I thought about titling this blog “Unbox Yourself”. You know those “unboxing” videos that are all over YouTube where people receive products and then film themselves opening them up? It’s a little ridiculous, really. There are grown adults videotaping themselves opening expensive watches or endless boxes of personal products, and there are even kids who are opening up toys. There’s ooh-ing and aah-ing, and lots of up-close examination.
What could we learn if we self-applied this same idea to some of the boxes we build for ourselves?
I have always considered myself “a planner”. I like to have my ducks in a row, I like to know what’s going on ahead of time, and I particularly enjoy it when everything works out exactly how I intended. I map out personal and professional strategies, I plan days and events down to an nth degree, and I am always acutely aware of any deviations from said plans.
Now, if I were to “unbox” that inclination, I would quickly face the fact that, yes, I do like to have a plan, but also- I have some major controlling tendencies! And like so many other characteristics, while these tendencies can be some of the very things that help me succeed, they can also become one of my biggest challenges when allowed to run amok! My desire to control for outcomes can be a fastpass to feeling frustrated or getting derailed by disappointment.
In order to bring a little balance to my approach, I intentionally choose curiosity instead of control. Now, full disclosure here, I don’t always do this right out of the gate, but I am working towards that (because holy smokes, it would sure reduce some friction in my life!). This means I still do all my planning and mapping out and detailing, but I do it with the full knowledge that it is likely there will be something that happens that is outside of that plan. This is where curiosity comes in.
Instead of getting frustrated or descending into the depths of disappointment, when a deviation occurs, I get curious instead. This often looks like asking the question, “What can I learn about myself here?” I notice when I’m feeling the friction or frustration, and it’s a good opportunity for some self-reflection or unboxing. I also ask, “Where might this lead me instead?” Again, another invitation to be open and to allow a different path to unfold.
Now, this isn’t always all sunshine and lollipops. An unexpected detour into spending money fixing the air conditioner when I had other financial plans can be hugely aggravating and disappointing. However, when I reframe that situation from an experience that didn’t go according to plan into one where I could apply some curiosity... voila! It’s a chance to learn. Why am I so aggravated? What does that tell me about my mindset? What could I learn about my spending habits? What might need to change in my plans because of this, and how could I make it better?
Whether you let your control freak flag fly like me or not, you can still benefit from more curiosity! I find it is a strategy that helps me stay nimble and quick to respond to challenges while minimizing some of the fallout from setbacks. It also provides one heck of a conversation starter with friends and loved ones. Don’t bludgeon yourself over the head with it or judge yourself too harshly, but when you do find yourself knocked off course, try asking, “What could be possible because of this instead?” And then have some fun answering that question!
It’s one of the fastest ways I know to get out of the boxes we build around ourselves.
Nicole Lance is a women’s leadership development expert, facilitator, executive coach, speaker, strategic planner, and promoter of self-care. She is passionately committed to helping organizations and individuals succeed in reaching - and reaching beyond - their goals.