It has been said that people are the sum of their experiences. This is most undoubtedly true as we react to new things nd behave in a manner which is consistent with what we have done in the past and with how we have been affected by our past. For instance, when I was seven years old a friend and I used to play under his front steps quite a bit. The dirt had fallen away from the sides of the steps and this created an access hole to the cavernous world below. One day, when we had gone underneath, his dog decided that he should fill the hole as fast as he could. This huge dog (remember, I was seven at the time) was acting as if the world depended on him filling the hole as fast as he could. I remember feeling like I was out of breath. The sense of doom as the things collapsed around me. The fear. The fresh air that hit my face when I stuck my head out the hole had an almost euphoric feeling. Since that summer I have been deathly afraid of small spaces: claustrophobia. I know where it comes from, but there’s nothing I can do to control it.

This experience of mine has altered who I am and how I respond to others around me. It shapes how I resolve problems and answer questions.

Our experiences, however, may not be our own. If we read something and identify with it or have an emotional connection to it then we are more likely to accept it and make it part of our experiences. The emotional factor is key as it is what enable us to remember it better and to make it part of our lives. You may not remember the last textbook you read, but there are probably a dozen books that you could name that you loved reading. Emotional connections keep things in our long term memory. Our long term memory contains our experiences. As a result, if we are emotionally connected to a story it becomes part of our experiences.

When approaching a problem we take a look at it from all perspectives, but those perspectives are limited by what we have experienced. If we haven’t experienced something or haven’t been told that a different approach exists it is much more difficult for us to come up with “out of the box” solutions. As we expand our experiences, however, as we expand what we have been exposed to, it becomes easier to make what would appear to be leaps of imagination to come up with different, radical and unique solutions to problems.

It’s never to late to expand your experiences or escape the box. One solution is very simple: read. Don’t read books about the area you specialize in, but look into other areas. For instance, my reading varies from genealogy related magazines, to science fiction, to project management, to time management, to game magazines science magazines and current affairs. Each helps in it’s own way to broaden my perspective on my work and on my life.

Broaden your mind.

Broaden your perspective.

Escape the box.