There is a meme on the internet that features a few cats sitting around a litter box. On the floor, next to the litter box, is a pile of poop. The caption reads “All right, which one of you were thinking outside of the box again?”
None of us want our cats to think outside of the litter box, but when we think outside of our “boxes” we can discover new and creative ways to overcome any challenges, obstacles, adversities, limitations and/or setbacks that are standing between where we are and the success we desire in life.
I know this to be true, because it has worked for me,
The first time I heard about “thinking outside the box” was in my psych 51 class in community college. In that course I learned about fixed thinking and functional thinking. In a nutshell fixed thinking is looking at a pair of pliers and seeing that its only use is to loosen or tighten a bolt. Functional thinking is looming at that same pair of pliers and seeing that it can also be used to remove a splinter from a child’s hand.
In my own recovery from my ischemic stroke to my spinal cord I have used functional thinking or thinking outside of the box, on more than one occasion.
After my insurance company deiced to give up on me because I wasn’t making enough measurable progress in outpatient therapy, I had to find my own ways to continue my battle to get my life back.
In occupational PT I was using a table with four legs to practice/relearn how to get up from sitting in my wheelchair. I did not have a four-legged table, at least not one I felt would be stable enough for me to safely to use to get out of my wheelchair. That was when I decided I would wheel myself into my bathroom and use the vanity to practice getting up and standing from sitting in my wheelchair.
In outpatient PT, I was using the parallel bars to help me regain balance and relearn how to walk. At home I did not have any parallel bars, so I had to become creative.
I observed that the walls in the hallway that lead from my living room to bathroom were spaced apart perfectly to emulate parallel bars. I was able to place my left hand on the wall to my left, and my right hand on the wall to my right, both for balance before I took my first awkward steps from the living room to my bathroom and back.
I also observed that the counters in my galley kitchen were a better match to the height of the parallel bars in outpatient PT. I started walking back and forth with my hands on the coutners, from one end of my kitchen to the other and back, as I had in therapy with the parallel bars.
Several years after my stroke, I decided that I needed to learn how to walk with a walker. I wanted to start using the scooters inside Target instead of my hospital style wheelchair. That desire lead me to finding a way to prepare myself for a walker,
One day at Target as we got out of the car, I grabbed onto the handle of a nearby grocery cart and awkwardly pushed that cart from the car into the store while walking.
By thinking outside of the box and constantly practicing with the tools I had at hand, today, nearly 18 years since my stroke, I can walk almost anywhere using my rollator (a walker with four wheels).
Thinking outside of the box has helped me overcome many of the challenges, obstacles, adversities, limitations and setbacks that have been placed in my life by my physical disability.
If you are wanting to think outside of the box to overcome your challenges, obstacles, adversities, limitations and setbacks, be creative, but also be careful and never try to do something that may be unsafe.