Living Outside the Box

“You never have to think outside the box, if you refuse to let anyone put you in a box.” – Sir Richard Branson

Many of us live our lives in a series of boxes:

We wake up in our home box, commute in our car/train/bus box, sit in our work box, go to the workout box, shop at the food box, then go back to the home box, to eat out of a box (due to a lack of time).

In addition to physically putting ourselves in a series of boxes, we mentally box ourselves in… titles, schedules, SMART goals, checklists, to-do lists… count, measure, track, compare, repeat…

We are humans, not robots. 

“Nothing is harder to bear, than a succession of fair days.” – Goethe

Just as safety and food security is necessary to meet our physiological needs, our long term emotional needs like happiness, creativity and wellbeing, requires that we:

  • get uncomfortable
  • have variety in our routines, our learning and our working
  • experience environmental changes such as temperature, scenery and weather
  • have the capability to be spontaneous, flexible and resilient
  • insource more movement

When we achieve this balance, then we are truly well-thy.


How do you live and think outside the box?

24 thoughts on “Living Outside the Box

  1. I enjoyed reading this post from a guest house in SE Asia, where we are always at least a bit uncomfortable (not speaking the languages or knowing the customs), experience new things every day, see new places and enjoy some intense weather, and decide what we’re doing each day on a whim. That would seem to check most of your boxes (ha). The FIRE world has plenty of its own boxes, of course (I’ve lost track of how many bloggers I’ve seen who spend months in Thailand, where we are right now), but at least we’re not staying in the same box all the time. 🙂

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  2. I am less than 3 weeks away from quitting a job I’ve had for 27 years and embarking on early retirement. My wife is doing the same and we’re going to sell the house where we raised our kids and move to our dream home in Florida. We’re both mid 50’s and are excited to be escaping all the boxes you mentioned and approaching a life far less scheduled much more spontaneous; filled with stimulation for both mind and body….here we go!

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  3. One of my goals for this year is to be more uncomfortable. I feel like my tendency towards comfort and stability is holding me back from my aspirations. Gotta push myself and think outside the box. Thanks for the reminder.

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    • Unfortunately, our innate, ‘primal’ tendency is towards comfort, but in a modern society where all comforts are provided to us, it can be to our detriment. So now, we almost have to ‘work’ towards being uncomfortable. Ironic, I know.

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  4. I think it’s too easy to be like sheep and never question things around you. As long as you’re comfortable and you don’t have to work too hard why upset the apple cart. I think if I was really honest with myself I would need to get radically uncomfortable and make drastic changes to my live the life that I should. Great thinking piece and I really need to tear down the walls 😉

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    • I totally agree… I have to push myself also. It is too easy to fall into a routine and accept the status quo. I have found that the non-material things in life that have brought me the greatest pleasure have also come with being uncomfortable, facing fears, etc…

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  5. The problem with me is, that I don’t have a routine. The only thing I know I have to do is to go to work and I let the rest of the time to be determined by how I am feeling. Which sometimes (always) results in procrastinating and doing everything the last day, just because I don’t have a routine I follow that I would do something a little bit of everything each day. 🙂

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    • Hi Tina, I know what you mean. It is easy to fall into the ‘just go to work’ category. What I have found is that I focus on less things to do/accomplish, I find that I can fit in the time to do the one or two things that really matter.

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  6. Great post! I love the idea of mindfully going outside of our comfort zones.

    About three years ago I got rid of my car and have been enjoying living outside the car ever since. Getting around by bike, foot, or bus has allowed me to experience my life in a very different way and also cut out most of my transportation costs. And living car-free in northern Minnesota has also given me plenty of opportunities to be uncomfortable bike commuting year round (though once you learn how to dress properly it really isn’t bad – you just need the right mindset!).

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    • I went car free about 4 years ago myself. Like you, I love that it gets me out of my comfort zone. I used to do a lot of biking, but now I much more prefer walking. I just feel really relaxed when I walk long distances. Good for you for toughing out the winters! I live in Wisconsin and I tend to turn into a wimp in the winter and just schedule less commitments, or take the bus. 🙂

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  7. I’ve got a weird personality that has forced me to always live on the edge. I’m a introvert-extrovert. So I have a ton of friends, but I’ve always been like a modern day cowboy. I spend 6 months living in a different country every year. Most of my hobbies are solo (surfing, snowboarding, etc).

    I think being alone and staying away from the crowd has its benefits. It allows you to think differently from others.

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    • I’m very much like you. I like to be alone, but I have a lot of friends also. I also like to live on the edge and take risks and experience a lot of change. I’m definitely an introvert, but not shy. Glad to hear from others who are similar!

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  8. LOVE that. Such a good point. Hmm. You’ve got me thinking. I’ve just paid off my debt, so I can work on my life properly now and get out of the box!!

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  9. It’s so easy to get stuck in a monotonous routine from day to day. Unfortunately, sometimes this box living is necessary for a while as we build up our net worth and savings and skills to take the leap to a better living situation. Personally I like to take time off a couple times a year just to travel – this breaks up the box living for me.

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    • Yes, I agree that sometimes we do need to suffer the box. I guess similar to the rehabilitation of a wild animal in captivity, there can be some benefit in the short. And yes, one of the best ways to break up the box is with travel, especially when experiencing other cultures and packing light.

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