"The first thing to do, when you find yourself in a hole, is to stop digging," quipped one of our most beloved figures from the past, Will Rogers. Our current nearest, less humorous, equivalent is to, "Think outside of the box."

Just as people have a hard time understanding how they can, "think outside of the box," (because they don't understand that their Belief Systems are, "the box"), when in a hole, they can't figure out how to "stop digging," (because it is their habitual ways of functioning in the world, based on various Beliefs, that causes them to, "keep digging.").

Just as it is very difficult for individuals to, "think outside the box," because they totally identify with what they think with--their beliefs--in a like manner, individuals are totally identified with their behavior patterns, because our behaviors represent for us, "who we are." In both, it is a problem of identification, because we are Programmed to believe how we think and how we behave are equivalent to who we are as individuals.

The vast majority of individuals in our Western Society have totally accepted what they have been Programmed and Indoctrinated to believe are Fact, Truth and Reality. Also, they have accepted the Programming that their developed behavior patterns represent who they are. In actuality, behavior patters are primarily the product of Conditioning and Role Model Examples we have taken in from our very earliest years, as well as default responses we have developed to various challenges with which life presents everyone.

For these reasons, vast numbers of people are in one kind of proverbial hole in their lives or another, but do not know it, and if they realize they are, "in a hole," they do not know how to, "stop digging." For many, the first thing they can think of doing is, get a bigger shovel!--in other words, try harder using the same methods tried previously.

When problems arise in our public or private lives, the general response is to blame them on the actions of others, "if you/they/he/she hadn't....., I wouldn't have..... This particular way of blaming others for what we do--our failings and our ways of reacting--is endemic in our Western Society, and is a basic Belief which needs to be ruthlessly rooted out and discarded in order to make progress in one's effort to become responsible to and for the self.

An alternative standard solution is to go to a Therapist, (or Pastor, or Counselor) to get help with looking at your, "hole"/problem in new ways to try to arrive at another kind of solution which might work better. This method can help you get a better perspective by incorporating the methodology of the therapist (or alternative), but, unfortunately, many of these, "helping" professionals themselves are thinking inside the box of their own Programmed Belief System, whether it be regarding Human Development and Behavior, or other Belief System.

In, "thinking outside of boxes" the primary requirement is to stop thinking in traditional ways about a problem. However, unless you know what you believe, which includes what you have incorporated into your System from other, learned, Systems, you cannot help but continue to "think" with your personal Programmed and Indoctrinated Beliefs.

To overcome this obstacle, in a problem-solving, (Think Tank) situation, the easiest thing to do is bring in an, "outside expert" from another field who will think about the problem with his/her Belief System, and may come up with a different solution to the problem, which might actually work.

The key word in Will Roger's line about being in holes is, STOP"; the key to "Thinking outside the box," is to stop thinking in habitual ways.

To begin to think outside of boxes, one must totally understand that everything we think we know, including all the things we have been educated to Believe are only hypotheses, or another person's Belief.

All such hypotheses, incorporated into one's Belief System as absolute Facts/Truths/Laws must be taken out of those categories and regarded instead as unproven hypotheses to be used as tentative explanations for what we experience as Reality, while we test that hypotheses.

Most of the, "Experts" in the world live in the boxes of their expertise; most are unaware that they have also dug themselves in deep holes. My favorite definition of an "Expert" is, "Someone who learns more and more about less and less, until they know absolutely everything about nothing."

Only by understanding that it is not only your Programmed and Indoctrinated Beliefs, which you, "think" with, but also what determines what you experience, and how you behave, will it be possible for you to begin to be able to analyze a problem or situation differently.

Until you become aware of what your Belief System contains, this will continue to be true every minute of every day, not only while you are interacting with others, but also what you do every day of your lives. In order to change your life, you must examine what you have come to believe--your Belief System.

Author's Bio: 

My self-educational background has been in learning, and writing about, why people do what they do. My educational background includes the study of established Belief Systems in the field of Psychology, ranging from Freudian theory through Abraham Maslow's work on fully-functioning individuals, as well as Art. My BA is in Human Services, and my Masters is in Art Therapy--MA-AT.

In the 1970's I wrote a manuscript, (unpublished) called: You in the Process of Becoming; A Guide to the Self. In it I outlined a systems approach to understanding human behavioral dis-functioning. My current writing and thinking is an outgrowth of the understanding that, if an individual wishes to be able to think, "critically," i.e., originally, clearly and without contamination from Consensus Belief Systems, it is essential for that individual to thoroughly understand their own underlying Belief System.

This approach can be used in understanding an individual's problems in dealing with everyday situations and problems in relationships. In discovering how one's underlying beliefs shape personal behavior, and examining where those beliefs came from, can do much to change the resultant behavior.

You can access my blog at http://www.ruminationsonresponsibilities.blogspot.com/