Thinking outside the box is one of those metaphors that really need explanation. Thinking outside the box means to think differently, unconventionally or a new perspective. Some business consultants challenged their clients to solve a “nine dots” puzzle which required a creative solution. Often we are caught up with rules or conventions to solve problems versus thinking creatively.
In difficult times, companies bring in “change agents” to change the way companies operate and turn them around. Often, it is done under pressure of a Board of Directors, activist investor or even a company interested in taking over your company. Sometimes it is friendly and other times it is hostile. Whatever the influence, someone is charged with coming up with a creative solution to a problem. The problem may be ignored in the case of an activist investor or identified by management.
It is no different in your personal life! You may have too much debt, spending out of control or just difficulty meeting your financial goals. If your marriage were in trouble, you would probably have no problem seeking help of a family & marriage counselor. You can get outside help with your finances or just look at your problems and make basic and creative solutions. Change is difficult because it means we have to do things differently.
Change does not have be difficult though if you think creatively. If you are overweight and want to lose weight, you go on a diet and exercise more. Most people fail because diets are too much of a change. When I lost weight, I replaced some of the things I ate with better choices. The small changes I made were easier to accept. If you just change one thing you do, the outcome will change. I used to go to bookstore (Starbucks) once a week. Bookstores closed in my area and I changed along with it to once a month.
I made small changes throughout my career for small and big things. I started to take my lunch to work about forty (40) years ago just one day a week. Over time, it grew to five (5) times a week. If I started (cold turkey) with five (5) days a week, I probably would have failed! I save thirty-five (35) percent of my annual earnings. I did not start with that number. I started much smaller and it grew every time I received a raise, promotion or bonus.
Perhaps, you do not know how to approach these problems! It goes back to arithmetic or algebra in school. You learned how to solve problems, particularly word problems. Some of you may have had trouble or think it only occurs in school. Your math education taught you how to think and it is an important influence on your decisions and judgment. It is probably the single most important skill that can help you make better decisions. Forget financial literacy classes, take math!
Based on my recommendation, you would conclude that all math based majors such as engineers, math and computer science majors are financially successful. I cannot make that statement, however math skills will help you make better decisions. Education is intended to provide skills to help you think better versus no education. There are no guarantees, but it helps. The unemployment rate is lower the more education you have.
There are a lot of recent college graduates who would probably disagree with me. I often hear other personal finance experts recommend majoring in one of the high demand fields as the solutions. I disagree! You should major in whatever area you are interested in and will do well. You can major in English and graduate summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa. Yes, you could be unemployed! You still need to demonstrate your skills in the real world.
If you find opportunities at university to demonstrate your skills, you now have something to market to an employer. It can be through work, school activities, sports or self employment. The typical solution is a training program, but even that is more difficult to find in this economy. You have to think outside the box! The obvious question is “how can you use your skills in the real world.” This is where your interests and skills can meld together into a career.
Medical doctors, attorneys and accountants concentrate on their interests and use their skills to support them. These professions usually find what they specialize or concentrate on early in their career. Doctors go through extensive exposure to a variety of specialties in their training and gravitate to the one they are most interested in. Attorneys and accountants do some of the same things as they develop their careers. This is a strategy many people should think about when they start their career.
How often do you think outside the box? Normally, I am not particularly creative until I am faced with a problem. I usually start with the desired outcome and work backwards. Then I look for the ways I can solve the problem which will yield my best solution. For me, the answers come to me when I ride my bike, watch TV, read, walk the dog or other odd places. I is one of the reasons, I always keep a pad of paper and pen near me. It is different for everyone.
Problem solving or creative thinking is something I apply all the time in a variety of situations. It helps that I read a great deal because I am constantly filling my head with new thoughts. It is a form of exercise for my brain. I read a lot of personal financial articles because I am interested in the subject. I also picked accounting and fiancé as a career for most of my life. It helps that I am interested in the subject and have the skills. If you have enough information, you can start thinking outside the box!
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