We are all faced with limitations. Some are physical. Others, emotional or intellectual. They may be explainable or irrational. Learning to use our limitations to make us better people is victorious and liberating. It is one of the best tools we can teach our children.
Theo Geisel was once chatting with a colleague, founder of Random House Publishing, Bennett Cerf. In the course of their conversation, his friend proclaimed it would be impossible to write a children's book using only 50 words. A wager of $50 sealed the challenge, and Theo Geisel, our beloved Dr. Seuss, penned Green Eggs and Ham. He not only won the bet, but also claimed one of the biggest selling children's books in history. Over 200 million copies have sold.
The lesson here is that challenges present us with opportunities. He was held to only 50 different words, but he took that and created a timeless classic.
Whatever our limitations are, whether we impose them on ourselves or were born with them, we need to use them to our advantage. We need to not just live with them and endure them. We need to turn them into something great.
This is what James Clear, a great motivational blogger, calls the power of constraint. He suggests that to live more creatively, we should occasionally set limits for ourselves or attempt the unlikely.
His two reasons:
Constraint fuels creativity
Anthony Jerome "Spud" Webb loved basketball. He never grew past 5'7." That didn't stop him from being a great point guard in the NBA. He used his lack of stature to maneuver around the taller players unchecked. He got creative.
Mothers of small children face the challenge of taking a shower or using the toilet without mayhem ensuing outside the bathroom door. They get creative. They either get up a little earlier, or they learn to put baby in the car seat and let toddlers play with toys outside the shower.
I love to write, and I love to serve. Sometimes the service leaves precious little time for expressing myself in words. I learned to carry a notepad with me and use the word processing software on my smartphone to write while I'm waiting for someone to finish a doctor's appointment or get their groceries. I got creative.
Constraints force you to get it done
The average person will procrastinate things that need doing. It's just who we are. The truly dedicated make a schedule and stick to it, even if they don't feel up to it. Here's the rub. Make a schedule and stick with it. Don't wait for lightning to strike. Don't wait until you're in the mood. Don't sit around and hope for inspiration. Just do it. Nine times out of 10, you create with top shelf work for your dedication.
This is something I really have to work on. I have let myself down so many times because I didn't dedicate myself to my craft. I don't keep up with my blog as I should. But that changes right now. I don't spend enough hours editing. That changes right now. I don't stick with any sort of schedule, using the excuse that something will probably interrupt me anyway or that I don't really feel inspired. That changes right now.
This whole notion of excelling through constraint goes double for our children. We need to help them create schedules and teach them to self-govern. They are responsible for their homework and if that means getting creative and studying while they are warming the bench at sports practice, so be it. If they have chores, the chores need to be done. Period.
They might not get it, at first. But encourage them by sharing a few creative solutions as a springboard, and then gradually allow them to come up with their own creative solutions by asking, "How do you see this working out? What ideas do you have for making this work?" Brainstorm with them until they are able to grasp the concept and run with it.
James Clear suggested we think of our limitations as being a blank canvas. If we don't eat meat, our canvas is smaller than most, but we can paint beautiful protein rich plant dishes. If you feel like you are an entrepreneur and long to start your own business, but only have a limited amount of seed money, then take that small canvas and paint success.
Dr. Seuss had a 50-word canvas and created a book that almost every child has read or been read. His limitation did not hold him back from greatness.
Nick Vujicic was born without arms and legs, but is one of the greatest motivational speakers and has made his canvas the world and all the activities most people enjoy.