Posted by: ginalazenby | December 10, 2018

Don’t put me in a box! The #NoMoreBoxes Mission

Our December Conscious Cafe Skipton gathering at Avalon centre for Wellbeing at Broughton

We all do it ….. we look at someone, make a quick judgement, what we think is an informed decision based on our experience, ideas and beliefs….. and then we put them in one of our mental boxes.  We feel we already know so much about them. This has always seemed like a really useful way to make sense of the world. 

Except today, communities are increasingly fractured and divided, arguments feel extremely polarised, so perhaps it’s time to reflect on how we put people in boxes and whether that is actually helpful after all.  We don’t want to be put in a box by others … or even by ourselves through our own conditioned thinking. How can we change?


Runa Magnusdottir joined us from her native Iceland

Runa Magnus, an internationally acclaimed author and speaker from Iceland, feels very strongly that now is the time for #NoMoreBoxes. In her new book on the subject, just launched with Nicholas Haines, she says “There is so much prejudice, inequality and frustration in the world.  Our NoMoreBoxes movement helps facilitate open and honest conversations around gender, diversity and equality in such a way that it allows everyone to be part of the solution. Runa has spoken at the United Nations on this and is passionate about non-judgement and showing us how we can shift our thinking to give each other the freedom to be ourselves. 

Runa was our speaker at the December Conscious Cafe Skipton gathering which took place at Avalon Centre for Wellbeing and Transformation at Broughton.

As people shared in the circle what inspired them to come to this evening, it was clear that many people really resonated with the idea that being put in a box is extremely limiting. “I’ve spent my whole life railing against being typical and trying to escape being identified, and defined, in certain boxes”. .. “I spent my entire life resisting being classified in any box, just so I can fulfil the expectations of other people.” Runa’s work in liberating people from in-the-box thinking and classification certainly struck a chord while at the same time, some participants were happy being in the box that identified them and were simply curious and open to learning new ideas…. which is what the Conscious Cafe movement is all about.

What led Runa to this mission of #NoMoreBoxes ?

As an entrepreneur, leader in transformation and international personal branding strategist … just three of the many boxes that describe her …  Runa talked about a major realisation that she had a couple of years ago. So many labels to describe her, Runa always thought of herself as a Creative Doer, a very practical way of pulling together the many strands of her. But she was reaching a personal crossroads and questioning herself … a place many of us might understand and resonate with. At this point she shifted her thinking and referred to herself as a Creative BEING.  This allowed her to be more expansive and ask herself what she wanted to do with her life at this point? What change did she want to see in the world and what role would she play? These are very Big Life Questions. Have you ever asked them of yourself?

This powerful enquiry led her to draw together other leaders in transformation and set up The Changemakers.  Within a short period of time they were invited to speak at the United Nations at the Impact Leaders Global Summit looking at how the world might successfully reach the Sustainable Development Goals, and particularly those on gender equality. 

Runa describes having a ‘Matrix Moment’ when Nick Haines, her Changemaker colleague and subsequent book co-author, spoke at the UN event about the absurdity of putting each other in boxes like “go-getting women” being referred to as ‘bitches/divas’ and being told to slow down while men who might present their caring nature might be told to “man up”. Runa realised that all of her life, as a successful, high-achieving Viking-Warrior-Queen leader and entrepreneur she had resisted being put in a box that wanted to describe her as a different kind of woman. From this lightbulb moment, and during an unexpected 2-hour taxi ride to New York airport during a snowstorm, the #NoMoreBoxes movement was born.

Her intention is to reach 5 million people by the end of 2019, with an awareness of the limitation of boxing people in to stereotypes that we feel comfortable with. Like the Conscious Cafe movement, Runa said that NoMoreBoxes “is about creating safe spaces to observe and dig deep into the self” for our own liberation. Runa has shared since the event that having analysed their social media campaigns they have already reached 5 million people… now!  So now the goal has been stretched to 50 million!

Step One: The first step is to be aware of our reality. So here, Runa asked a question for people to write down and then discuss in groups of three. Our discussion this evening focussed on gender so we were asked: 

Think of 3-5 things that pop into our heads for a ….. man

Then 3-5 things for a woman.

