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How to Break out of the Box and Live Life on Your Own Terms

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How to Break out of the Box and Live Life on Your Own Terms

Good things come in boxes. Sometimes the color of the box has us salivating in anticipation. Tiffany Blue or Hermes Orange are iconic colors that let expectations run high, as we know a treat awaits. So why do we want to break out of the box?

For the same reason that the Tiffany bracelet and Hermes scarf are enjoyed and utilized once out. Neither is meant to stay there tarnishing or gathering dust without living out their purpose.

We are not meant to be in boxes. They limit us, rendering us less brilliant in all senses—less fully developed, less the person we are meant to be.

In a box we are not only less effective and less impactful, but we get trapped. The confines of the box restrict us to seeing ourselves, the situation, others, and the future in a rigid and narrow way.

Box living keeps us small—our vantage point and way of doing things. It is hard to be creative and impossible to be our full magnificent selves from inside a box. Boxes are holding places, not creative spaces. To become ourselves, we need to always be creating.

How can we get out of the box, then?

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1. Practice Self-Awareness and Inner Courage

Before you break out of the box, you must first recognize that you’re in one. This sounds easy, but sometimes we are so caught up in the same old patterns of thinking and doing things that we forget to stop and have a look around—to take our pulse.

If you aren’t in a groove that results from a fluid dance of your purpose and values in daily life, you are in a box.

Here is the tell-tale sign that you are in a box: You wish for different outcomes but keep experiencing the same ones; you feel stuck and you have lost your spark.

You might alter some minor things, but if your relationship and the end result to the thing you are wishing to change or create stays the same, then those walls aren’t going to be coming down anytime soon.

Get clear on what you wish to achieve (take the long term view) and how you wish to achieve it. The what and the how are of equal importance. The long term view will allow you to be less reactive and more thoughtful and innovative. When we imagine the bigger picture, our planning and decision making has space to allow for a host of possibilities.

Possibility is all about curiosity and openness. Both lead to flexibility. None of those are the domain of in-the-box living.

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You can get curious by asking:

  • What matters most to me?
  • What do I need and want today and tomorrow?

These are about what you want your legacy to be—what you want to leave behind as your work and/or the way you move through your days and touch others. It’s about honoring the things that make you you.

When you align with your purpose and values and act from them, you will be able to break out of the box. No box can hold you when you are acting in alignment and integrity.

2. Fact Check the Stories You Tell Yourself

We quickly add our opinions about why we can’t, won’t, or why something isn’t working or will fail. Be honest with yourself. Admit what is before you and what kind of help you need.

Be lean and mean about discerning fact from fiction. Editorialize all you want as long as what you add to the facts is going to energize you and not bring you down. That is called dreaming.

Dreaming gets us motivated and brings in new ideas. We excite our positive emotions. Invite those in with open arms. Create plans and goals from those dreams. Essentially, a goal is a dream with a deadline.

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To help your story telling be an awesome CEO of your life, make sure the storyteller is your inner-sage and not your inner-judge[1].

You will know by the positivity vs. the negativity of each. The judge tires you out quickly, and the feeling of possibility melts away. The judge is the CEO of the box you are in.

The sage comes in when you exercise empathy and that ever-important curiosity.

Don’t give yourself a hard time for having been in a box—even if it has been for a very long time—or about what hasn’t worked. The judge will be all too happy to have you indulge in that kind of self-criticism.

To ignite the sage through curiosity and break out of the box, ask:

  • What assumptions have I been making that are false or detrimental?
  • What assumptions am I making in general?
  • What do I need to take ownership of instead of blaming on someone else?
  • What do I know to be true?
  • What is the next right move?

Play is another way to employ your sage as your CEO. There is nothing like play to encourage the sage’s fresh vantage point and stir up the sage’s innate creativity and endless energy.

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Play need not be physical. It’s about doing something that delights, that has an element of surprise and lets time fly by. It just needs to not be too tightly scripted or have an attitude of heaviness.

