Thinking Outside of the Box: Getting Out Of The Trap Thinking

Erika Petrelli
Erika Petrelli

I recently stumbled across a post by a woman named Kate Scott, which she originally gave as a Quora answer, where she describes some life-changing advice that her therapist gave her: when confronted by the overwhelming task of doing the dishes, because her dishwasher did a terrible job of getting them clean, her therapist told her to “run the dishwasher twice.”

This advice, told to Kate Scott by her therapist and then re-told to us by Kate Scott, has been re-told again- and over and over again, on countless sites. “My friend told me that her friend told her that her therapist told her…”

That’s because it’s damn good advice.  

I salute you, unnamed therapist. I hope you have some idea of just how many people you’ve impacted with that simple piece of advice.

We all have a version of “the dishwasher” in our lives, and we all have a loop that we replay, maddeningly, because we’re stuck in the box of singular thinking:

The dishwasher doesn’t get the dishes clean so I have to scrub them first; I don’t want to scrub them so they pile up in the sink; the more they pile up the more overwhelming the task of washing them becomes; clearly, my life is a terrible unfair place to live and so why bother with anything, really.  

The reason the therapist’s advice is so good is because it’s soooo scandalous. Run the dishwasher twice??!! Isn’t that, like, illegal??

(She ran it three times that night, by the way… and that simple act of rebellion opened up a doorway toward other ways she could take baby steps toward feeling better about herself and her life)

When we get stuck in the box of singular thinking, all we can see is: The sink piles up with dirty dishes + The dishwasher is ineffective at washing dishes = I have to scrub the dishes before putting them in the dishwasher.

But, getting outside of that box of singular thinking allows us a different equation:

The sink piles up with dirty dishes + The dishwasher is ineffective at washing dishes = I will run the dishwasher twice (or three times) to get them clean.  

Thinking outside of the box of our singular thinking opens up a world full of “What if?s” and “What if I tried?s” and “I wonder…s” that lead the way towards bigger, better, and bolder solutions.

This is true in our homes and in our workspaces.

So, the next time you are feeling FRUSTRATED AT YOUR CURRENT CIRCUMSTANCES or DISGRUNTLED AT A TASK BEFORE YOU or MAAAAADDDDD AT THE PERSON NEXT TO YOU…. pause, briefly, and ask yourself if you are a victim of your own singular thinking.

And if the answer is “yes” or even if the answer is “maybe,” then push yourself to look at it differently. Look at it sideways and upside down. Take a peek outside of the box of your singular thinking and see if you have a “run the dishwasher twice” workaround waiting patiently for you out there.

(And once you discover the first outside of the box idea, don’t be surprised if more of them suddenly start to crop up all around you).

How can you think outside of the box today?

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Erika Petrelli

By Erika Petrelli

Erika Petrelli is the Senior Vice President of Leadership Development (and self-declared Minister of Mischief) for The Leadership Program, a New York City-based organization. With a Masters degree in Secondary Education, Erika has been in the field of teaching and training for decades, and has been with The Leadership Program since 1999. There she has the opportunity to nurture the individual leadership spirit in both students and adults across the country, through training, coaching, keynotes, and writing. The legacy Erika strives daily to create is to be the runway upon which others take flight. If you enjoy these blogs, you should check out her interactive journal, On Wings & Whimsy: Finding the Extraordinary Within the Ordinary, now available for sale on Amazon. While her work takes her all around the country, Erika calls Indiana home.