Are you still ticking boxes?

‘I’m going to write a book!’, I said to my mum a few years ago.

She began getting anxious; and within minutes, questions followed. ‘What do you know about writing a book? Not everyone can write a book. Will you be allowed? What happens if you are not able to complete it? What is the need?’

There is seldom such a thing as the need to write a book!

I got on with it anyway.

A little while later I said to her, ‘I’ve signed up for the London Marathon.’

The same anxiety and a similar list of questions followed. ‘Not everyone can run a marathon. When will you train? Who will look after the children? But what is the need?’

Once again, I wasn’t able to articulate a need – at least not in the way she defined them.

If you see it her way, a need is something along the lines of a legal requirement, such as, the need for a passport to travel to Dubai or the need for a bank account. My needs are usually a lot more intrinsic than that.

Regardless, her question about a need is very misleading.

Look at it this way. If I went shopping and bought shoes or handbags, she would never question the need.

In actual fact, these conversations had nothing to do with books and marathons, and everything to do with fear and risk appetite. She often worries that I might fail and at other times, she just cannot understand reasons for which I might put myself under discomfort of any sort.

Imagine it as two people sat by a river where one is more risk averse, loves stillness and calm and the other thrives on throwing in a little pebble every once in a while – just to check out tiny ripples as they form.

Let’s explore this via three boxes. Yes, we need the third!

1. Happy In There!

In the first box, I would have those who live happily in their box. Their box is their habitat.

These may be the people often heard saying things such as, ‘why fix it if it isn’t broken?’ They savour life as it is, and given a choice, they will change nothing.

Yet, let’s not confuse this with an inability to adapt. Let me assure you that while they may not actually be the ones to trigger change, when change happens, they are quick to adapt.

In my box analogy, imagine they sleep in a blue box and wake to find that the box is now yellow. They’ll just get on with yellow.

Like most of us, my mum has seen phenomenal change and I haven’t once heard her complain. Like a child with broccoli on her plate, she will do all she can to avoid it, yet once served; it must be eaten.

if you are here, conformance is a key to happiness.

2. Happy To Dare!

In this box, I have the unboxed. Don’t ask me how I managed to box the ‘unboxable’!

They don’t know a box; they just do their thing.

Call it challenging the norm or pushing boundaries, to my simple brain, it is a higher risks appetite and willingness to act in line with that.

They wake up, they like an idea, they put in some thought and they go with it.

‘Splash!’, there goes the pebble in someone’s pond!

If you live with someone such as my mum, you become acutely aware of the pebbles you are throwing. Every once in a while, when you are asked the reason for which you need to do something, you realise you are pushing the boundaries expected of you by that person. In fact, just last week, she requested me to change a profile picture because it was outside of her tolerance. She’s cute!

Remember, the box is only a concept so everyone’s appetite differs.

While the first doesn’t like hitting walls, the latter revels in it because every time you hit a wall, you know you went the furthest you could have gone.

Lessons will be learnt yet the wall had better watch out because next time, you will push harder or find other exits. While the first sees the border as a line to be respected, the other sees it as something to be sculpted day after day.

Now here’s the point. In terms of happiness, at some level, they are both happy because they are both acting in sync with their appetite. They clash yet that’s totally logical and can be managed.

This brings us to the third.

3. Unhappy In There, Not Ready To Dare!

In this box, I would put the ones who for some reason have defined their boundaries at levels that aren’t working for them. They have an innate desire to push and yet for reasons such as fear or shame, are living with a feeling of containment.

In simple terms, it’s like wearing a size eight shoe when actually you are a size nine. Ouch! 

Worse still, sometimes, the boundaries have been pre-defined for them, a neat list of boxes has been handed down, and all they need to do it put a tick in the box. Wake up, tick, tick, tick, and go to bed. Repeat repeatedly.

The difference between the first person and this one is that the first has no desire to push boundaries, and is probably sat there enjoying the cosiness, wishing this would never end. But if you are in here, you are claustrophobic.

To the first conforming spells calm while here, it spells confinement. If you find yourself wishing the wall away, chances are, you might be here.

So there, you see the three now. While one and two seem reasonably content; the third is the one I would invite for action today.

Ask yourself, are you a size nine wearing size eight? Or are you the one standing by the water, bored of the tranquillity, wishing you had the courage to throw in a pebble or two.

If so, I invite you to ask yourself, what would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail? Brene Brown took is one step further by asking, ‘what’s worth doing, even if you fail?’

As they say, fear of failure killed more dreams than failure actually did.

If there is a latent dream in you, to venture out of that box, you could contact me and we could talk through it. If not, I welcome your thoughts anyway.

I’ll leave you here with one final thought.

Before you go on to tick the next box, take a moment to check that you pick the right box.

Which ever be your box, I wish it is filled with happiness.

Professional Speaking Association


EMCC – Senior Practitioner Coach

Accredited Coach



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