Group feedback highlighted this:

  • It was much more difficult to write about men. We felt reluctant to name the stereotypes as words popped into our heads
  • It was quicker to write nice things about women
  • Most people had the same words/qualities for men. Strong, privileged, powerful, strong father, power over, talk easily, domineering, men start wars/women less willing to do so ….. and the like
  • Where men were generally seen as Strong, women were seen as Soft. Descriptions included loving, caring, gentle, listening, mother, beautiful, collaborative, open, flexible 
  • Growing up with the old paradigm thinking that men are hunter/gatherers and women are nesters is limiting.
  • It is hard for men who are not comfortable with the macho sports persona and neither are they effeminate. Where is the place in between for a man who resists those two boxes at the opposite ends of the masculinity spectrum?
  • Is all of this true?
  • Are all women kind, soft and gentle?
  • Are ALL women desperate to get married and lash out thousands on the wedding day. Is the wedding day only important to women? 
  • Men muck things up in the home, they are no good at house skills so why bother asking or expecting them to do things right.
  • Mothers and Fathers provide very strong role models for what we come to believe men and women should be or do

Step Two: The next step is the powerful second question and to reflect on the consequences of these views, holding them and operating from them .. to the SELF and to SOCIETY.

Feedback from this small group discussion highlighted several limiting beliefs:

  • When we don’t see the whole person we can limit them, and ourselves, and lower the expectations of what another human being can do. If this discussion was about food we would call it ‘food waste’.
  • If you spend your entire life fitting in to boxes of other people’s choosing, then decide to break out and live an authentic life, your freedom can make these people very uncomfortable and confused
  • what are we teaching our children what men and women should be? The colour pink has such a great influence on little girls from a very early age. Even when we might not participate in this as a parent it is now deeply embedded in the culture.
  • We ask ourselves the question: Am I in a box that is nurturing me? It is for us to decide about the boxes we are in. That is the positive aspect of personal branding.
  • Being part of a Brotherhood or Sisterhood can feel safe. Some belongings can give us protection.
  • If we bring our awareness to it, we can see that we are actually in various boxes .. or circles … making us like a Mandala. What if we could see that in each other?
  • Would it matter if it did not restrict our opportunities?  It is a great act of personal responsibility not to judge.  

Finally Runa asked us to consider what change we wanted to see in the world and how we might want to move forward into the future. She reminded us that we can actually write our own manifesto for the future of ourselves, and the world, and decide what role we will take in making that change.

  • Recognise that we are not finished products and that we can constantly reinventing ourselves
  • It helps not to make any assumptions about why someone does something 
  • By being open, tolerant, kind we stop harming others and ourselves

There is a new term that is being used to describe young people who identify as more than one role … a slashie. Based on the concept that simply describing ourselves as just one role .. like lawyer …. we can miss out on presenting ourselves as a full spectrum. A more accurate way would be …. barrister/speaker/ singer/songwriter/mother. That makes it very hard to put someone in just one box!

I heard on the radio recently an interview with American actor Bradley Cooper who  just made his editorial debut with the movie ‘A Star is Born’.  Not only can he sing but he can play guitar and he co-wrote some of the songs. The interviewer then became confused … but which box are you in Bradley? Are you an actor OR a musician? See how threatening it is for other people when we shift out of our box!!

Reviewing our circle after our discussion this evening people felt optimistic, inspired, hopeful, that the sky had no limits and that there was no need to be a prisoner of your own thoughts.

Time to live outside the box!

Gina Lazenby Runa Magnus Out of the box

Gina Lazenby with Runa Magnus loving at the FIRST proof copy of her new book

Link for Runa’s new book “The Story of Boxes, the Good, the Bad and the Ugly: The Secret to Human Liberation, Peace and Happiness” has just been published on kindle and is available as a paperback shortly. 

If you read this, and you attended the Conscious Cafe event, please do leave a comment below…..

Visit the Conscious Cafe Facebook page for a list of forthcoming dates for 2019


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