To add some extra box-breaking strength to this whole process, do something you haven’t done in a long time, or try something new. Novelty is like a strong wind that rattles the sides of your box and lets fresh air come in. Plus, that new oxygen will let you breathe bigger, deeper breaths that will inform your dreams and actions even more.

3. Get Comfortable With Experimenting and Failing

Remember that being in a box is all about repeating what doesn’t work! Isn’t that a bigger failure than failures that come as you experiment ways to realize your dreams? Failures are not bad; they are information givers.

To see failure as your ally, engage your sage. That empathetic part of yourself will not beat you up and have you feeling bad about went “wrong.” Instead, the sage will have you find the gift in whatever unfolds and encourage you to design from there.

Final Thoughts

By getting out of any box you currently inhabit, you will start living life on your own terms. You are liberated from the confines of limiting beliefs and actions. You will be more you since you will not be held back from restrictive habits of mind and practices.

What does your sage—that intuitive part of yourself—say about what would be a great first step to get out of the box that has you stuck?

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One bit of freedom leads to another. Each shake-up becomes part of the revolution that will help you fully break out of the box. It’s a revolution to bring about your evolution. To be your evolved self is the very definition of living life on your terms!

More on How to Break out of the Box

Featured photo credit: Chermiti Mohamed via unsplash.com

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Adele Dujardin

Adele is an author, speaker, and coach who empowers others to lead from their creative wise selves, and have fun doing it.

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Last Updated on January 10, 2022

How to Make Big Life Changes (Your Complete Guide)

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How to Make Big Life Changes (Your Complete Guide)

Overcoming fear and making life changes is hard. It’s even harder when it’s a big change—breaking up with someone you love, leaving your old job, starting your own business, or hundreds of other difficult choices.

“Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.” – Barack Obama

Even if it’s obvious that making a big change will be beneficial, it can be tough. Our mind wants to stay where it’s comfortable, which means doing the same things we’ve always done[1].

We worry: how do we know if we’re making the right decision? We wish we knew more. How do we make a decision without all of the necessary information?

We feel stuck. How do we get past fear and move forward with that thing we want to do?

Can a Person Really Change Life?

Changing a life is dependent on your will and motivation to change. If you are up for it, then you can do it. It cannot be said simpler than this.

Of course, exceptional cases where genetics or personality of an individual does play a part in determining if they can change or not. But for most of us, the power to change lives lies within ourselves.

You just need to be patient and be prepared to go through some major life transformations.

When you find your purpose and are entirely motivated to reach your goals, you can really change a life. Sure, it would take substantial efforts and a lot more than just being motivated. But it is possible!

Well, we certainly don’t have all the answers, but here are 7 things to remember when you want to move forward and make positive life changes.

What Are Some Big Changes in Life?

A major change in life is an event that forces us to change the way we look at things and how we see the world. It can be anything from as simple as moving out of your parents’ house to having a child. The thing that makes them ‘major’ is how they influence you and change things in your life.

Major changes often make you worry about what’s going to happen next in your life. They are a time of struggle and stress, that either result in a breakthrough or a life lesson. What’s important is to be prepared to take on life’s challenges by having a positive mindset towards change.

How the Major Changes in Life Affect Us

Major changes have big effects on our life. They essentially stir the core of our existence and make us start from scratch. One of the most important characteristics of a major life change is that we are traveling unchartered waters.

It is very easy to feel done with life and not want to take care of yourself, your responsibilities, or those around you. However, the goal of existence is to struggle and constantly change our environment till it suits us.

To understand how we can combat major changes in life, we must first understand the effect they have on us. Some of the most prominent impacts are:

1. Difficulty in Adjusting

Many people going through a major change in life will feel difficulty adjusting. Regardless of whether that life change is a positive life change or a negative one, it will have its apprehensions. People may feel like they don’t fit into the new setting they find themselves in.

2. Feeling of Hopelessness

Change can bring with it feelings of hopelessness and depression that can cause you to feel overwhelmed. This is because, with major changes in life, you are bound to face setbacks and failures as well. Without having the comfort of parents, friends, or even financial security to cushion that fall, reality often hits hard and leaves an impact.

