Your Personal Box: When’s the Last Time You Peeked Outside?

MichaelCareer, Challenge, Education, How to, Misc, Personal Development24 Comments

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My Personal Box

Your Personal Box

We all live in a “box” of sorts… many of them in fact.

How comfortable are yours?  Do you have room to grow?  Or, do feel stuck with nowhere to go?

It’s easy to get caught up and trapped in our own personal box without ever realizing we’re living inside of one.  I do it all the time.

Many of our boxes are built with walls of self-imposed limits.  Some of them are conscious, while others are not.

Today, I’m going to challenge you to peek outside of your personal box.  Surprise yourself with a little “box” evaluation and experience the plethora of rewards just outside of it.

Let’s take a look at some common boxes we live in…

Your Geography Box

My Geography BoxAre you happy with the “box” that you live in?

I’m actually writing this post on my return home from Dallas, Texas. I spent a few days on vacation here with a couple of my cousins to see how other people live outside of California (including fellow real estate investor and blogger, Eric Bowlin).

Although we knew there were some huge differences in cost of living, it was fascinating to experience it firsthand.

The price for homes are significantly less, and that’s even after the recent run-up on prices the last few years. For the same amount of money back in California, you can purchase a property with 2x’s to 3x’s the square footage.

Additionally, some jobs out there pay the same, or even more in salary (eg. medicine), yet Texas has NO state income tax!  (Gasp!)  This is also true in 6 other states – Alaska, Florida, Nevada, South Dakota, Washington, & Wyoming.  That’s a HUGE chunk of savings if you’re a high-income earner.  I saw this first hand when I sold my company and the acquiring company had offices in Texas.  Some of the entry-level techs were able to purchase a decent house with a modest income, while my techs in California were lucky to rent a 1000 square foot apartment in a decent neighborhood.

Furthermore, a state like Texas is much more real estate investor friendly if you plan on being a landlord there.  I won’t get into the details here, but good luck trying to evict someone out of a California property.

Of course, there are some trade-offs. Weather in Southern California is a premium advantage that you can’t experience many other places.  We enjoy a surplus of sunny days with relatively moderate temperatures and very little humidity.  I admit this is one of the biggest reasons I’ve stayed put.

The other reason some people may not want to move is their proximity to family and friends.  Again, I understand this can be a large motivating factor in staying within a certain location.  However, with technology (Facetime & Skype), it’s now easier than ever to connect with people regardless of where they live.

Even if you like where you’re living currently, it doesn’t hurt to peek your head out of your geography box.  Travel and see the quality of life from another person’s perspective.  You might just like what you see.

Your Career Box

Your Career BoxAre you happy with the “box” you work in?

When was the last time you looked for a new job or considered a side hustle/business?

Living inside your career box can easily stifle your personal growth at times.  In fact, I got stuck with in my own I.T. company that I had created.  There were years where I was simply going through the motions without any real movement forward. A great paycheck should never be enough to short change you from finding fulfilling work.

How about you?

Some questions you might ask yourself to evaluate your career box are:

  • Am I doing fulfilling work?
  • Does my work capitalize on my full potential?
  • Do I deserve a raise?
  • Am I growing my skill set?
  • Do I enjoy the people I work with?

What would happen if you focus some additional time and effort on making some significant strides in your career path?

Consider Dom, over at GenYFinanceGuy.  He doesn’t just sit around and wait for an annual performance review in hopes of a cost of living adjustment.  He grabs the bull by its horns!  Today he’s earning multiple six figures.  He has never let age stand in his way but instead focuses on how he can create value for the company he’s a part of.

As a former business owner, I loved employees that came to me with ideas.  Some came with projects on their own initiative and I was happy to allow them some time to pursue it.  These go-getters were much more likely to get a bump in their annual bonuses than those employees that just went through the motions.

I’ll tell you a secret too that most employers will never tell you… raises are not just available during your annual review!  In fact, they are usually available year round.  But, these raises only go to those who deserve them and/or those who ask.

