The most generic advice you’d most likely hear in relation to ideas is to “think outside the box.” Almost every advertisement that insinuates creativity uses this tagline.
Despite the popular media encouraging thinking outside the box, we still find ourselves bound by socially acceptable standards. Being an outside-the-box thinker means having the capability and the will to effect change and innovation in the world.
Some people are naturally inclined to think outside the box, but that doesn’t mean that this is exclusive to people who have this kind of aptitude. Thinking outside the box is a skill that can be acquired over time. If you’re wondering whether you’re an out-of-the-box thinker, here are some signs you need to take note of:
1) You Often Ask Questions
Most of the time, people are annoyed at you because of your never-ending questions asking “why”. Out-of-the-box thinkers are interested in endless possibilities, so they tend to ask many questions to explore outside of the given bounds.
The common question that out-of-the-box thinkers ask is why they’re doing things in the first place. It helps us understand how things are supposed to work if we know the entire concept and the purpose of a task.
Being an outside-the-box thinker means that you don’t simply accept things blindly. Rather, you scrutinize almost every detail so you know how to work on the idea inside, outside, and even way beyond.
2) You’re open-minded.
You’re open to trying new experiences and visiting different countries or even cities to get a different perspective on life. You break out of your usual routines to talk to new people and get a glimpse of what life is like in someone else’s shoes.
By keeping an open mind, you allow yourself to gather more ideas than someone who likes to follow the guidelines of “the box.” Furthermore, you don’t associate your ego with your opinion, which is why you can so easily say, “I was wrong.”
You aren’t afraid of admitting that something you once believed in is actually incorrect and that you now believe in something else because you have more evidence or proof.
When you admit that you were wrong, you’re acknowledging that you’re not perfect and that you can make mistakes. This humility and self-awareness allow you to learn from your mistakes and avoid repeating them in the future.
3) You can work efficiently when alone.
While you love hearing other people out and being a team player, that doesn’t mean that you can’t work alone. In fact, some of your best work is done when you’re alone.
It’s as if your brain is being hyper-driven by the burst of creativity that you always have, and there are no other people holding you back from ideas that are beyond traditional ones. You might also find that giving yourself alone time allows your mind time to decompress and reflect.
When you’re with other people, it can sometimes feel like your brain is overloaded with information. But in solitude, you can reflect and structure information in your head. You tend to be more creative and have deeper insights when you’re alone.
4) You Go Against Convention
The proverbial “box” is exactly that — a confining space. To find fresh ideas, the first thing that out-of-the-box thinkers do is take inventory of what’s inside the box and then try something else. Going against the current can understandably be risky.
There are stakeholder’s shares, company finances, and reputation at stake when an option to venture into uncharted territories is chosen. However, author Seth Godin would argue in his book Purple Cow that playing it safe might be riskier.
By playing the game that everyone is playing, brands risk being forgotten, blending in with the crowd. It’s exactly what businesses would like to avoid. So out-of-the-box thinkers are called to traverse to the fringes in search of fresh and remarkable ideas.
5) Your mind tends to wander off
You’re fixated on something, and then you’re not. Being an outside-the-box thinker comes at a price. Imagine a tank being filled with water for almost 24 hours a day for a couple of years already. That tank would eventually reach perpetual overfilling.
Now, it’s like that with out-of-the-box thinkers who are idea-sensitive. Their brains tend to be hardwired to think of new ideas, which comes automatically, so if they lack control of themselves, their minds tend to wander off to another idea. But control is a skill that can be developed by out-of-the-box thinkers.
I personally allow my mind to wander off and run free because it keeps my mind active. It also helps me avoid mental block by having a store of ideas in my head when I need them, which is helpful when my brain reaches a sudden slump and asks for a break from active thinking.
6) You can be overly energetic and excited.
People would wonder how you’re getting your energy and where you’re getting it from, because you seem to never run out of it. Essentially, this is about having a zest for life. After all, out-of-the-box thinkers find the world fascinating.
There may be certain topics or subjects that you get totally lost in or devote your time to. Your passion often manifests in devotion, sometimes even obsession. Thanks to that, you often go on to solve great mysteries, develop new inventions, or produce creative masterpieces.
This is like the Einsteins, the Edisons, and the Van Goghs of this world. Out-of-the-box thinkers don’t see the world on a shallow level; they dive below the surface to experience the full range of what life has to offer.
7. You’re optimistic
Out-of-the-box thinkers see the best in situations. It doesn’t mean you avoid reality, but you realize that there is no point in complaining and worrying.
You want to progress forward, and optimism is the attitude that helps you do that. And compared to someone who’s pessimistic and negative all the time, out-of-the-box thinkers are much lighter and more enjoyable to be around in general. If you can say that you make the most of every situation and rarely dwell on the negative, you’re likely an out-of-the-box thinker.
8) You Easily Accept Failure and Rejection
Out-of-the-box thinkers perceive failure and rejection as detours. They don’t see these things as a block but rather as a way to branch out from the existing idea.
These individuals are interested in knowing what other people think about an idea, why it’s a failure, or why they rejected it, so they can improve the idea and eventually make it failure-proof. I think this is how successful people differ from others. People who don’t get out of their comfort zones are afraid to fail or be rejected, while those who do embrace it as part of their process.
Sometimes thoughts that are outside the box can’t simply be generated alone. The process of evaluating whether something will work or can be improved is an essential component that most successful people have recognized.
9) You’re passionate
Out-of-the-box thinkers can come up with new ideas regardless of whether they’re getting paid for them or not. Their passion runs deep when it comes to thinking and working, and they tend to prioritize it over everything. In addition, they seem to have this unexplained passion when it comes to problem-solving.
Some people would see problems as “problems,”, but for out-of-the-box thinkers, they see problems like a game as an opportunity to improve their creative thinking habits.
10) You Always Look For Opportunities
Opportunities are everywhere, even in the smallest details of life. It’s up to a person to brand something as an opportunity before anybody else recognizes or takes advantage of that.
Out-of-the-box thinkers always have their eyes wide open for opportunities despite every obstacle. In fact, these obstacles are how the greatest and most creative solutions are discovered. There’s always room for opportunities if you recognize them.
There’s always a huge likelihood that you will fail and stumble as you seize opportunities, but I think that there’s always something you’ll get out of trying.