8 unusual habits that prove you’re an out-of-the-box thinker

There are a lot of brilliant people out there!

But those who truly think out-of-the-box are extremely rare and harder to find…

Are you one of them? 

1) You focus on problems 

We’re constantly told to focus on solutions, to achieve inner peace, to be full of tranquility and acceptance. 

That’s very in-the-box thinking, if you ask me. 

I’ve always done the opposite. 

From a young age, I’ve been fascinated by problems:

War, suffering, inequality, mental and physical illness, mortality.

These problems exist, and I wanted to know why. 

I wasn’t just “interested” in these things, I wanted to find out why they happened and what could be done to address them. 

Over the years I’ve come up with some interesting answers via some quite out-of-the-box thinking

The habit: having a consistent habit of focusing on the problem and core challenges of life.

2) You multiply why by infinity

The next of the unusual habits that prove you’re an out-of-the-box thinker is that you can’t stop asking why. 

At the most basic level, even asking why it’s so important to ask why is, indeed, a very valid question!

Why do we feel such a need for meaning? Then again, what is meaning, anyway? Why are some things meaningful to one person but not to another person?

As an out-of-the-box thinker, you never stop asking why. 

Even when you hit a goal or things outside you seem to be progressing a lot, you keep asking why, and looking at why from new angles. 

As Brooks Conkle writes:

“There would never be any inventions or progress in the world if everyone merely accepted things as they are. 

“If Thomas Edison had shrugged and decided that gas lights were good enough, light bulbs and the energy to power them might never have been invented.”

The habit: questioning the status quo and asking why about everything. 

3) You argue against yourself 

The next of the unusual habits that prove you’re an out-of-the-box thinker is that you argue against yourself. 

Having these kinds of internal debates doesn’t mean you have a schizoid personality, it just means you’re weighing difficult decisions or subjects. 

The fact of the matter is that having an internal dialog can be a sign you’re a very creative thinker and are operating at a more imaginative, sophisticated level. 

The habit: you hold inner debates on a regular basis that strengthen your mind and sharpen your will. 

4) You switch up your routine 

The next of the unusual habits that prove you’re an out-of-the-box thinker is that you switch up your routine. 

If you have the ability to work in a mobile way, you’ll pick up and go somewhere totally unexpected for a week or two. 

I remember covering the 2015 New Hampshire presidential primary while writing from a tent. 

I was staying in a literal campground and writing by flashlight and my light-up keyboard instead of just staying back home and writing somewhere in an office, so that I could be closer to all the action. 

The fact of the matter is that out-of-the-box thinkers do things their own way, and that includes changing up their routine and even starting or stopping jobs sometimes quite suddenly. 

The habit: you switch up your routine as much as possible to inject fresh energy and inspiration into your world. 

5) You listen to people you disagree with

Another of the unusual habits that prove you’re an out-of-the-box thinker is that you are willing to listen to ideas you find wrong or mistaken in order to learn more

You may be a committed religious individual who’s fascinated by the ideas of leading atheists…

Or you may be a committed socialist who’s doing a study of the top capitalist thinkers and whose bookmarks are full of videos by leading free market thinkers…

That’s because strongly disagreeing with people doesn’t mean you ignore them. 

In fact, in some cases it just makes them more interesting. 

The habit: you don’t just look for worldviews you agree with, you also want to listen to the ideas of people you hate so you can know as much as possible and challenge your own assumptions.

6) You study solutions in other sectors 

The next of the unusual habits that prove you’re an out-of-the-box thinker is that you are fascinated by the lives and businesses of other people. 

Regardless of whether you work in the same field or have the same relationship problem, you have a habit of researching and learning about how other people have solved problems in their lives. 

You study solutions in business sectors that don’t even have anything to do with you, or may find yourself reading about treatment for a psychiatric disease you’ve never even heard of before. 


Reading about the ins and outs of other problems can often unexpectedly present answers and inspirations for how to deal with problems you might be having in your own life. 

“You might find that many of the problems people in other industries face are similar to the problems in your own, but that they’ve developed really quite different ways of dealing with them,” advises Dustin Wax.

The habit: your curiosity and out-of-the-box thinking drives you to look at what’s brought success across many sectors of business and in many areas of life, even if they differ from your current situation. 

7) You instinctively find out what makes people tick 

Another of the key unusual habits that prove you’re an out-of-the-box thinker is that you are drawn to find out what makes people tick. 

Whether you’re talking to a car mechanic, a swim team coach or your local accountant, you are fascinated by why people are drawn to the careers they end up in. 

You also find yourself fascinated by learning about how couples first met, the beliefs of people you come across, or their major motivations in life. 

This can definitely lead to some interesting Uber conversations, to say the least. 

The habit: connecting to people at a deep level that gets at what motivates them in life and finds out what they care about most.

8) You reverse engineer

Reverse engineering is when you start with an end product or an end goal and work your way backwards to achieve it. 

The most classic example of this would be to reverse engineer your life itself. 

Say you want to be 35-years-old, happily married and earning six figures a year. 

You are currently 18.

Working backwards from 35 to 18, what do you need to do and achieve in order to get to that goal? 

What do you need to achieve by age 34? By age 33? What about if you break it up into months, then weeks? 

What do you need to be doing every day to hit your goal by 35? 

If you reverse engineer it, you’ll also come up with a number of fallback plans and probably have some flowcharts drawn out as well. 

The habit of reverse engineering is definitely a unique habit that proves you’re an out-of-the-box thinker. 

The habit: starting with a goal and working backwards from it so you end up with small, measurable steps you can take. 

Using the unique tools you have 

Thinking out of the box is really its own reward.

You get to see the world and your life in such a unique way, and the paths that it will lead down are unlimited. 

Thinking out of the box is something everyone can do.

It’s just about using the unique tools you have to approach life in a different and more vivid way. 


Picture of Paul Brian

Paul Brian

Paul R. Brian is a freelance journalist and writer who has reported from around the world, focusing on religion, culture and geopolitics. Follow him on www.twitter.com/paulrbrian and visit his website at www.paulrbrian.com

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