I am a big fan of thinking outside the box. One of my biggest drives for writing is the need to help people understand that things aren’t always what they seem. I want people to take a look at the world around them and question what they see, because I remember so well my own ‘Aha!’ moment, when I stopped just assuming things had to be a certain way and started asking:
“What if things could be EXACTLY as I wish they could be?”
Look around you. How does your world look to you?
Everything you see is painted by what is expected of you. You see normality and conventionality. You see typical people doing typical things. And to you, it looks grey.
Because you aren’t typical. You are well… different
The fork in the road
You see your friends and family buying nice houses and cars, they are all working well-paid jobs, yet they still complain of continually being broke and their jobs leave them feeling drained and exhausted. It seems to you that they are just clinging on and living for the weekend.
You become conflicted. You feel caged in.
You feel you are standing at a junction. If you follow the path which is expected of you, you will continue living this life, not unpleasant, not difficult, just… uninspiring.
You don’t want to live out your whole life just living for the weekend, you don’t want to work the 9-5, counting down the minutes of your precious existence, just willing time away.
If you follow the other path, you feel in your bones that you might just end up living a life that is truly extraordinary.
But you don’t know. What if you are being absurd? What if this dream you have is just childish escapism? What if you FAIL?
One path seems to offer you security.
The other, potentially, freedom.
So which do you choose?
We follow a pattern, a routine. We go to school, we are taught about things with little to no relevance in everyday life, we grow, we go to college or work, we remain at a job we hate – because that is just what we are told we must do.
I was talking to a woman recently who was complaining that the youth of today have no work ethic.
She was disappointed that her own children seemed to value their own time over their careers. It struck me as so strange, that a mother would wish that her children would work themselves harder, that she wouldn’t be prioritising their LIFE over their work.
She told me:
“It’s not as if they’re lazy – they do work very hard – they just expect so much time off! Young people today just don’t have the work ethic my generation had…”
But when did it become the standard to live this way? Why are we all working so hard to make the money to buy these big houses which we leave empty all day while we go out to work to pay for them?!
Why should we work ourselves to the bone if we can if create a balance in our lives between work and free time? If we can afford to live freely, then we surely should?
The parable of the fisherman
A rich industrialist was horrified to discover a fisherman lying comfortably beside this boat soaking in the warm afternoon sun. “Why aren’t you out fishing?” Asked the industrialist.
“I’ve caught enough fish for the day.” Said the fisherman.
“Why don’t you catch some more?” Questioned the rich man.
“What would I do with them?” Asked the fisherman.
“You could earn more money,” said the intruder, “then you could buy a motor for your boat and go to deeper waters and catch more fish. Then you could buy nylon nets and catch more fish and make more money, get a fleet of boats and make even more money! Then you would be a rich man, like me!”
“What would I do then?” Asked the fisherman.
“Well, then you could really enjoy life! The industrialist answered.
“What do you think I’m doing right now” Replied the contented worker.
See what is in front of you
Don’t overlook the obvious, just because it is being hidden by the expected.
It is expected that we work the so-called 9-5, (which let’s face it, these days is more like the 8-6, and that’s not including commuter time…) coming home too exhausted to appreciate the things we worked so hard for. We don’t have the energy to connect with our families. We tell ourselves that we do it for them, we are providing for them, we are the breadwinners, it’s just the sacrifice we must make.
There are so many other ways! To me it seems so obvious that we should be putting our own needs first, living a life that is personally fulfilling. If you are unhappy, then change!
Think outside the box! Better than that, LIVE outside the box!
Work Outside the Box
We live in a wonderful age. I advocate simple and slow living, and a big part of that is learning to be present and not live our lives scrolling through social media apps and lost online. But it’s about balance. There is no denying that the digital age offers us so many opportunities.
Related reading: Slow Living Experiment – One Month Without My Smartphone!
Technology is so readily available and so advanced that anybody can begin an online business with a bit of spare time and an idea. Compared to a time when to start a business meant a traditional ‘bricks and mortar’ shop or office, this is HUGE!
