Personal Development Hack 123: How to Think Outside of the Box?

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Think outside of the box or creative thinking is a powerful skill that is not only helpful for specific situations such as overcoming a problem at work or making a better impression in front of others, but it also helps in everyday life tasks by creating your own little hacks such as re-using a used water bottle as a planter at home. Sometimes we also need to think outside our conventional ways or come up with new ideas, but we somehow are not able to. In this hack, we will focus on how to think outside of your box.

But, why do we even get stuck in this box in the first place? A possible reason could be our routines and patterns of behaviors as when we get comfortable with following a certain routine we confine our thinking to that routine, in other words, we box ourselves. 

So, the best hack to think outside of the box deliberately is usually a brainstorming session where you gather a few people (preferably from different backgrounds) to generate new and creative ideas or solutions. But what to do when you need to think outside of the box alone? The current hack of Free-association and Editing works perfectly for those situations. 

Free association is an effective psychoanalytic technique used in therapy to help access unconscious thoughts by people saying whatever first thing comes to their mind. Just like free association can help bring unconscious ideas into consciousness, a modified version of free association can be used to help get out-of-the-box ideas. 

To do this, take a sheet of paper and write the thing you want to think about creatively in the middle of the sheet and circle it. Then, start writing whatever comes to your mind on the sheet as quickly as possible, don’t overthink that it needs to be related to the central idea or each other. Keep writing as many things, concepts, ideas as you can think of until the sheet of paper looks completely filled. The importance of writing the core idea in the middle is that, consciously and unconsciously, your mind will generate different ideas that are related to it and somehow affect that idea. 

After you are done with writing a large number of ideas that include some possible useful and useless things. The next step is to Edit them, that is, to filter the ideas that are useful to you. You can do this by first rewriting all of the ideas on a separate sheet and then writing them in ranking order from the most innovative idea to the most common idea.  

Bonus tip: When stuck on some concept, ask yourself, how would a 10-year-old kid or a 70-year-old man react to this situation and you might generate new insight.

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