are you in the burn box right now?

In his book The Happiness Equation, Neil Pasricha lays out an interesting figure, basically a scribble with four quadrants. He labels the horizontal axis as “doing,” and the vertical axis as “thinking.” Along with the two extremes high and low, we can see four boxes — Space, Think, Do, Burn. 

Image Courtesy: Anouk Today

Most of us at some point in our lives find ourselves in the Burn Box, which is a constant state of high doing and high thinking. This is not sustainable and can take a toll on us. We are just days or worse hours away from completely derailing our lives. Before things get out of our hands, we must stop ourselves from irresponsibly adding fuel to the raging fire and slow ourselves down. This is the only way to keep ourselves intact and sane.

Luckily, we have three more quadrants to fall into:

  • The Space Box: This is akin to a vacuum and a polar opposite to the Burn Box: low thinking + low doing. For instance, lying in a hammock at a park, spending some relaxing time at a beach or a dock, or just cozying up at home reading a book.
  • The Think Box: Here our mental engines are firing left, right and center. But we are not doing anything. Some examples are thinking, planning, journaling, or brainstorming with a friend or colleague.
  • The Doing Box: This is where the rubber meets the road. It’s a state of pure and uninterrupted activity, such as building a treehouse, cleaning your garage, or  hiking a mountain. All hands and no mind.

The most successful people amongst us don’t remain in one box for an extended period of time. They keep moving freely and often between these boxes as needed.

Achieving success is one thing but maintaining it is a whole different ball game. That’s why if we want to both attain and sustain great success, we must be willing to not only put our foot on the gas, but also slow down and apply brakes when it’s necessary. Remember, when the fire gets out of control, the best strategy is to pick a fire extinguisher, eject out of the Burn Box, and visit the gentler, less taxing boxes. In this way, we can protect both ourselves and our success.