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To Really Think Outside the Box, Think Like a Kid!

The original box puzzle dates back to 1914. Draw four straight lines by connecting all the dots without lifting your pen from the paper. (Answer at end of article)

The original box puzzle dates back to 1914. Draw only four straight lines and connect all the dots without lifting your pen from the paper. (Answer at end of article)

When is the last time you used your imagination to solve a problem or achieve a goal? And I mean really used your imagination?

Kids use their imaginations all the time to do almost everything. Where adults are expert at identifying and solving problems, kids don’t even see them as such. Hence, they live and approach life from a vastly different plane. And it’s refreshing.

They’re more in touch with their dreams. They go about achieving their goals with a mindset of possibility. They could even be considered better at solving problems. Yes, kids lack the refined analytical skills and critical thinking functions that we as adults rely on. But that’s exactly my point. What we’ve got that kids haven’t developed yet is exactly what gets in our way.

We’ve gotten too good at our logical, left-brained functions. When faced with something new (say a goal or task) we set it up as a problem to solve. That way we can analyze things, organize ideas, compare options, make lists, formulate plans, and hypothesize outcomes. We’ve become experts at solving things. At home, at work, and at play. These skills work so well we tend to apply them to everything, even when they don’t work. Sometimes we think ourselves into complete exhaustion! Yet we’re still unable to solve a persistent problem or achieve a long-desired goal, no matter how important.

Then some one comes along and tells us to be creative, use our imagination, or think outside the box.  Huh?  Wait.. what?! We stop, think for a moment, and interpret that to mean finding even more options, or better somehow different solutions. So we get busy thinking even harder: analyzing, comparing, theorizing, postulating, and formulating ourselves into oblivion. Nothing changes. Nothing’s inspired. Nothing’s different. We’re totally stuck inside the box.

Kids don’t think in that box. They haven’t acquired it yet, so they’re free of all the limitations and restrictions imposed by it. The box suggests squareness and rigidity, constrained and unimaginative thinking. Because they live by their imaginations, kids don’t see things as problems.

Kids perceive things from a right-brained, intuitive place. For them, life is a series of endless possibilities, dreams to realize, and desires to manifest.

What would happen if you approached life in the same manner?

How, living in a mostly left-brained world, can you apply more imagination to your dilemas, your goals and your dreams? Following is a list of what children do with their imaginations. It takes a little practice, but contemplate these and chances are you’ll start to remember some long-forgotten things. Try a few. Get inspired. You may even begin to really Think Different:

Children Pretend.
Kids pretend often, with other kids and even alone by themselves. You can pretend by “Acting As If”. Act as if you’ve already solved the problem or  already achieve your goal or dream. What would you do different? How would you conduct yourself? What would you do right now, in this moment, or the next?  What would your typical day look like? How would today be? Try taking some time and “acting as if”. Spend a few minutes, a day or even a week like this and observe what positive changes take place.

Children Dream.
Kids spend a lot of time dreaming, imagining things how they really want them. Maybe they live in a castle instead of a four room condo.  Maybe they are famous, magicians, sorcerers. How much time do spend dreaming of what you want?  To dream, you can set some time aside and use creative visualization. Really craft, create, and imagine the dream, right down to the little details. Try doing this even for just 10 minutes, somewhere you can remain undisturbed and really get lost in it. See what you come up with. Repeat that every day for a week to really get back in touch with the dreamer in you.

Children Imitate.
Tell a child to eat his oatmeal and you may get a frown, a brief protest, or even a refusal.  But tell him Spiderman eats it, and well, oatmeal galore! Kids imitate their heroes and people they admire with passion. Who do you admire?  Who are your heroes? Many adults don’t have “heroes” anymore. Why not take some time out and identify a few? Try to not to base this on what they have (including achievements) but rather on something they do or how they are. They can even be fictitious. What do admire about them?  What would they do in your given situation? How would they approach your goal?  Go ahead and emulate them.

Children Invent.
When children face an obstacle they immediately start inventing ways around it. Watch children at play. When an obstacle comes up the inventors come out. They share inventions and try them out. Maybe their ideas aren’t practical, maybe not even possible, but they try them out and invent and invent again. Approach things with a spirit of invention. To do this, don’t worry about what’s possible and what’s not. Suspend practically and allow your ideas to flow untamed for a while. See where they take you.

Children Innovate.
Kids don’t always ask how to do things. They come up with their own ways. They are true innovators. To get back in touch with your spirit of innovation, decide for a moment that you’re not going to worry about the “how” of a situation. If you have an idea, don’t see if others are doing it, or how they did it. How would you do it? What’s your unique take or spin? Adults love how-to guides, manuals, and advice. Let yourself be an innovator. Do things your own way. If you were the one making the how-to guide to solve your problem or achieve your goal, what would it say? See what you come up with before you go looking for the answers to “how” elsewhere.

Children Believe.
Kids do things from the heart. They are filled with hope. They are still connected to the realm where anything is possible, and they put their whole hearts into things. They don’t believe they can’t. To believe again, don’t even focus on what’s impossible, or what you can’t do. Let things be possible, and imagine them as so. See what you discover. Dream it and believe it.. then begin it.

(The answer to the box puzzle above:)

One of the solutions is begin by going beyond the boundaries (or outside) of the box to draw the lines. Hence, thinking "outside the box".

One of the solutions lies in going beyond the boundaries and drawing the lines outside of the box to connect all the dots. Hence, the catch phrase "think outside the box" would be an appropriate hint.

Related Elsewhere:

13 Ways to Spark Intense Creativity

Wisdom from Wonderland

How to Be Childlike

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