacy you may (even unknowingly) have about yourself – and that is what gets in the way of your ability to do any given task.
When you begin to pay attention to what it is you are believing, you can question the validity of your assumptions and take steps to disengage yourself from beliefs that keep you reigned in.
The key is not to simply get rid of your assumptions.
What you really need to do is replace your limiting beliefs with empowering truths.
Rather than focusing on what’s going wrong, you can focus on what’s going right and build on that. Instead of beating yourself up for your seeming shortcomings, you can appreciate your strengths and the progress you have made and go from there. You can move from the improbable to the possible and look to the talent you and others possess that will help you to achieve it.
Action follows thought.
Your doubts are like the walls of a box that keep you from seeing and acting on the array of possibilities all around you. The truth about who you are and what you are capable of dissolves those walls and allows you to bust out of your box so that you can experience life as it is truly meant to be lived – unencumbered, limitless, and free.
So, if you find yourself in a box, remember the advice of an eight year old boy – and STOP PRETENDING.
For more on busting out of your box and experiencing the freedom, potential and possibility that lies beyond your self-imposed limitations, consider enrolling in The Pinocchio Principle Unleashed: The Real Leader’s Guide to Accessing the Freedom & Flow of Your Unique Genius.
Registration for the fall session will begin soon. Join the waiting list to get first dibs on the limited seats when they become available.