Most of us would agree that we have a certain way of thinking, and we’ve been taught our whole lives that that way of thinking is “inside the box.” Now most of us have heard many times that you’ve got to learn to think “outside the box.” Here’s why I don’t believe that works. I believe that even when we’re in a box, when we’re in our way of thinking, we can hear or see something that gives us new knowledge about that topic and we can see things differently and think about it differently. We can watch a tape or read a book, and we can be encouraged to make a change.
Then we move away from the thinking we had, and we get outside the box. But what happens when we get uncomfortable? A lot of people say you go back in the box. But, let’s be honest. The truth is we crawl back in the box as fast as we can. We don’t just go back. We crawl back in the box again.
So what happens then when we end up back in the box? At some point, we begin thinking again, “I can do this. I can do this.” So we step out of our box again, but it gets uncomfortable again. And then what do we? We crawl back in again.
Here’s what I want to challenge you with today. Change your thinking while you are still in the box. And that thought is that I know it’s going to get uncomfortable, so I need to expect the unexpected outside that box, and when it gets uncomfortable, I will not crawl back into the old box.
Then I know ahead of time I’m going to get uncomfortable. Then I know before I leave the box that when I get outside and it does get uncomfortable that I’m going to need some extra help, so I make the decision then that I will call on my bumper buddies if I need help. My bumper buddies are those bumper people in my life whom I trust to help bump me back on track to accomplish my goal if I get off track, who are going to help me stay encouraged and focused so that I don’t crawl back in that old box.
You’ll find, if you stay outside that box long enough, that you’ll finally completely turn your back on that old box and turn completely away it. As you get in a different place, you’ll see that one day you’re no longer outside the box, but that you’re actually beyond the box.
What does beyond-the-box mean? It means it’s just as uncomfortable to keep going as it would be to crawl back in the box. In other words, it would be equally as uncomfortable to crawl back as it would be to move forward. Because now, we’re thinking differently. If we can stay outside the box long enough, we’ll actually turn ourselves. We’ll turn completely away from that box. We’ll take any of those things in the box that were good with us, and, while we may have the memory of those things that weren’t good, we won’t be taking those things or behaviors with us. Now we’ll get to a whole new place.
We call this new place beyond-the-bubble thinking. What is that? Let’s look at bubbles. If you see a bubble going through the air, or in a river, or in a bathtub, the way that bubble is formed is when the pressure on the outside is exactly equal to the pressure on the inside.
Now what do we know about every bubble? We know that every bubble at some point is going to burst. So, if we’re bubble-thinking, if we’re thinking in a bubble, we know that at some point the pressure on the outside or the pressure on the inside is going to change, both individually and in our organizations. We know when that bubble bursts it’s gone and we must go into a new bubble. We call that bubble jumping.
I’m sure you’ve heard the term paradigm shift. This is what happens with bubbles. We are now in a new bubble. In that new bubble, the pressure on the inside and the pressure on the outside may change again. And when it does, we move into another, new bubble. We go beyond the bubble. And that keeps us from reverting back to that old behavior.
So what do transformational leaders do? They learn that when thinking inside the box gets uncomfortable they are not going back. So they can instead go beyond the box, and then they become bubble jumpers. You’ll know you’re a transformational leader when you know you’re thinking beyond-the-bubble. And we call that bubble jumping.
Let me give you an example of one of the times when I had to learn to think completely differently to have a change in my life. I probably have lost a thousand pounds in my life over time. I would lose weight and then put it back on. Why? Because when I think inside this box of needing to lose weight, I would think a certain way. I would say, “I’m going to go on a diet.” And I’d get outside the box and think, “I’m not going to eat. I’m not going to eat.” But, when all I’m thinking about is that I’m not going to eat, what do I end up thinking about all the time? I’m thinking about food. When all I’m thinking about is what I’m not going to do, eventually I crawl back inside the box and start eating again.
Once I learned this concept, I changed the way I thought. Instead of thinking, “I’m not going to eat,” I started thinking about what I am going to do, instead of what I’m not going to do. When I started thinking about what I’m going to become, I started thinking about becoming healthier, what I would not just look like, but what I would feel like. All of a sudden, I moved not just outside the box, but beyond the box. No longer was I thinking about not eating the pecan pie. I was thinking about eating the healthy food.
I had to make the decision that when I got outside the box, knowing I was going to want to go back inside and eat the pecan pie, that I would have to stay beyond the box long enough so that I could focus on what I was going to eat. There’s an example of what it means to think beyond the bubble.
When I discovered this in late 2007, I lost about sixty pounds. Here we are years later, and I’ve been able to maintain most of that weight loss with that new way of thinking.
As a transformational leader, we learn that we can make that leap beyond the box and even beyond the bubble. So my encouragement is that we all become bubble-jumping, transformational leaders.
Ford Taylor is a leadership strategist, keynote speaker, and the author of Relactional Leadership. As the Founder of Transformational Leadership, he is known as a man who can solve complex business issues, with straightforward practical solutions, while maintaining his focus on people.