Out of the box
Updated: Sep 11, 2020
(Covid-free blog post …. kinda, almost!)
I’m sure you’ve heard the analogy that the currently ubiquitous Zoom calls look like the Brady Bunch opening credits – everyone in their individual boxes, separate but still together.
Well, on a recent Zoom chat, as I looked at the faces of my friends in their own little boxes within the box of my laptop screen / bedroom / home, I was reminded of something – a comment by a manager 15+ years ago that changed something in me and has lodged itself in my consciousness.
I was in something of an existential crisis at the time (what I now understand as the beginnings of my Saturn Return!). I was questioning everything, veering between being pissed off at everyone (including myself) and feeling numb, eating all the chocolate, and generally being pretty unhappy with everything in my life.
It felt like every day was the same. I wasn’t being challenged at work and felt I was being overlooked and ignored for opportunities and projects I wanted to be part of; or at least not seen and appreciated the way I craved.
In our regular 1:1 catch up, this manager noticed an extra bite to my snarkiness and being the savvy, observant, emotionally intelligent woman she is, rather than trying to correct it or chastise me she asked – “what’s really going on for you?”.
For the first time in a while I took a breath as I thought about it. Then I said (probably with tears in my eyes, because that’s how I manage my emotions!) …
“I feel like everyone has put me in a box, and that they only ever see me as X (my job at the time)”.
She considered this empathetically and replied …
“Well, you’re only in a box if you put yourself there.”
BANG! TRUTH BOMB! MIC DROP! It was like she’d (ever so gently) hit me over the head with a level of compassionate honesty I don’t think I’d heard before.
But it was what I needed. She was right of course – I was hiding my true strengths, minimising my true colours, blaming everyone else for choices I was making. The truth was I had probably outgrown where I was and was ready for new challenges. Over the previous few years my world view had shrunk and narrowed to the point where I couldn’t see outside of this box I had found myself in and couldn’t see a way out.
Not until we are lost do we begin to understand ourselves – Henry David Thoreau
Not long after that I joined a local gym and started eating better, in the process regaining a sense of control and purpose in my life. I pushed beyond my comfort zone at work and found myself flying. I saw a naturopath, then a kinesiologist, then found Reiki. I studied wellness, read more about spirituality, and am now starting my business to share all this with others and them you find your way.
In hindsight that one tiny conversation was a catalyst for a whole lotta change!
Whatever age you are, there are times when you outgrow the skin you’re living in. Is it time you channelled some snake medicine and shed it? Are you done with whatever box you've found yourself in ("I'm too...", "I'm not...", "I can't...", "I'm X therefore Y"). With transformational change already in the air, there’s no time like the present!
And there are endless ways you might make a change to free yourself from your box, depending on what your strengths, preferences and personality are (for me, it almost always starts with learning; for you it might be talking to someone, physical activity or acts of service). Here are four ideas for you to consider …
1. Take note of where you spend your time and money – these are good indications of things that you might expand on if you’re looking to turn a passion into a side hustle or new career; or just areas that you could focus on more to connect with yourself again and perhaps meet some like-minded souls. Following what excites you and lights you up will never lead you wrong.
2. Generate fresh perspectives – learn something new, go to a different supermarket, rearrange your furniture, try a different kind of exercise, read a different kind of book. Watch TED talks. Volunteer. If you’re stuck in a rut, the best way out is to step off the treadmill you’re on. Start small. Start tiny if you need to! Just get your body and brain looking at or doing something different.
3. Get quiet and listen – think meditation, journalling, yoga (especially restorative or yin), qi gong, contemplative walks on the beach. Get more sleep. Sit in a café or park and just observe. The more we rush through our day, filling it with noise and activity, the less likely it is we’ll hear the quiet messages from within or notice the opportunities and lessons right in front of us – like unexpected conversations with your boss, brother or barista!
4. Seek insights from others – speak to other people about their experiences, their passions and how they’ve followed them. Maybe it’s your parents or grandparents, aunts and uncles, manager and mentors, colleagues, teachers, friends. Maybe you’re inspired by your vet, neighbour or hairdresser. Go have a chat to them! You might also choose to contact someone for professional advice and support with challenging issues.
It's a life's journey of finding ourselves, finding our power, and living for yourself, not for everyone else – Mariska Hargitay
For more inspo, check out this short film I found recently about choices and changing your life! I'd love to hear from you if you have other suggestions of things to read or watch.
Remember, you’re only in box if you put yourself there (and it won’t be too long before we can get out of our Zoom boxes more often!)
Zoom call - Chris Montgomery on Unsplash
Cat in box - Sahand Babali on Unsplash
Perspective ball - Anika Huizinga on Unsplash
Conversation - Aarón Blanco Tejedor on Unsplash