No, this post doesn’t about opening a box with a new product for the first time. It talks about how we put everything in little boxes stored in our mind by judging it, and why we may be better off getting rid of this habit.
There are two modes we switch between every day – the first, in which we are fully alive and engaged with reality, and the second, where our mind is disconnected enough from what’s going on to simultaneously have thoughts floating by in the background. In the latter, some of the thoughts are completely random, like worrying “Oh my, did I forget to send that important email to my boss?” while feeding your dog, but some are evaluative of what’s around (which is another word for judging). That’s quite alright, but minimising the noise in your head may serve you better. Here’s why.
Imagine – you’re walking down the corridor at your workplace, and you meet an acquaintance from upstairs. You start chatting about nothing in particular, they tell you about their new boss, and you nod along. Suddenly, your mind goes off: “Boy, is she chatty. Never noticed that – not too fond of chatty people. Oh well, I’m not in the mood to talk before my morning coffee anyways, might as well cut it short.” In the meantime, she might have mentioned that the new boss is about to launch an exciting international project and is looking for the team. You’ve just missed an opportunity to travel to another country, meet the locals and try foreign cuisine, while advancing your career. All that has passed you by because you had to put your acquaintance in the “right” box, asap.
Not only do we put people in boxes, but we also do the same with situations. Mid-way into a day when everything seems to go wrong (= against our idea of “right”), we label the whole day bad, and kill our own mood by complaining about it.
When we’re busy boxing everything in our mind, we miss out on the actual presence of it in our life, and a myriad of opportunities which come with it – from simply having a good time, unrestricted by mental boxes, to learning or trying something new that could be life-changing.
JUDGING what is going on cancels out EXPERIENCING it in body, heart and mind, just as it is. This habit takes away from your experience of reality, cuts the connection with it, and sends you into your head instead. The imaginary world you find inside is better organised than the chaos out there, no doubt, but it gets heavier with each new carton you add. Carrying the extra weight of judgement around is not just inconvenient for you, but also hurtful to others, when you let a box or two slip from the pile and land on their ears.
What’s more, having a box for everything limits our perspective on what we’ve “packed.” By assuming our sorting instinct is always right, we avoid opportunities for the same things to be taken out of their boxes and reevaluated. Psychologists call this confirmation bias – our tendency to seek proof of what we believe to be true, while almost ignoring the evidence that is not in agreement with our existing view.
For example, once you’ve decided that work acquaintance was too chatty, you will keep seeing her talking a lot around the office (which you never paid attention to before), and eventually you may even start avoiding her and miss all chances to change your mind about this person. In the same way, after you’ve decided you are having a bad day, you will only see disappointments around. All the little goodies like a hug from your partner when you come back home won’t reclassify the day as not so bad after all in your mind.
Sticking to fixed opinions robs you of many wonderful opportunities for personal growth through changing your perspective. You could make friends with that colleague and see many more sides of her other than the overly chatty one. You could see how a simple warm hug can change a day and fill you with gratitude for everything you’ve got. Unfortunately, you won’t experience that if your mind insists on being right.
The alternative, to engage with life fully and learn from it, is unboxing – taking things, situations and people for what they are, right now, not assigning them any particular category. Everything just flows, constantly and effortlessly, when you open up to reality and interact with it wholeheartedly – after all, your experience here on Earth is not about thinking, it’s about (inter)action. People change, situations change, things change each and every moment – what’s the point of forming a fixed view for the future based on a momentary thought, while missing the real experience of that moment? There’s no need to classify – just see the story unfold, second by second, and play your part in it.
Enjoy your journey!
Thank you for your wonderful comments, likes and follows – you have the special power to make my day with one click of your mouse ❤