I read this book on the recommendation of Nate Regier. You can listen to my conversation on the Happier at Work podcast with Nate here. Self-deception is said to be at the root of all personal and organisational problems. This is a fable-based story, and I found it very enlightening about how we work and how we live our live in general. I listened to this book on audio, and found it very easy to follow. However, upon typing up these notes, I realised there is a lot of jargon and some parts are easy to understand but difficult to explain – I’ve done my best to explain the key concepts.
The book starts out by highlighting an important point: often we don’t even know that we have the problem. This is ‘self-deception’. Self-deception, therefore, can sabotage us without us even knowing.
Being “in the box” means we experience others as objects in our life, while being “out of the box” we recognise that others have their own lives and with it, their own needs. These are the different “ways of being” in the world.
Changing our “way of being” is characterised as a mindset change – which is something that sounds changeable (changing our mind rather than changing our way of being). We can have an inward versus an outward focused mindset.
How do we get “inside the box”?
We get inside the box through an act of “self-betrayal” – this means
- An act contrary to what I believe I should do for another
- When I betray myself, I begin to see the world in a way that justifies my self-betrayal
- My view of reality becomes distorted
- When I betray myself, I enter the box
When this happens, we…
- Inflate others’ faults
- Minimise our own faults
- Inflate our own virtue
Over time, certain “boxes” become characteristic of us, and we carry them with us. These become our character traits.
By being “in the box”, we invite others to be in the box too – and so starts the blame game. We invite mutual mistreatment and give reason for us to stay in our boxes.
We become self-focused, and not results-focused. We lack commitment, engagement and motivation.
How do you get out of the box?
- Desire to get out of the box [Awareness]
We think we can get out of the box by doing the below, but really, we can’t.
- Trying to change others [we can only change ourselves]
- Doing our best to cope with others/ the situation
- Implementing new skills and techniques
- Changing my behaviour
The “Box” is a metaphor for resisting others. We need to honour others as people, with hopes and worries of their own.
When we have expectations of others (even subconsciously) – they live up to those expectations. Strangely, it is more important for us to feel right and justified, than to get the outcome we desire.
Check out the follow on book The Outward Mindset.
How to Apply the book
The following are some guidelines outlined in the book, mostly applying to business, but I feel they can be applied anywhere.
- When hiring, require that potential hires read and prepare to discuss the key points in the book
- Can be used in leadership and team-building
- Conflict resolution – where conflict is usually “someone else’s fault”
- Building systems of accountability and responsibility – showing initiative, process of transformation
- Using it for personal growth and development – sharing our hopes and making changes in the present
The underlying premise of the book is that we see others “as people” and we focus on shared results. By sharing the discoveries we make during the reading of the book, we don’t go “into the box” as often, and when we do, we come out more quickly by recognising the red flags of the telltale behaviours. This can be used to form part of ongoing training for leaders – cooperation and teamwork underpin the core concepts.
Orient people to how they will be required to focus on results in the organisation. People will learn what they are willing to learn. Building on this point, it’s important that people are held to account – that they are accountable to themselves and also to the results they achieve for the organisation. Beyond this, the focus should be on how the results are achieved.