3. Mental and Physical Fatigue

Studies show that with major changes in your life, you are bound to be more mentally and physically exhausted. This is because changes require extra effort which takes up most of your energy.

You may find yourself in a situation where you work so hard you cannot go to the gym anymore because you are tired. It can also be a mental reluctance to do things like hobbies because rest is so hard to come by.

4. Agitation and Irritation

A person can become more agitated with themselves and those around them when they go through major changes in life. There are a lot of other factors that contribute to this, such as being short-tempered, exhausted, past your limit, and in need of rest which can cause people to lash out. Similarly in the event of a positive change, people may feel agitated if they aren’t being given enough attention or appreciation.

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5. Struggling with Financials

Financial changes impact your economic life and spending habits. It may come in the form of bankruptcy or hitting the jackpot. You may need to set aside money for college or rent. It would put you through a process of having to give up expenses that are not essential to you.

6. Distancing of Relationships

Distancing relationships is quite common when someone is faced with a major change in their life. Priorities are readjusted and bonds between people get weaker with distance and lack of quality time. In the event of good changes, people’s victories can often uncover hidden jealousy or lead to a conflict of interest between friends.

When Is the Right Time to Start Changing Life?

You can indeed start changing your life any moment you decide, but how would one decide when to start changing life? Various tell-tale signs indicate it’s time for a change.

1. When Your Current Life Shakes Your Physical and Mental Health

While you might do your best to live your life to the fullest by fulfilling your duties and responsibilities, it does not always mean that your life is ideal. In the quest to live a life of our dreams, we sometimes break ourselves by putting too much pressure on our physical selves. We don’t even bother if it starts affecting us mentally during such times.

When you start observing that your routine life is negatively affecting your physical and mental health, then take it as a sign that you need to start changing your life.

2. You Can’t Maintain Work-Life Balance

Overcompensating on only specific facets of life leads to a disturbed work-life balance. While occasional instances when you are required to focus on a particular role more than other aspects are unavoidable, you need to be watchful when this becomes a habit.

Failure to maintain a harmonious balance between work and life is a clear indication that you are overstressed and leading in the wrong direction.

Do you really want to keep focusing on a particular facet, or do you want to have a tuneful life balance? Ask yourself these questions when you observe deviation in your work-life balance, and then make efforts to start changing your life.

3. You Feel Stuck

Several circumstances lead us to a mental state where we lose confidence in ourselves and create a mental block. Situations like the death of a loved one, getting fired from a job, losing child custody battle, getting a divorce, etc., might bring about numerous negative emotions.

“I cannot say whether things will get better if we change; what I can say is they must change if they are to get better.” – Georg C. Lichtenberg

Some of these traits tend to push people into a dark ditch where they feel stuck till they recognize it.

It is okay to experience a negative thought every once in a while when you are going through completely horrid. However, it should never let your get stuck in life. Failure to step out of your comfort zone is a sign that you need to make drastic changes in life.

4. You Start Forming Negative Habits

As a spiral effect of feeling stuck, people tend to take support of negative habits. Forming bad habits like drinking, smoking, overeating, etc., is an indication that you are not taking this well. Many are inclined to overdo the habits they already have and deliberately start hurting themselves.

Remember that inflicting pain on yourself is never helpful in resolving the issues, and neither would it help you heal from the pain and mental torment. Adapting habits that you consciously realize are bad for you is a shout-out that you need to start changing your life.

5. Your Lifestyles Fail to Lead You to Your Goals

We are adaptable beings, so we try to accommodate ourselves to fit the situation. Many times, we start forming habits because of circumstances without thinking if it is in sync with our life goals. This is where the negativity starts amplifying to other life aspects.

Therefore, it is important to reflect on your life every once in a while. It helps you regain your focus and realize if you are moving in the proper direction towards achieving your goals.

4 Steps to Dealing with Big Life Changes

We can’t control every aspect of our lives, and we can’t stop change from happening. However, how we respond to change will greatly affect our overall life experience.

Here are 4 ways you can approach life changes in a positive way.

