OK, I’m just going to say it – I think in some ways, the pandemic has been good for me. That’s right, I said it. You’re thinking, “What the hell is this guy talking about?!” Hang with me for a couple minutes.

For a while now, I’ve been doing certain things because I felt I was supposed to, or because I thought others expected me to. Today is Selection Sunday, and the NCAA tournament is back. There was a 30 year stretch where I hosted a bracket pool every year; at one point we had around 150 entries – and this was pre-internet.

In the beginning, I did the scoring manually because, well, there was no other alternative. Over time, I tried to go digital, but I wouldn’t give up my special rules. Finally, I found a software that let me do it. The problem was, it had a crappy interface that was confusing. People started falling off, because there were easier pools to play.

Then came last year; the tournament was cancelled and I didn’t run a pool for the first time since the late 80s. You know what? I kind of liked it! I realized the fun hobby had become like a job, which I made worse because, well, I’m stubborn AF. This year I made the easy call to not run a pool. It’s honestly kind of freeing. I can just watch basketball if I want (and have time) and not worry about anything else.

I dropped another hobby for the same reason; it was no longer fun. I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t really enjoy it any more either. With The Boy hitting high school, work, and the Foundation… I don’t want to commit my limited extra time to something if it isn’t fun and fulfilling.

About This Box

How many times a week do you hear someone talk about the box – thinking outside the box, getting outside the box, etc. It’s used freely, but what does it really mean? The box is limiting, right? The box is keeping you from exploring your best you and thinking about the bigger picture. Is it really, though? Or are you dealing with the wrong box? If this proverbial box is so limiting and small, ask yourself this: who built it?

Being trapped by other people’s expectations, or your perception of their expectations, sucks. It limits your growth, prevents your progress. But a box is not inherently a bad thing. Cats, for example, love boxes of all types. There’s a comfort level being in a safe space. Humans aren’t so different.

Studies show that kids do better when raised with limits, with guardrails in place. That’s what parenting is, really – showing them the standards and rules to help them function with others.

Adults aren’t any different. A little fear isn’t a horrible thing when it challenges you – but having no net can be terrifying and keep you from fully committing to your goals. What’s so awful about having some parts of your life in the right place? You didn’t get here overnight, so you don’t have to change it all over night. One step at a time!

Open the Lid

Now, this may sound out of place from the guy who talks about challenging yourself, pushing yourself, taking risks, setting big hairy ass goals. Suddenly I’m all in favor of playing it safe? No, that’s not what I’m saying. You still need to challenge yourself, but there is a way to do that by eliminating other variables – you can be in a box but not have the lid closed, after all.

When you or someone else is setting limits that are holding you back, preventing you from growing, you absolutely should push yourself forward and break out of that box. On the other hand, if you are dealing with your issues and giving yourself a chance to grow while defending you and yours against other issues – that’s a whole different game. In that case, you are putting yourself in the best place to grow safely. And that, my friends, is the best way to use the box.

Photo by Diana Parkhouse on Unsplash