Lately I’ve been musing about the expression “Thinking outside the box.  ” It seems that it is totally wrong, I mean you just can’t think your self out of a box!!  A little research brought me to several web pages that discuss this concept.

Here is one definition:  “Thinking outside the box is a metaphor that means to think differently, unconventionally, or from a new perspective. This phrase often refers to novel or creative thinking.” That’s from Wikipedia.  A little further down the DuckDuckGo search page is a quote from an article in  “To think outside the box, you need to trigger your brain to make connections it normally wouldn’t make. To do that, look for inspiration that seems entirely unrelated to the problem.”

What seems evident, yet is not pronounced, is that the saying itself is self-contradicting.   It implies that the solution to getting out of the box is by thinking! when in actuality, what is really needed are not-thinking activities.  Wikipedia point to creative thinking, again same misconception, being creative generally does not involve thinking, and indeed all the internet authorities concur, the key suggestion repeated over and over again is ‘be creative’.  

If you go into the annals of neuroscience, discussions of the amygdala, pre-frontal cortex, left, right, hippocampus, cerebellum, this and that, it gets quite complex quite quickly, and you  discover that it’s rarely as simple as left or right brain.  Yet one can generalize about rational/thinking and intuitive/creative mind, and specifically which one is guiding you at the moment.  There are theories about how disconnecting from the conscious stream of thought allows your subconscious space to discover solutions by connecting the considered dots in new ways.  I just tried to look that up to be able to share a link.  I was unable to find it as the search was smothered by a zillion other articles on ‘5 minute brain breaks as great better study habits; a similar point of view but not exactly what I was looking for.

Pychology Today has a number of articles on Thinking Outside the Box: one concludes:  “Of course, in real life you won’t find boxes. But you will find numerous situations where a creative breakthrough is staring you in the face….”

Another, states:

“… Most often, creative solutions are not wrestled from your mind through sheer force of will. Eureka moments tend to occur spontaneously, almost always when the conscious mind is thinking of something else, or nothing at all.”

So how to get outside the box if not by thinking?   Lifehacker, in this article, suggests ways to think outside the box that include: “Study another industry, learn about another religion, take a class, write a poem, draw a picture, turn it upside down, ask a child for advice, write backwards, take a shower….”

I might veer more towards a juggling break,  a sumi painting moment, or to pick up my ukulele and play a song.  Yes, why not enjoy disengaging the tangles of thought.  Thinking is exactly what you don’t want to do !!! And since no amount of thinking, regardless of intellect, is likely to succeed, I’m hitting the save button on this post, and heading over to the studio.