1. Don’t Fight It

I once heard one of my favorite yoga instructors say “Suffering is what occurs when we resist what is already happening.” The lesson has stuck with me ever since.

Life changes are usually out of our control. Rather than trying to manipulate the situation and wishing things were different, try flowing with it instead.

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Of course, some initial resistance is natural if we’re going into survival mode. Just make sure you are conscious of when this resistance is no longer serving you.

If you’re feeling anxious about impending life changes, it’s time to practice some techniques to address the anxiety directly. These can include meditation, exercise, talking with friends about how you’re feeling, or journaling.

If you’re worried about a big life change, such as starting a new job [2] or moving in with your partner, do your best to control your expectations. It may help you to talk with people you know about their experiences going through similar changes. This will help you form a realistic picture in your mind of what things will look like post-change.

2. Find Healthy Ways to Deal With Feelings

Whenever we’re in transitional periods, it can be easy to lose track of ourselves. Sometimes we feel like we’re being tossed about by life and like we’ve lost our footing, causing some very uncomfortable feelings to arise.

One way we can channel these feelings is by finding healthy ways to release them. For instance, whenever I find myself in a difficult transitional phase, I end up in a mixed martial arts studio.

The physical activity helps me channel my emotions and release endorphins. It also helps me get in shape, which generally increases my mood and energy levels.

Exercise is important in cultivating positive emotions, but if you’re struggling with anxiety in particular, it’s important to cultivate a regular exercise routine as opposed to a one-off workout. One study found that “Aerobic exercise can promote increase in anxiety acutely and regular aerobic exercise promotes reduction in anxiety levels” [3].

If exercise isn’t your thing, there are other, less intense ways of cultivating positive emotions and reducing anxiety around life changes. You can try stretching, meditating, reading in nature, spending time with family and friends, or cooking a healthy meal.

Find what makes you feel good and helps you ground yourself in the present moment.

3. Reframe Your Perspective

Reframing perspectives is a very powerful tool used in life coaching. It helps clients take a situation they are struggling with, such as a major life change, and find some sort of empowerment in it.

Some examples of disempowered thinking during life changes include casting blame, focusing on negative details, or victimizing [4]. These perspectives can make awkward transitional phases much worse than they have to be.

Meanwhile, if we utilize a more positive perspective, such as finding a lesson in the situation, realizing that there may be an opportunity for something, or that everything passes, we can come from a greater place of ease.

4. Find Time for Self-Reflection

Having time to reflect is important at any stage in your life, but it’s especially important during transitional periods. It’s quite simple really: we need our time to step back and get centered when things get a little crazy.

As a result, big life changes are perfect for doing some self-reflection. They are opportunities to check in with ourselves and practice getting grounded for a few minutes.

Take a look at this reflective cycle adapted from Glibb’s Self-reflection guide (1988): [5]

    Source: Reserachgate

    Self-reflective exercises include meditating, yoga or journaling, [6] all of which require some quiet time to get yourself together.

    One study found that journal improves “self-efficacy, locus of control, and learning” [7]. A healthy sense of self-control can make the process of change easier to bear, so that in itself is a great reason to try self-reflection through journaling.

    To learn how to start journaling, you can check out this article.

    7 Reminders When You’re About to Give Up Changing

    When you feel your lifestyle (attitude towards the job, work, marriage, friends, etc.) will never help you achieve your goal, it is time to press a little reset button and start changing lives.

    1. You’ll Never Have All the Information

    We often avoid making important decisions because we want more information before we make a tough call.

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    Yes, it’s certainly true that you need to do your research, but if you’re waiting for the crystal clear answer to come to you, then you’re going to be waiting a long time. As humans, we are curious creatures, and our need for information can be paralyzing.

    Life is a series of guesses, mistakes, and revisions. Make the best decision you can at the time and continue to move forward. This also means learning to listen to and trust your intuition. Here’s how.

    2. Have the Courage to Trust Yourself

    We make all sorts of excuses for not making important life changes, but the limiting belief that often underlies many of them is that we don’t trust ourselves to do the right thing.