Remember, the harder you push yourself in your career, the more valuable you will become… not only to your current employer but your future employer too.  If you’re going to do something, you may as well do it well!

Take some time to review some job listings in similar positions or above.  Get excited!  You may be surprised to find you can land position elsewhere for more pay and better working conditions.

Your Relationship Box

Your Relationship BoxAre you happy with your relationship “box”?

How’s your relationship with your significant other?  Do you have a significant other?

Consider why we seek relationships in life in the first place.  If you think about it for a while, you’ll probably agree it’s because we want to share our experiences with others.

When you get a really big win, what’s the first thing you do?  Call or talk with a friend or love one, right?

Yet, over time we can take our relationship for granted.  Like anything in life, if you don’t nurture relationships, they won’t flourish.

On the other side, you may just stick around inside of a toxic relationship for convenience… again, this is a limiting box that you’ve trapped yourself in.

Thus, I would challenge you to peek outside of your relationship box.  Find out what’s outside.  Change up your predictable patterns and seek something new to share, love, or give.

This year I enter into my 12th year of marriage.  And while it’s super wonderful in some aspects, it does take some work.  It takes work to find new ways to connect.

Having children also creates new challenges for couples looking to balance time for their kids and time for each other.

Quick Tip Gentlemen: Valentine’s Day is around the corner!  Step up and do something unique outside of your comfort zone.

Your Wellness Box

Your Wellness BoxAre you satisfied with your wellness “box”?

Do you have endless energy that fuels you forward each day?  Or, do you feel lethargic and are prone to getting sick?

As I officially head into my 40th birthday this year, I’ve become much more aware of my wellness and the habits I need to keep to maximize my own energy.

After all, what good is having riches in your life if you’re not well enough to enjoy them?

I need to constantly remind myself about that question because it’s in our little daily decisions that really determine our long-term health.

Gone are the days that I can just sit around and eat whatever I want without gaining a pound.  (That was 2 decades ago!)

To expand my own wellness “box”, I need to move around on a daily basis and exercise regularly throughout the week.  As such, I’ve taken up tennis again in 2016, and am looking for an add-on exercise for 2017.

But, where I really want to expand my own box is in my consumption.  I love to eat!  (Hence why I’m also a food blogger).  It’s not that I’m super overweight, but I know I slam bad things into my body on a daily basis (I’m drinking a blended mocha right now!).

Food can be addictive because it meets our human needs on multiple levels.  So, I’m doing my best to evaluate more empowering choices available to me that are simultaneously healthy and meet my needs.

I will admit this is probably one of my tighter boxes and one that I’m more afraid to peek out from than any other.  I’m open to suggestions!

Your Money Box

Your Money BoxOf course, we need to talk about your money box.  This is a personal finance site after all!

As you probably know, I’m not a frugalist.  I don’t like “saving” money for saving’s sake.  I’d much rather spend my money intentionally and try to maximize its purchasing power to satisfy my needs and wants.

Are you spending your money efficiently?  Do you have a surplus or living paycheck to paycheck?

I know there have been multiple occasions where I’ll find myself wasting dollars.  Paying absurd amounts for subscription TV was one of them.

We don’t watch a lot of TV.  That’s a good thing, I know.  But, we were still dishing out close to $140/month on TV and Internet.

So, once this came onto my radar, I called AT&T and headed straight for their customer service retention department.  I was prepared to “cut the cord” that day, but instead, I was offered a huge $50/month reduction (good for 2 years)!  They allowed me to move to DIRECTV which actually has more channels, and they also increased my Internet bandwidth for a total of $90/month.  For a similar example, check out my post – How I Quickly Saved $756 by Being Nice.

Also, don’t forget to take inventory of all your automatic subscription accounts.  You could be spending money and not even be reaping any rewards… eg. an unused membership site, or domain name renewals you aren’t using, 401k fees (check out Personal Capital’s free Fee Analyzer).

Finally, consider spending discretionary income on traveling somewhere inside of buying something.  Traveling will engage your senses on multiple levels.  The problem with buying “toys” is that the euphoria effect wears off much quicker and is not remembered as well as a vacation.

