A few years ago I was introduced to a book which I never bothered to read. Once I got the book in the mail, to the book shelves it went. Untouched, unread for years. A few months ago, in a leadership group, the facilitator introduced the same book. Being a forgetful person, I did not even remember I had the same book lying on the boook shelves back home. I went out to buy the same book albeit it’s the new expanded edition. Guess what happened? This book suffered the same fate as the earlier edition. To the shelves it went. Well, this time it was a bit better. A couple of chapters were read. May be I was being influenced by the title ‘Self Deception – Getting out of the Box’ which I took literally to mean get it out of the box and to the shelves and equates it to act of reading the whole book.
A month or so ago, I was fortunate enough to sit in a talk on the same book. All I can say, it was one of the most rivetting talk I had the fortune to sit through. If my memory serves me right, the trademark ‘yawn every five minutes’ was absent in the talk.
So what is this book all about? To quote the publisher’s website on this, the book is all about:
You often intuitively know what a right action toward another person is.
It's 4 am, my kid is crying...I'll go care for her.
An act contrary to what you feel you should do for another is called an act of "self-betrayal."
I'm tired - let Jill do it.
When you betray yourself, you begin to see the world in a way that justifies your self-betrayal.
I do everything I should do ... work hard, help in the house ... I'm a good husband.
When you see a self-justifying world, your view of reality becomes distorted - you begin to deceive yourself.
Jill is so lazy... insensitive... slacking off...
We call this "entering the box."
Over time, certain boxes become characteristic of you, and you carry them with you.
I'm fine ... all our problems are Jill's fault because she's lazy, insensitive...
By being in the box, you provoke others to be in the box.
(Jill's thoughts about you): He's so cold and dismissive...always blaming me ... what a jerk...
In the box, we invite mutual mistreatment and obtain mutual justification. We collude in giving each other reasons to stay in the box.
It’s all about ‘being in the box’ and the negative impact it brings. How do we get out of the box? Read the book, I guessed, it’s the best way to learn on how to get out of the box. For now, the following steps will be a good start:
- Don’t try to be perfect. Do try to be better.
- Don’t use the vocabulary – “the box” and so on – with people who don’t already know it. Do use the principles in your own life.
- Don’t look for others’ boxes. Do look for your own.
- Don’t accuse others of being in the box. Do try to stay out of the box yourself.
- Don’t give up on yourself when you discover you’ve been in the box. Do keep trying.
- Don’t deny you’ve been in the box when you have been. Do apologize, then just keep marching forward, trying to be more helpful to others in the future.
- Don’t focus on what others are doing wrong. Do focus on what you can do right to help.
- Don’t worry whether others are helping you. Do worry whether you are helping others.
Good luck and stay out of the box……
Nowadays, asking myself the question ‘Am I in the box?’ is a ritual ……..