How to View Constraints as Blessings in Disguise

How to View Constraints as Blessings in Disguise

Reader Comments (48)

  1. Hi Raj,

    The way you turned constraints into a challenge instead of a hindrance is refreshing. About halfway through reading, I thought of Twitter. I had heard of the book, but didn’t know it was you who wrote it. Congratulations on mastering this skill, and thank you for sharing.

    Kind Regards,

  2. Wow! This is one of the best posts I’ve read on Copyblogger. It’s beautifully written and insightful. More importantly, this insight doesn’t have to be confined to the world of writing. It pours over into everyday life. This weekend’s plan is to tackle cleaning walls and taping in preparation for painting? Don’t whine! It’s an opportunity to get some exercise and brings you that much closer to the fun of changing the colors around you.

    • Thanks, Marilyn for the kind words.

      You are totally right that the concept applies to beyond writing. I chose a few examples from the world of writing.

      It has worked magically for me in other areas of life too – mainly in the world of startups 🙂


  3. Thank you, thank you, thank you! Just a few days ago I was feeling restrained and took some time to consider the situation. I came up with your conclusion that a restraint could be a barrier or a blessing, the blessing being a focus on a particular thing and making it happen in a very concise way. One can get to the essence and eliminate the superfluous. Bravo on all you examples. I’m going to keep this and send it to people I know who need it. I’m writing tag lines today for my new website. Perfect!

  4. Rajesh,

    Great read and great points all around. The Shoshin mindset allows us to view each restriction or constraint from anew or original perspective.
    Constraints are only constraints when viewed and compared to something else, if we modify the comparative source, the whole formula changes.

    The beautiful aspect of constraints is that they, in effect, prune your process and are the guards who keep you either on track, or creating at a new level, as you wrote about in the post, reveal that maybe you took a wrong turn somewhere.

    The other very beneficial aspect of constraints is that they force a pause, they enable a brief revaluation, and maybe allow for that badly needed “deep breath”<–that alone is pivotal, as we all can get “caught up” in our own “reality tunnel”..

    Great stuff Rajesh!

      • Of course Rajesh, quality must be recognized and identified as it elevates all individuals impacted.
        We all encounter constraints, such is reality, however, how we deal with them, and at first- how we perceive them is pivotal.
        This is why the whole subject matter is of immense importance to both seasoned business warriors and the new entrepreneur.
        This post is a keeper, and the best course of action is to re-read this once per month…

  5. I think the parameters you are given, in advertising especially, are more like starting points than constraints, to the point that when you’re working on some personal creative project, you can feel paralyzed by the lack of constraint. In advertising, you might have “okay, it’s a 30-second spot, it has to be about our new pickup truck, and we want it to appeal more to women.” You start with thinking of all the potential connections between women and pickup trucks.

    But say you’ve decided to do NaNoWriMo. The novel could be about anything at all. Unless you already have some idea for a book (that hit you out of the blue months or even years ago), you are starting with a blank screen. You look around your desk for inspiration. Stapler. Can you write a 50K word story about staplers??? About a serial killer who staples his victims’ mouths shut? No, probably best to stay away from office supplies altogether. Look out the window. Is it about…trees?

    And so on.

    I’ll also add that sometimes when you’re given new constraints halfway through a project (and you complain “Well, it would have been NICE to know that a month ago!”), it can help you let go of those first ideas that you’ve been clinging to, and move on to better ideas you wouldn’t have thought of previously.

  6. First off, outstanding job on the thank you card campaign. Powerful design, easy to see why this made a big impact on the recipients. Extra bonus print geek points for mentioning embossing. The tactile element surely sealed the deal.

    Second, thanks for offering up this perspective on creativity. It is challenging to work within constraints, yet the limitations end up amplifying the writer’s sense of accomplishment. Twitter forces us to choose our words carefully—what better practice could a writer want?

  7. Wow! Great article Raj!

    I have to admit something. I first found Copyblogger through some search for blogs to comment on in the hopes of getting some traffic to my own site.

    But I’m getting so much from reading all the information here that my first reason for stopping by has gone out the window.

    This post has gotten me thinking a lot about a lot of things. I’ve been whining and complaining (mostly to myself) about the constraints my elderly mother has put on me since she had to move in with me. I feel like I just don’t have the time I need to work on my computer. But now I’ll take another look at my situation and figure out how to work around those constraints and maybe even find some blessings there!

    Also, I like the explanation of effectuation. I’ll really be thinking about that – the difference between the entrepreneurs and the others. I hope to become an entrepreneur so I might have to change my ways!