How about a mini day vacation just for yourself to recharge and evaluate your other boxes?  When’s the last time you spent time planning your life vs. living inside of it?

Strategies to Expand your Boxes

Expanding Your Box

I’ve covered a few different boxes that we all live within, but this list could go on forever.  You know which boxes are healthy, and which ones are trapping you.

My main point is to become aware of new choices by peeking outside of your current boxes.

The best way to find these new choices are with the following strategies:

  • Dream.
  • Be inspired.
  • Get excited about the Unknown.

If you like what you see, then perhaps it’s time to expand your box and reap the rewards.

Expanding your boxes doesn’t need to be hard or painful.  It simply takes a decision to act.

Final Thoughts

Freedom is the ultimate reward with this exercise.  Knowing that you have more choices and options than you realize is liberating.  It also helps you to appreciate what you already have as well.

Readers, what other boxes do you live in?  What new choices could you be excited about?  Which box are you most satisfied with?

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Hi, I have been blessed to take an early retirement in my mid-30's so I can focus on becoming a better father, blogger, and investor.

My goal is to help you find your personal path to financial freedom, and to enjoy the entire journey.

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24 Comments on “Your Personal Box: When’s the Last Time You Peeked Outside?”

  1. Hey Michael,

    Currently, I’m working on trying to expand all boxes while making sure I stay balanced. In particular, wellness, money, and relationships are my main focus these days. I’m in the gym 4-5 days a week building muscle, playing basketball, and working on my health. I started a blog and continue to work diligently at work to increase my income. I’ve been experimenting with new interactions with strangers, friends, and family to connect better with them.

    By focusing on these few things, I expect 2017 to be fantastic. I’m trying to take the bull by the horns like Dominic!!

    Thanks for the post,


    1. Great distinction, Erik. With so many boxes, balance is certainly key to living the good life. It sounds like you’ve got your wellness box well established and growing a nice money box. Keep up the momentum!

  2. Texas has some pretty cheap costs of living, I’ll give you that. 🙂 It’s pretty awesome.

    I think I need to focus more on Wellness and my Career boxes. I’ve gotten into a bit of a rut on both, and those boxes can easily overflow and affect other aspects of my life, too.

    I’ve started trying to schedule “mini adventures” into our lives as nine-to-fivers. This past weekend we went on a day trip to a great craft brewery and had a smashing time. I’m tempted to hole up in the house, but it’s far better to go out and experience the world to expand your mental boxes.

    1. MPP, mini adventures sound like a wonderful way to change up routines and connect with people outside of your home. Best of luck exploring your wellness and career boxes. Expanding these areas will also have positive side effects on other boxes too. 🙂

  3. You are making me think! I use the term limiting belief, but box is a great way to put it. A limiting belief puts you in a box where your growth is capped. Great visual.

    One thing I have identified recently is that I enjoy projects the most alone because of the freedom it provides (schedule, vision, decisions, no bs). But working only with people under me is limiting and something I hope to change professionally.

    1. Happy to make you think, Brian! I also love the freedom to do my own thing currently, but it was kind of nice being able to go into my office before for the social aspect. Luckily the PF community online is super collaborative and willing to interact. 🙂

    1. Updated! How did I miss Washington?? I actually knew this one without having to look it up (but still missed it…haha). You guys have a pretty good gig going up there with no state income tax and it’s also beautiful up there!

  4. Thanks for the mention Michael!

    I encourage all of your readers to be bold and ask for what they are worth. If you want to make more money then add more value. Money is just an exchange of value.

    The easiest way to get a company to pay you more is for you to quantify/translate what you have done for the company in terms of $$$$$$.

    For example, when I first joined the company I was at, one of the very first initiatives I took on was improving the financial reporting process. At the time it was a very manual and time consuming process (I cringe even calling it a process).

