We Like Our Boxes


What draws a kid to become super organized? The same thing that cause adults to shape their world.

Out of the Box
When I was a kid, I didn’t always fit in. The things I enjoyed just didn’t appeal to most of the kids I knew or hung out with. It was the same way with my family. I seemed to be outside the box.

Which ironically had a huge impact on my desire to keep everything organized, it seems. I was the kid whose room was straight and clean. The shoes were lined up, the items on the shelf were neatly arranged, and the shirts in the closet were all facing the same direction, equally spaced.

Even more, I used to love having everything in it’s own little box or compartment. I had organizers with drawers in them to separate electronic components, or legos, or screws. I used to dream of organizers with drawers that would exactly fit its contents. Something about all that organization made me feel comfort.

Looking back on it, I can see that the organization helped me feel control. With all the chaos that life brings and feeling like no one understood me, having some level of command over my environment gave me a sense of peace. It gave me the feeling that I had control over my world, whether or not it was true.

The Grown Up Boxes
Now that I’ve grown up, I still like the organization. I’ve learned to let go of making everything perfect, but I still enjoy finding the right cabinet or backpack to organize all my gear. I have several boxes and containers to keep certain things easily accessible.

As grown ups, we like to feel the security and comfort of our boxes. We all do. We like everything in a box. We like to understand that people act a certain way. We like to know if we meet someone new that it will be a positive experience, so we have our expectations of who they are by what we know of them.

But more than that we start to box people that we don’t know. We have our boxes that are so neatly labeled: “Gay People”, “Celebrities”, “Winners”, “Losers”. We start categorizing people by their most outstanding attributes, even race. Everyone is in their box. We define people by the box and not the people they are.

Mislabeled Boxes
But what if the boxes are mislabeled? What if the only reason Bob is losing is because everyone has him in the “Loser” box and treats him like a loser because of it? What if the only reason Sue is winning is because she’s in the “Winner” box and everyone bends over backward for a winner?

Or even if box is labeled correctly, that still leaves people in a box. When we box someone as gay or black or Mexican we diminish them to a single aspect of their identity. Forget kind, fun, loyal, forgetful, or whatever makes that one particular person who they are. They are simply “gay”, “black” or “Mexican”.

Why Do We Have Boxes?
Why do we have these boxes? Why do we care if people are “Winners”? Because we like the control. We like to feel like we aren’t completely subject to the chaos that surrounds us.

Those boxes make us feel safe. They make us feel like we understand a world full of natural disasters, unexpected calamities, painful breakups, and rejected kindnesses. When we can’t control the pain, we like to find things we can control to make us safe. If we can predetermine where we might suffer, perhaps we can avoid pain.

Only the boxes can never make us safe. They can only give the illusion of safety, and, unfortunately, that illusion can make us less safe.

Hidden Opportunities
When we put people in boxes, the opportunities we have are hidden from us. When we expect them to be dull, we miss out on the possibilities of fun. When we expect them to be dumb, we miss out on the possibilities of enlightenment. When we expect them to be less than us, we miss out on the possibilities of us becoming more than what we are.

Because people don’t live in a box. People are unique, and robust, and ever changing. Steve Jobs, founder of Apple, at one point was kicked out of his company, losing large amounts of money, and heading straight down. But he eventually came back to Apple and turned it from nearly bankrupt to wildly successful. It is now currently three on the Fortune 500. Jobs went from winner to loser to winner again. History is littered with icons of success like Abraham Lincoln, Jack Canfield, and others who failed miserably time and time again.

If people can so easily go from loser to winner, why have any boxes at all? Why can’t we just accept people as people instead of putting them in a box? Why can’t we just forget the boxes and love the people?

There are all kinds of wonderful opportunities hidden in those boxes. Instead of keeping them, why not empty them out and find all the amazing relationships that life has to offer.

David Bishop

David is CEO of Cedowin Productions, dedicated to helping you live your best life through positive habits. He has inspired tens of thousands to improve habits and communication through books, articles, workshops, and apps. He is the creator of AweVenture, helping families enjoy fantastic, active experiences and Zombie Goals, literally making building healthy habits a game. He’s authored several books including How to Create Amazing Presentations, 7 Steps to Better Relationships, and The Man in the Pit, which helps people who have loved ones struggling with depression.

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