I hear the phrase so often “Think outside the box”. Quite frankly I think it is the worst thing you can tell someone. What is wrong with the box and what is so much better outside of it? What you’re telling me is “Here’s your boundaries, but I don’t want you to work within them.” Why then are you giving me boundaries? By telling me to work outside of the boundaries set you are subsequently putting me in a box. Instead of thinking creatively I’m focused on thinking outside of the box. Outside of the box I have no direction, nothing to lean against and nothing to shape my ideas. When you’re trying to think outside the box, you’re trying to see through a boundary and not through a possibility. I honestly love being put a box (strictly speaking figuratively). The box is a safe place to take risk. If it fits within the box, then do it. You have nothing to support your ideas outside of the box.
There are seven key boxes. They are the boxes that God created to work within in Genesis 1.
Time – Before there was a beginning everything was formless and void. The box was empty and non existent. Before any idea is formed in your mind it doesn’t exist. Therefore you must layout time to give it form or shape. You also must constrain it to a certain period of time. If you do not it will simply remain an idea. It took God seven days to create earth, not because it was the only time he had. God determined for creation to take seven days, thus He did so. Imagine what would’ve happened if God didn’t limit Himself to seven days, we’d still be in the creation phase. Every day we would have a whole new set of things. The earth would look like a hoarders garage, cluttered and orderless. On a side note, He never said creation was finished just that it was good. I think He still creates a creature or plant every once in a while.
Practical – Set aside periods of time. One for each box you have to create. Stick with your deadlines. I have to admit deadlines make me cringe, but they are necessary. Without them you will never get anything done. This is coming from a professional procrastinator. Also determine whether or not you have the time to do your project. Note: Doing something over a period of time is not procrastination, so long as the time period is intentional.
Space – After time space had to be created. Room was made for all the ideas that were about to come to life. God separated the earth and the sky, the land and the sea. He gave an area for each idea to be fruitful in. If He had not made the separations there would be chaos. Birds would be flying and suddenly be swimming, fish would be swimming and suddenly be on land. He created space not to be cluttered, but filled.
Practical – Where can this be accomplished? Where will it go when it is done? What other projects are happening in that space?
Provision – Next, God created what was need to sustain His ideas. I he did not do this, the ideas would’ve lived for a period of time and then died. An unsustainable idea will never come to completion.
Practical – What is the budget? What can I use that I don’t have to pay for? Are volunteers available to help? Can I split the cost with another benefactor of this project? Who’s willing to pay for it?
Vision – Then came vision. God did not want His ideas to come to life for the sake of breathing His air. He created ideas to begat ideas. To be fruitful and multiply. Most of us think He only told man to be fruitful, no He first commanded this to the fish and the birds. Simply because He liked them. Great ideas do not lose their value in duplication.
Practical – Why am I doing this? Is the client getting what they are asking for?
Creativity – Some might say that this is to far down the list. It’s not. Without the above first being set in place creativity is powerless. Paintings can’t be painted unless there is first a canvas, a canvas can’t be stretched unless there is first a frame, a frame can’t be built unless there is lumber and so on. The framework of creativity has to first be set before it can be expressed.
Practical – How can I make this look beautiful, be cutting edge or most functional? If you can get all three of those, you’ve got the golden ticket.
Authority – All of this was done to give authority. God gave man dominion over the earth He had created. He didn’t create to micro manage, He created to give.
Practical – Now that I have all the other boxes set up, I go get the green light. This will look different for a personal project vs. a client project. For personal you need to like what you’re looking at, for client work they need to like what you’re showing them. Also you must be willing to let others work on your project, this is the point of the other boxes. They are designed to give someone else success on your projects.
Rest – This is likely the most important. God didn’t go from doing one great thing to the next. He rested before He moved to the next thing.
Practical – Take a break between projects and even during long ones. Your brain and body can only take some much. You can accomplish more with a rested body and mind, than a worn out one.
I pose a new phrase “Think above the box”. Get a higher perspective of you project. Determine the shape, size, durability, capability, color, accessibility and ship date of your box. Then get in it and work you tail off. Don’t fear the box, it is what protects you. When someone questions what you’re doing you can answer. See what you’re working with and what does and does not fit in your box. You can also see what needs to be taken out of your box to fit something better. I’ve never been able to squeeze in any of the ideas that I’ve thought of outside of the box. Anytime you step out of the box you take a risk of losing structure. Whether is time, money or space spent on a rogue idea. To be clear I’m not saying don’t take risk, just weigh those risk. You may have to lose something to fit that idea in.
You may only have one box set up, but you know you have to move forward. God may be asking you to trust Him with the rest of the boxes. He owns all the boxes and He has a much higher perspective than we do. God can see right through the box that you think that you need to think outside of. He knows exactly the size your box needs to be. You may have all the right boxes set up, but God want you to throw them all out. What He has planned for you is to big to fit in your boxes. Are you willing to do God’s lion sized idea in your mouse sized box?
Summery: Have a timeline, a space to do it in, a budget to do it with, a reason why, a way to do it, someone to support it and where you’re going to nap after.