    Thanks for the good stuff!

    • Very nice of you to say this, Karleen.

      You are right – it’s about the mindset. The moment you view constraints as “blessings in disguise” you will see a different world altogether.


  8. Raj, great article! I’m without a car at the moment. I live on the island of Oahu (a blessing in itself) and have always had one. Initially, I viewed being “car-less” as one of the worst possible thing that could happen to me. But then I started thinking that I spend too much time in front of the computer and really need to start walking again, like walking to the bus stop to catch the bus. I used to walk and ride the bus all the time when I was growing up on the mainland so what’s the big deal, right?

    The concepts of effectuation and the beginner’s mind are powerful. I’m going to incorporate them, along with viewing constraints as opportunities, into my thinking and start acting on them. Mahalo nui loa!

    • Thanks, Patrice.

      The key is to remember that we may not have all the “resources” but there never should be lack of “resourcefulness.”

      Effectuation brings that concept to the forefront of your thinking.


        • Patrice & Rajesh,

          I’m car-less on O’ahu by design. I decided to return to Hawaii 3 years ago after my elder daughter went ABD on her PhD. Having gotten my daughters that far, I wanted to focus on myself. I felt the combined restrictions and opportunities of life in urban O’ahu would help me focus on MY OWN life-long goal of becoming a professional writer.

          Some unexpected (to say the least) accidents happened along the way, but I’m still focused on that goal. If I didn’t have my current constraints, I believe that I would have been derailed once again.

          Ganesha is one of my favorite ishta-devatas. He is both the symbol of a scribe and a remover of obstacles. But the wisdom to my understanding of this potent deity is in understanding the purpose of the constraint before it’s removed or overcome.

          What is the lesson?

          I think, Rajesh, that your post today queries that in each and every undertaking you shared.

          You saw the obstacles and constraints as gifts to your creative self.

          Thank you for such applicable inspirations.

          • Lori, thanks a ton for sharing your story. Ganesha is my favorite too…

            Whatever situation I end up, the question that always always shifts focus back to where it should be is

            “Now that I am here, where next?”

            This will pull the focus away from the past and bring me back to the moment.

            Once again, thanks for the note here.


  9. Good stuff, Rajesh. I’m gonna have to think about whether my projects have too much freedom, and if I can apply a constraint to help boost creativity.

    Sounds like fun!

    • Thanks, Daniel.

      We both know beyond doubt that constraints boost creativity. When you don’t have real constraints, you can manufacture artificial constraints and trick the mind – this leads to the same effect again 🙂


  10. Good stuff, Rajesh. I’m gonna have to think about whether my projects have too much freedom, and if I can apply a constraint to help boost creativity.

    • Thanks, Rahul,

      If you read Mihaly’s book, “Flow” and do some research on the topic, you will find that for you to be in flow (an optimal state where you start losing track of time) you need to get engaged in challenging tasks. To be precise the task has to be at least 4% above your current capacity. The right constraints will help you go there


    • Thanks, Dhivakar.

      The concept of effectuation has completely changed the way I look at my startups and everything else in life. Glad you liked it.


  11. A few years back I went through a nasty divorce that sent me reeling. When I lost the love of my life, I lost my passion for my life and business. Crazy how those things are connected. I don’t know what came first the mental constraints or the financial constraints. I found ways to embrace the financial constraints and operate my life and business in spite of them. Actually it was during this time that I interviewed you on my Internet radio Show Get More Business when your book “Upbeat Now: Cultivating the Right Attitude to Thrive in Tough Times”–upbeat-now. One concept that I think I remember from your book was that bad, negative attitudes should not be allowed.

    In spite of the need to rebuild myself financially at that time I like the word you used “effectuation” I learned to “identify all the resources (I had) and look(ed) for goals to reach with those resources.”

    • Melody,

      How have you been?

      I remember our conversation and the interview very well, but did not know this background story. Thanks for sharing and also thanks for the kind note here.

      Negative thoughts are a surcharge that we pay voluntarily. Why? Because our thoughts are controlled by us and we are “choosing” the nature and intensity of those. So, we can choose to avoid negative thoughts and stop paying the surcharge unnecessarily.

      I ask people would they voluntarily pay more taxes just for fun. Nobody says yes. But if time is money, negative thoughts are like paying extra taxes.


      • Constraints in any form is,”lack of resource”

        Lack of resource in any form will force us to evolve in “better self”

        When constraints hit right on our face some return back to their cave and some decide to “improvise & improve”

        Some “die trying” and some overcome.