The cost of starting an online business is so small it really isn’t a risk in the way these things once were.
- With a laptop, you can start a blog
- With a camera, you can start a YouTube channel
- With a mic, you can start a podcast
- You can become a virtual assistant, using your skills to work for others from anywhere you please.
- If you have some knowledge that you think will benefit others, you can create a course or write an ebook
The world is a much more accessible place than ever before. We really have so much freedom!
If you have an idea, run with it! What have you got to lose?
Live Outside the Box
The recent boom in popularity of movements such as the slow movement, tiny house movement and vanlife is proof that people are turning to alternative lifestyle solutions, choosing to have less and experience more. Downsizing and living simply while reducing their footprint on the earth, creating time and space to work from home, downshifting so they can really take pleasure in the life they have.
This tells us that more and more people are starting to realise that they have a choice. You don’t have to do things the same way they have always been done in order to be happy. In fact, you are far more likely to be happy if you don’t!
You get to call the shots. You get to design the life YOU want to live. You just need to work out how much of what you do is because it’s what you actually want, and how is because you feel you “should”.
Think Outside the Box
Question why we do the things we do. Is there truly a need or are you just reacting to years of programming?
When you are told the same thing over and over again, when you witness it happening all around you, when generation after generation have always done things in a certain way and all of society seems to be on the same page… it is frankly scary to argue against it.
I mean, they must be right, surely?
Hmm… well, sometimes:
The general consensus is you should look both ways before crossing a road. Seems sensible.
The general consensus also used to claim that smoking was good for you. Not so much…
I guess my point is to use your common sense. Sometimes we do things a certain way because it makes sense to our survival. But often we don’t ever question the reason.
Dare to be different
We recently started home educating our children. This decision has met with some scepticism, even from people who have always supported us wholeheartedly in all the choices we have made.
I get it, I really do, it’s been a long road of research, exploration and questioning whether I will break my kids and ruin their futures if I take them out of school. But the more I have thought about it, the more it has made perfect sense to me and the weirder the idea of school has started to seem – and that’s coming from a preschool teacher!
I have spent 6 years working in early years education, and now suddenly the idea that I spend my hours looking after other people’s children, so they can go to work, while my children are in school just seems all kinds of odd – I would MUCH rather be at home with my own kids than looking after someone else’s, however delightful those children are… so if I can find a way to provide for my family whilst simultaneously being there to nurture, love and educate them, living a rich and fulfilling life full of learning, excitement, adventure and love – why on earth would I do anything else?!
We also live in a caravan. I’ll be honest – before we moved into it I worried what people would say. I am by no means immune to other people’s criticism of me, of my parenting skills, of the way I choose to live my life.
But that is the thing – it is my choice.
There is a common assumption amongst the people I meet that we are living an alternative lifestyle because we are too poor to afford a real home. That we are struggling. That we are somehow to be pitied.
But actually, we chose this – It was an elective decision to prioritise our experiences over our possessions.
And we just love everything there is to love about living in a small space! I genuinely love the way we live, and I no longer have a problem with anything anybody says about it.
“Others people’s opinions of you are none of your business”
We own less but experience more. We pay less for rent, bills and utilities, which enables us to save money, or else spend on things that enrich our life experiences and bring us joy.
Read also: The Downsides of Small Space Family Living
Let your freak flag fly!
It takes courage to live outside the box – and yes, you may be considered a weirdo. Comes with the territory – but people say that like it’s a bad thing. Personally, I’m more in the camp of why on earth would I want to be just like everyone else? In the immortal words of that most epic of original thinkers, Dr Suess:
“Why fit in when you were born to stand out?”
To all the weirdos, alternatives, oddballs and kooks out there, I see you, I salute you, I applaud you!
Keep on flying your freak flag people! Let’s live life our own way!
Step outside of your comfort zone
It’s time to shake things up and see what you are made of! (Hint… you are stronger than you think…)
Ask yourself what is it that you want to do? And what is it that scares you about what you want to do? What are your challenges? What are your fears?
