Are You Putting Yourself in a Box?


Get Out of Your Box

For over 20 years, I was a successful executive in a nonprofit with a mission I still love. I had a comfortable life and my passion for the job never died. However, last year I started to feel that something was missing. I realized that my feeling was not unique, I noticed that people of all ages were puzzled by these questions: What am I doing with my life? Who do I want to be? What is the impact I want to make? Am I supposed to be doing this? What is the next best step?

Our ability to take the “next best step,” the belief we can take it and our understanding of what we can or cannot do, is often shaped by what others think we can accomplish and what we think are capable of achieving.

Even though as human beings we are in constant evolution, the image others have about us, seems to remain mostly static. My dad, who loves to cite Greek philosophers always quoted Heraclitus: “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.” Then, why is it that we tend to embrace preconceived notions of who we are?  Are we really free to achieve our full potential?

I question this because somehow we tend to hold on to a specific perception of ourselves, an older version that stays alive in some part of our brain forever limiting us to reach it.  

I call this old version of ourselves the box we put ourselves in "my box.” In a similar way, our families, our partners and our friends also have a recorded version of us in their minds and they also love to hold on to that version “their box for us” because it feels like a safe bet.  These perceptions of "your own box” and the others’ boxes for us” prevail through our lifetime and that is the perspective we often use to determine our potential and our shortcomings.

The others' boxes for us are also filled with rules, acceptable ways of doing things and timelines.  Oh… why you don’t have a boyfriend/girlfriend? When are you guys getting married? When are you having kids? When are you deciding your future? When are you getting a real job? Why did you stay so long at your job? What do you mean changing careers? Aren’t you too old for that? What? You have not decided your major yet? When are you getting engaged? What are you doing with your life? Seriously? and my favorite, are you getting married AGAIN? I hope it works this time! Or our own perceptions of ourselves: “I will never marry,” “I am a horrible public speaker,” “I will never be able to work like you do,” “I am not a people's person," I cannot do that,” “ I am terrible with kids, they don’t like me;” I don’t need a promotion to prove my worth,” “That will never be me.”

All of these boxes limit us immensely, but especially the box we put ourselves in because it limits our capacity to dream and believe that things can be possible for us.

I have been incredibly lucky to have experienced the magic that happens when you dare to step out of your own box.  It happened to me when I decided to move to Washington, D.C. when I was 20 to live my life just because I felt I belonged in a city like Washington.  Despite the total shock that it caused my parents, my family and my friends I got out of the box of my predictable future and dared to follow my heart.  

I believe I have started to experience that magic again. That only happens when you allow your most authentic self to come out and find a way to live your life by your own terms. It hasn’t been easy to challenge the status quo that makes everyone comfortable. It’s not easy but the rewards are immense.

I also feel most inspired by people who break paradigms. I have been inspired all my life by trailblazers, game changers and magicians.  I am always reminded of the power of creating the life you want to live despite the obstacles or the criticism we all face.

Like my sister says “you need to cancel the noise and put on your headphones” so that you can focus on what YOU really want in life without the wide range of expectations and ideas of what life should be for you.

I always wanted to write and share my experiences and reflections with others on a larger platform different than the great platforms I had at my job. However, I felt incredibly good to have job security, a wonderful title, a sound infrastructure and health insurance. I always looked at entrepreneurs with great admiration for their courage and vision but always thought I could never do anything without the backing of an organization to provide me with that security.

It took me a while and a deep feeling of unhappiness to get out of MY BOX and embrace my real feelings, dreams and goals, adjust the self-perception of what I could and I could not do, and get out of my comfort zone to face a much more grand dream of stretching myself and live the life I want to live.  

This process of getting outside of my box and working toward my dreams has been beautiful, painful, exciting, terrifying, liberating and a little bit of every emotion a human can feel in their lifetime.  Getting out of the box that I put myself in for years was not easy, but it was necessary to give my dreams a chance and to explore the impact that I can have in the world.

Embracing the “Modern Rule” is about the following: you set and love your own rules, your ways of approaching life and your timelines.  Living confidently on your own terms and by doing so impacting your community and the world in the most positive way you can: by finding your voice and working to build the life that you are meant to live. Recruiting your best self to work toward your dreams and hopes. Get out of your box and see magic unfolding in front of you.  Question those shadows and preconceived notions of what you can and cannot do. We are in constant evolution, we need to update those versions we have of ourselves constantly so that we can move forward and conquer different universes and the ones we dream to live. Make a list of your perceived limitations and old beliefs and write down the year in which you conceived those notions right next to each of them write why you think that way and the third column write examples of other parts of your life in which you do not show those limitations, I guaranteed you have those examples. Change your perspective of the limitations and think of ways of transferring your skills to those perceived limitations to conquer them and deal with them with the current version of who you are. Finally make a list of your new beliefs the updated Super Hero versión of who you are today. Your mind will believe anything you tell her, believe her this time. Yes you can and you will, if you really want it.