        Those who overcame wrote the “legendary stories” (Rajesh Shetty)

        alas! we came to basics. “Are you willing to die trying ? ”

        [ It was amazing to see how you inspired Melody]

        • Thanks for the note, Paresh.

          If you look back at your own life, you will notice that the most memorable stories are when “you experienced growth while you ploughed through the resistance.”

          The moment you accept this, you will start viewing speed bumps, detours and road blocks with a whole new perspective that will really “make the journey beautiful.”


  12. Raj,

    2 words: Seth Godin 😉 Super post. Adopt the Zen mind. My videos are 1 minute long and posts rarely go beyond 500 to 600 words. My new eBook, The Blogging Manifesto, did reach some 14,000 words but I packed 14,000 words worth of value into the book.

    Power share dude.

    • Ryan, thank you.

      Seth has been one of my heroes for close to a decade. My writing has been hugely influenced by him over the years. He has set a standard that I may never be able to reach but I grow everyday just trying hard.

      Would love to learn more about your book. Kindly send me an email to raj at wittyparrot dot com.


  13. Great post. I’m a big believer in using constraints. I’m stuck in one place with a full-time job and a single dad duty. I use this to my advantage by using my extra time and energy to write and build an online presence.

    • Dan, thanks for the note.

      The lack of resources will always be the case in one way or the other. But resourcefulness is available in plenty for all of us.

      All the best!


  14. Great to see you on Copyblogger, Rajesh. As a long time follower of yours, I found your article inspiring on many fronts. As a personal development blogger, I talk a lot about goal setting. In context with your article, I got to thinking… isn’t a goal a constraint? When we set goals, we set the boundaries of the constraint. We look at the outcome, the action steps, and set a deadline. This gives us a true framework to work from. It’s like a house; without constraint, we would have stacks of lumber, piles of wallboard, and many bags of cement. When we add the structure of a foundation, framing, and a roof, the constraints make something that we can live in.

    Thanks for adding a new success concept to my vocabulary!

    • John,

      Thank you and how have you been?

      One of the problems with goal setting is that many people are conservative in what goals they go after. They want to be guaranteed to hit the mark. By mixing a few constraints and pushing the standards a bit higher, we set ourselves up for growth even if we miss the mark.

      Thanks again


  15. Wow! Great article! This sentence, for me, was by far the best thing I’ve read in a month… “Entrepreneurs identify all the resources they have and look for goals to reach with those resources. This kind of thinking is called effectuation.”. Excellent stuff!

  16. Constraints force creativity.

    You’re given the choice between nothing making do somehow.

    This is a great article that teaches you a bit how to roll with the punches.

  17. I love this article, now, where to start? There are so many things to comment about, it feels like I’ve just read three different articles in the time it takes to read one.

    I wish they would teach these sort of subjects at school, because you’re right, a lot of people do whine, and it proves quite the challenge to get them out of that habit.

    I couldn’t work without constraints, in the design industry they are my best friend. Without them, I would be required to create something that is “unique and brilliant” in a very broad sense, but not being told what I’m meant to be differentiating from. It would be like asking someone to become a tour guide for a location they’ve never been to and know nothing about.

    Constraints are good, like this article. Thanks Rajesh.

    • Thanks Sean for the kind comments.

      When I teach this to student and entrepreneurs, I always urge them to start by introducing one or more artificial constraints in one of their key projects. When we start brainstorming how to get ahead in the light of these new constraints, they will suddenly notice that they were whining for no reason when these constraints were not present.

      In general, things move fast after this kind of an exercise even when they know that this whole exercise was made up.


  18. Rajesh,
    Good one. I have already read all that you have mentioned here but Constraints. I loved it. Yes, you are so right. Only the constraints, challenges, obstacles, failures etc. would make anyone perfect and wise. I simply see it as ECG reading, only if it goes up and down that means we are alive otherwise dead. Your articles are always inspiring.

  19. This post is shifting a paradigm for me. Great post right when I needed it. I’m struggling with routine in my life. I’m a “fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants” kinda gal. There are blessings and opportunities in a routine – the structure, the assurance that items are completed, the freedom to play, once the work is done. I can do this! Thanks!!

    • Aimee,

      Thank you for the comment. A close friend always says to me, “As long as you are above the ground, there will ALWAYS be opportunities.”

      In reality, we see what we want to see. If we want to see problems, that’s what we see. If we want to count our blessings, that’s what we see. Mindset influences EVERYTHING.


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