Once, as a young girl, I was cooking with my grandmother.  She was preparing a ham for baking and towards the end of her preparation, she cut the ends off of the ham before placing it in the baking dish.  I remember asking why she cut off the ends of the ham.  She replied that she didn’t know why, just that it was what her mother had taught her, and she had always done it that way.  It wasn’t until some years later that I learned the origin of the end cutting.  Turns out that the original ham baking dish had been too small for a normal sized ham.  And in those days, it wasn’t possible to purchase a larger dish – hence, cutting the ends off of the ham.  My family created a tradition, and a box, around how you cooked a ham, that lasted for several generations – even though the original purpose was gone once the baking dish was replaced.  It made me laugh, and then think about how we draw boxes for ourselves all the time.  With the year coming to a close, it is a good time to re-examine our boxes so they fit our lives today and for the coming year.

For example, in your professional life, what is the box you have drawn for results delivery?  Is your box 25% larger than what is actually expected for you to deliver?  Think carefully about the performance box.  If you are a perfectionist, the box could easily get larger and larger, committing more and more of your time without commensurate recognition or compensation.  Being strategic and sizing the box according to what is actually required of you will also support your boundaries between your work and personal life.  Redrawing boxes is easily extended to teams.  By encouraging them to think ‘outside of the box’, creativity is encouraged, and new ideas and results can be explored.

In your personal life, where do you have a box that you inherited or were taught?  Is it supporting you in getting the life that you want?  Look at where you want your next breakthrough and the assumptions that created the old box.  Shifting the assumptions to create the desired breakthrough will then create the updated box.  Part of the process can be uncomfortable as you question the assumptions and the current box.  Redrawing the box is a change and change is usually uncomfortable, for at least a little while.  So, sit with the discomfort and then continue to redraw.  Remember that if your current box isn’t getting you what you want, there is little to lose in trying a different box.

Les Brown said, “Life has no limitations except the ones you make.”  As the current year winds down and the new year approaches, where do you have boxes that are limitations?  Do your boxes still work for you?  Are the boxes too big or too small?  Do the boxes still fit at all?  Where is your version of the ham and baking dish box?  Draw new boxes wisely while keeping in mind that they don’t have to be permanent and can change to fit where we are today.  We are the ones who created them in the first place, so we have the power to change them!

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