What kind of a boxer are you? No, I am not talking about kick boxers or shadow boxers, but rather intellectual boxers. We are all intellectual boxers of some sort. That may lead you to believe I am talking about having a battle of wits, but that’s not the case. I am referring to how you think. In that regard, there are several types of thinkers: In the box, out of the box, other box and no box. Each person attempts to solve a problem in a different manner.
The “In the Box” thinkers are committed to using traditional thinking on any problem they face. They rely heavily on past experience and conventional wisdom that fit society’s need for order. For example, a friend of mine who is in this group was hanging some pictures on her wall and was stymied when she could not find her hammer. I pointed out that she had a perfectly good set of pliers sitting there and they would surely pound in the small nail. She responded to my suggestion with a look of horror and exclaimed, “Nobody pounds in nails with pliers.” Her box did not allow for nontraditional thinking.
The “Out of the Box” thinker is just the opposite. Since I happen to be one of those, I know firsthand how we think. We tend to be very creative and sometimes carry creativity too far. I just love to put bits and pieces together to make something serve a purpose for which it was never intended. I love it so much that I sometimes overlook the obvious tools around me. Even if my friend had a hammer, I would probably have still handed her the pliers. Our box requires that we be creative, even when it is not necessary.
The “Other Boxers” are people who have few thoughts of their own. They play a constant game of follow the leader. If you ask them for an idea, they will look to someone else’s life experience for the answer or seek advice. These people are extremely cautious and rarely get into any trouble because they will seek counsel at every turn of the road. On the other hand, you cannot expect any creative thinking from them. The “Other Boxers” find themselves in trouble when they are left to their own devices.
The “No Box” thinkers are the ones that I admire the most. These are people who can combine the best of all worlds; they have a good grasp on the traditional, can see possibilities, and are not embarrassed to look to the rest of the world for opinions. They will use the hammer when it is available and be bright enough to use the pliers when the hammer is not at hand. They may even ask around for other alternatives. These people are pragmatic and realize the method is only the way to get the job done—not the reason for the job.
If you want to be a “No Box” thinker, try to do the following when confronted with a problem. First, look to your past knowledge. If you have had this problem before, or know someone who did, how was it solved? Next, ask yourself if that solution was a good one with long-lasting results and if you still have the ability to apply that solution to your current problem. If there is an obstacle to its application, try to think of other ways to solve the problem that might make the solution more palatable or permanent. Now talk about your solutions with those around you. They may have other ideas from which you can draw to better solve your problem.
The next time you are in the ring with a problem that is plaguing you, stop for a moment and make a conscious choice as to what kind of “boxer” you want to be. Then go out and fight the good fight.
William Hodges is a nationally recognized speaker, trainer and syndicated columnist. Locally, he hosts an interview-format television program, Spotlight on Government on the Tampa Bay Community Network. He also hosts a Sun Radio show—Veterans Corner—for military veterans and their families. This show can be listened to at 96.3 FM or online at www.wscqfm.com at 3:30 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays. He can be contacted by email: email@example.com