It’s time to try thinking inside the box

  • Published
  • By Maj. Icy Lee
  • 81st Logistics Readiness Squadron commander
While recently attending a lecture, the speaker asked, "Why think outside of the box? What if the answer lies inside the box?" Hmmm ... that made a lot of sense to me. Sometimes we get so caught up trying to think outside the box that we lose sight of the basic principals that got you where you are today. 

I took that idea and applied it to my life. Think of a box: four sides, the bottom and everything inside. 

Starting with the bottom (the foundation) of the box, you have your values, morals and beliefs. In the Air Force you have core values, the Airman's Creed, Air Force instructions and other regulatory guidance. Adhering to these guiding principals will point you in the right direction every time. Whenever there is a decision to be made at work or at home, I look to my foundation. The answer to the problem is there every time. 

There are four sides to the box which are different for every individual. 

For me, one side is "family." Your family is always there for you -- they're a part of you before and after your military life.   While serving your country, you can't ignore them or you may risk losing them. My No. 1 priority in life is to take care of my family, both on and off duty. As a husband and father, my family is what I live for. I'll do whatever is necessary to take care of them. Although I'm always busy and most of my time is spent at work, I make it a point to spend as much time with my family as possible. If you can't take care of your family, how can you be expected to take care of anything at work? 

That same standard applies to my squadron as well. As a commander, my family consists of the men and women in my squadron. There's not much difference between your "blood" family and your "go to war" family. At the end of the day, it's about taking care of those around you and providing proper care and guidance so they may succeed. As a family, we should strive to ensure that our brothers and sisters have the positive support necessary to properly perform the mission, on and off duty. I will do anything for my family! 

Another side of the box is "faith." Faith is the invisible thread that keeps individuals focused, encouraged and driven. Spiritually, you need to find that faith that will get you through the hard times and keep you grounded. In the workplace, you need to have faith that the family will do the right thing for you and the organization. Always trust in yourself and those around you. 

A third side of the box is "attitude." Winston Churchill once said, "Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference." There'll always be challenges. Having a good attitude and a positive outlook eases the pain. It's your attitude that determines whether or not you have a good day. No one has control of your attitude except you. Your attitude is also contagious and directly affects those around you. Step back and observe those around you from time to time. If you live or work in an environment with a lot of negativity, I bet you can figure out whose attitude is making it hard for others ... especially if it's you. Trust me; you can change it if you try. 

The final side of the box is "fun." If you're not having fun, then something is wrong and it needs to be fixed, or maybe you need to do something else. Like your attitude, you are in charge of your fun. If something is unpleasant to you, fix it. Life is too short and we work too hard not to enjoy it. I'll always have fun ... if not, then I'll move on. Yes there are times when fun is not available -- I understand that. But when opportunities present themselves, it's up to you to take advantage of them. 

During the course of every day, I constantly tell myself to take care of the family, keep the faith, keep a positive attitude, have fun, but make sure it's not -- as 2nd Air Force's Maj. Gen. Al Flowers often says -- "illegal, immoral or unethical." I know that if I stay inside my box, I'll always be all right. I understand that sometimes I must think "outside the box" to solve complex challenges. But I'm fully aware that when I do, I'm taking a huge risk. So, the next time you're faced with a difficult challenge -- a leadership opportunity -- maybe you should try thinking inside your box. I bet you'll find the answer.