I would like to challenge you to do one thing today that scares you. This doesn’t have to pertain to your goals or big life plans – it could be as simple as making that dentist appointment you’ve been putting off, the point is that if you want to live a life of intention and purpose, you are undoubtedly going to have to face some fears, so you may as well get started now.
You are an unstoppable rockstar-badass! You got this!
Walk your path
Making more informed choices which align with your beliefs. Being honest with yourself and others about who you really are and what you want out of life. Doing your thing…
These things are easy.
Or are they?
You might find that you meet resistance when you decide to walk a path less travelled. There are thickets and brambles and things to snag you. People you know and love will question you, you might be accused of being reckless and foolhardy.
It can be hard to talk to people about what you believe, nobody likes to be misunderstood or criticised.
The security of a conventional life is a draw for a great many people. Until you start questioning things you just accept them, so many of us just accept them… This is just the way life is. We work hard at a job we hate because that is what we have always done:
”It pays the bills”
“You aren’t supposed to enjoy your job, that’s why they call it work.”
“You have to go to school”
“Life is hard”
Change the story
Life is infinitely more diverse and colourful than this. At least it should be, and it can be.
You decide. You are the boss!
So you want to make a change, but until you can have the life you want, how do you integrate the two? How do you carry on living a life you have now come to see as false? How do you handle the criticism of those you care about?
First and foremost this is your ride, your life. You get to call the shots.
I’m not suggesting you be rude about it, just calmly explain your feelings, we’re all grown-ups, right? You are capable of making the best decisions for you.
Speak your truth
I know, I know, this is one of those infuriating pieces of advice like “just stay positive! And “be yourself!” So necessary, so true, so important, but ultimately irritating when you hear it because if these things were easy, everyone would be doing it.
It is NOT easy. Especially if you are looking to override a lifetime of programming. But just give it a go and see how it feels.
When you hear yourself repeating pre-programmed scripts, saying things that you aren’t really feeling, check yourself and try to dig deep and pull up a little bit of your own personal epicness.
Little by little, step by tiny step, try to bring some of your own unique flavour to your daily dealings until it feels such a part of you that you will wonder how you ever managed to keep it in.
Read also: How to find yourself with Slow Living
People fear change. Even when it is positive. It is entirely possible that people around you will start to panic when you unleash your new-found zest for life. And in many cases, people’s criticisms are simply an expression of their love for you. It isn’t that they don’t want you to succeed or be happy, it is simply that they are scared for you.
So much in life is just taken for granted. We comply, we walk the path laid out by those that went before us, we settle for less.
When we decide that enough is enough, that there is more to life than this, it can ruffle people’s feathers – usually because it makes them uncomfortable:
Uncomfortable because they care, and don’t want to see you making a mistake.
Uncomfortable that you are forging ahead in a way that they perhaps dream of, but don’t have the courage to put into action.
Or maybe just uncomfortable because it didn’t occur to them that there was any other way of living, and you’ve now cast a shadow on their own happiness by exposing the flaws in their own lives.
Find your tribe
Get online and search for people who are interested in the same things as you, there is strength and safety in numbers. Whatever it is that floats your boat there is a group for it. If you read an article or blog post that you resonate with, reach out! Say hi to people, ask questions, get involved!
Be kind to yourself (and others)
Change takes time. You aren’t going to nail this overnight. Be kind to yourself. And be kind to those around you – just because someone doesn’t see life the same way you do doesn’t mean they are wrong, it simply means they are different – and that’s what we’re all about right?
It takes courage and gumption to live your life. You may feel misunderstood, you may have to take some risks, you may have to step out of your comfort zone, you may fall foul of other people’s limiting beliefs and upset a few people you genuinely care about – but ultimately, you may also live a life so vibrant and full of you-ness that you once you’ve let it all out, you’ll never fit it back into the cage again.
The benefits far outweigh the difficulties.
Live outside the box!