    We think that if we get into a new situation, we won’t know what to do or how to react. We’re worried that the uncharted territory of the future will be too much for us to handle.

    Give yourself more credit than that.

    You’ve dealt with unexpected changes before, right? And when your car got a flat tire on the way to work, how did that end up? Or when you were unexpectedly dumped?

    In the end, you were fine.

    Humans are amazingly adaptable, and your whole life has been helping you develop skills to face unexpected challenges.

    Have enough courage to trust yourself. No matter what happens, you’ll figure out a way to make it work.

    3. What’s the Worst That Could Happen?

    Like jealousy, most of your fears are created in your own head.

    When you actually sit down and think about the worst case scenario, you’ll realize that there are actually very few risks that you can’t recover from.

    “He who rejects change is the architect of decay. The only human institution which rejects progress is the cemetery.” – Harold Wilson

    Ask yourself, “What’s the worst that could happen?” Once you realize the worst isn’t that bad, you’ll be ready to crush it.

    When you’re preparing to make a big life change, write down all of the things you’re afraid of. Are you afraid of failing? Of looking silly? Of losing money? Of being unhappy?

    Then, address each fear by writing down ways you can overcome them. For example, if you’re afraid of losing money, can you take a few months to save up a safety net?

    4. It’s as Much About the Process as It Is About the Result

    We’re so wrapped up in results when we think about major life changes. We worry that if we start out towards a big goal, then we might not make it to the finish line.

    However, you’re allowed to change your mind. And failing will only help you learn what not to do next time.

    Furthermore, just because you don’t reach the final goal doesn’t mean you failed. You chose the goal in the first place, but you’re allowed to alter it if you find that the goal isn’t working out the way you hoped. Failure is not a destination, and neither is success.

    Enjoy the process of moving forward[8].

    5. Continue to Pursue Opportunity

    If you’re on the fence about a big decision, then you might be worried about getting locked into a position that you can’t escape from.

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    Think about it a different way. New choices rarely limit your options.

    In fact, new pursuits often open up even more opportunities. One of the best things about going after important goals with passion is that they open up chances and options that you never could have expected in the beginning.

    If you pursue the interesting opportunities that arise along the path to your goal, then you can be sure that you’ll always have choices.

    6. Effort Matters, So Use It

    It sounds simple, but one of the big reasons we don’t make life changes is because we don’t try. And we don’t try because then it’s easy to make excuses for why we don’t get what we want.

    Flunked that test? Are you stupid? “Of course I’m not stupid. I just didn’t study. I would have gotten an A if I actually studied.”

    Stuck in a job you hate? Why haven’t you found a new job yet? “Well, I haven’t really tried to get a new job. I could totally ace that interview if I wanted.”

    Why do we make excuses like these to ourselves? It’s because if we try and fail, then we just failed. But if we don’t try, we can chalk it up to laziness.

    Get over it. Failure happens to everyone.

    And the funny thing is, if you actually try—because it’s pretty clear that most people aren’t trying—then you’ll win a lot more than you think.

    7. Start With Something Manageable

    You can’t climb Everest if you don’t try hiking beforehand.

    Maybe applying for your dream job seems intimidating right now. What can you start with today?

    Can you talk to someone who already has that position and see what they think makes them successful? Can you improve your skills so you meet one of the qualifications? Can you take a free online course to expand your resume?

    Maybe you’re not quite ready for a long-term relationship, but you know you want to start dating. Could you try asking out a mutual friend? Can you go out more with friends to practice your communication skills and meet new people?

    You don’t need to be a world changer today; you just need to make small life changes in your own world.

    Final Thoughts

    Changing a life is not a one-day job. It requires consistent efforts and dog determination to bring drastic life transformation.

    You can start by making small changes and setting achievable goals. And in no time, you would see yourself in a transformed personality.

    Changing a life is difficult but possible. You can have a life-changing experience only if you sign up for it with persistence. If your will is strong enough to support your decision, any life changes are possible!

    More Tips to Help You Make Life Changes

    Featured photo credit: Victor Rodriguez via unsplash.com

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