    So I implemented software, built out all the workflows, and automated 99% of the process. After everything was said and done, I was able to calculate an annual savings of $55,000/year (based on everyone’s time involved in the old manual process, based on their effective hourly rate), and we picked up as much as 4 weeks on the timing of report distribution (annual savings does not factor this time savings in, as its hard to quantify).

    This is just one example.

    Learn to translate everything you do in terms of value to the company, and make sure others know the value as well.

    This makes asking for more money very easy.

    This is how I have managed to grow my income at a compounded 36.5% since my first job in 2003 and by 23% since graduating college in 2008.


    1. Love it! Thanks for the specifics, Dom.

      Truth be told if you want to blend into the crowd it takes very little effort. But, if you want to lead, then you need to be extraordinary at what you do. Contribution from the company’s perspective is rare these days.

      Keep inspiring the Millenials (any beyond) on what’s possible. 🙂

  5. Great seeing you the other day! I think weather definitely depends on perspective. I’d rather deal with a tiny bit of heat in order to enjoy all the other benefits. Plus, there’s always AC.

    1. Yup, good seeing you last week, Eric! I’m glad we got to see more of the great state of Texas. I could certainly see it’s continuing to grow. Y’all also have some amazing food out there which is a prerequisite for me. 😉

      I’ll be keeping an eye on your deal updates out there!

  6. Interesting way to look at things. The big hurdle to people getting ahead is usually that first step. Stepping outside that box and the change it brings can be scary. We’re contemplating the geographic box change. It’s a matter of the right timing for us.

    1. FTF, I agree. Most people inherently don’t like change. That’s why it’s better to “peek” at your options first, get excited, make a decision, and then act.

      Good luck with your geography box evaluation! Any particular state you’re eyeing?

  7. Great way to look at things with the box perspective. I ask myself these types of questions closer to when the year is ending so I can set resolutions/broad goals for the upcoming year. Side note: I’m looking to get rid of my cable this year, but don’t want to pay a termination fee. I guess I would still save more by paying the one time fee rather than paying the TV bill…..should rip the band-aid right off!

    1. SMM, you might be able to talk your way out of the early termination fees. How’s the cable service? You can claim non-performance if it’s not being delivered as promised, or you could simply ask nicely to see if they’d waive it. Finally, if you switch to a cheaper service within the same organization (like I did with AT&T & DIRECTV) they’d likely waive it. Good luck!

  8. As an introvert, I can’t believe I’m saying this, but there’s a much higher value to being close to family or friends (or both, if you actually enjoy them both) when you’re raising a family than I had credited before. I have amazing friends all over the country, the globe even, but it doesn’t really help when I’m having a bad pain day and could really use an hour break to rest because JuggerBaby doesn’t take breaks!

    Still and all, we love where we live right now because our quality of life is unparalleled in all other ways. The cost of living here is a whole other issue, hah.

    I’ve been evaluating my career and what I want to do next there as well, but so long as I work, that’s always going to be a conversation that I have with myself. No one is going to nurture your career like you.

    Health and money are topics I write about every single week in the context of our daily life, so of course I spend quite a lot of time thinking about it – as my blog theme says, I truly believe there’s value in always striving to improve.

    1. Revanche, sounds like you have a natural habit of expanding your boxes. That’s excellent. Gotta love the energy required for babies, right? It’s such a blessing though. Enjoy your geography box. It sounds like it’s pretty great!

  9. Outstanding article, Michael. Definitely got me thinking more about my boxes and where I spend most of my time.

    Currently it’s all about the career and money box as I expand my business. However, I’m wanting to make more of an effort to peek outside my current boxes and try new things.

    (I’m also part of the AOL Finance Collective—nice!)

    1. Thanks for dropping by, Brian. Glad to hear you are focused and know where you want to go with your business. Have fun exploring your other boxes!

  10. Interesting way of putting it here Mike! We tend to compartmentalise areas of our lives or put them into “boxes” and based on our experiences we can then miss things or drop the ball or box in this case 😉

    I feel like you’ve covered the broad categories there and nothing further from me to add other than thanks for sharing!

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