Personal constraints are the things that hold you back in your life, your career, and even your relationships. Let’s identify and resolve as many of your constraints as we can.
While I have written a lot about constraints, I realized there were both internal, personal constraints and also external constraints in business that I would need to address.
In this article, I will talk about personal constraints, that is the constraints that begin with us, as they’re often the biggest constraints of all.
It’s easy to blame external factors when we are our own biggest enemy most of the time. We need to fix ourselves before trying to improve our systems.
Basic Personal Constraints
If you don’t fix your own constraints first then you will find a way to sabotage your system, guaranteed.
I have seen this over and over, in big companies and single-operator businesses.
What do you need to be personally productive and successful?
- Clarity of purpose
- A plan
- Project/Time management
- Measurement against goals
Most of these things are obvious, you can learn and incorporate behaviors, and sources of information on the topics and coaches are easily obtainable.
Your Recipe for Success
I actually think success can be summed up in part by the great philosopher Wayne Gretzky:
- Know where your market/niche is going.
- Have a clear vision,
- Execute well.
Everything else contributes or feeds into that success recipe.
The problem is, even people who hold all the ingredients find ways to sour their plans like dropping rotten cabbage of constraint into your success tiramisu.
Are We Missing Something?
Check over the list again. Is it complete? Probably not, but a couple of items were excluded intentionally.
Did I miss off “money”? No, because you will find that if you have the above 10 items ticked off then there is usually someone with a higher net worth willing to fund you for a percentage of your profits.
Of course, a source of funding makes things easier, and it is much harder to start with zero, but I would still not put “net worth” as an internal constraint.
What about luck? There is not much point in mentioning luck. Regardless of your beliefs, you are better off analyzing things you can practically influence rather than hoping for or relying on luck.
29 Personal Constraint Examples
Personal constraints are everywhere so while I’m not a life coach and I don’t play one on TV, I have worked with and observed a lot of business folks over the years so got to see many constraints in action, right up close.
See if any of these examples of personal constraints resonate with you:
- Analysis Paralysis – One I suffer with a great deal so I put it first just so you know we all have constraints to clear. I over-think. A lot.
- Waiting for the right time – It will never be the perfect time, just do something!
- Fear of commitment – It’s not just relationships people fear to commit to, it could be a deadline or even your own goals.
- (In)Decision Anxiety – Decisions make people afraid, and then having made the decision there are another set of emotional waves to contend with. Take small decisions, get practice, and work up to the bigger ones.
- Low confidence – This can result in not breaking out of your comfort zone, keeping you locked into your current situation, not risking opportunities, or failing to open up to new people. You will find the more you do the more confidence you will have. Confidence is like a muscle, it grows stronger with exercise.
- Perfectionism – Nobody is perfect, but many people try to be. Be prepared to get things as good as you can get within the time and resources you are allowed.
- Sense of entitlement – The world doesn’t owe you a single thing. If you want something, deserve it.
- Jealousy – Related to the previous item, rather than looking at what everyone else has with greedy, coveting eyes, build your own success. You know you are a jealous type if you look at other people’s stats and feel bad.
- Over-competitive – It surprises people sometimes how much success depends on cooperating with others, and it shocks me sometimes how some people do not believe in Win-Win situations. You can be a success without coming first or beating your enemies. Don’t make enemies – Forge alliances
- Imagination – If you don’t have imagination you have a big disadvantage. Either develop your own creativity or team with someone who has. Creativity is vital now more than ever.
- Laziness – This can be a boon or a bane. Laziness is an excellent quality in a programmer, because lazy programmers automate and find easy solutions, but a lazy person is unlikely to put in the effort when you most depend on them.
- Procrastination – A very common problem and overcoming it often comes down to taking small, decisive actions early and often.
- Defeat – Have you ever met someone who packs in at the first sign of problems? Or even gives up before they start because of all the problems they predict? Part of being a success is using defeat as a learning process, trying to route about potential failure, but most of all, not being afraid of it. If you do one thing for your kids, teach them self-esteem and embrace problems as a chance to learn.
- Paranoia – Regardless of what you think, the world is probably not conspiring against you. And even if it is, it wouldn’t help to believe it.
- Cash control – I have worked with people who spend money like crazy without a moment’s thought, even when their companies were laying off staff at a scary rate. Someone needs to be a grown-up where money is concerned, if that can’t be you, partner with someone who can.
- Personality – Have you noticed the people with the most obnoxious personalities are often the people who are least willing to accept criticism? Yes, people should take you as you are and not try to change you, but at the same time, it is worth moderating the more extreme or irritating habits, opinions, or behaviors in order to just get along. Work on your communication skills, negotiation skills, and practice in speaking or social situations.
- Organization – If your desk and diary look like the local landfill then you need to get organized or find someone to organize you.
- Blurred focus – Having a million opportunities or projects to juggle can be exciting but you need to focus on one thing at a time to give each task your best. Prioritize, and trim ruthlessly.
- Drowning in Information – In the information age it is easy to be lulled into thinking your problems stem from not enough information. One thing I think this century will tell us is information is wonderful, but too much is as bad as not enough. Balance learning with action.
- Burdens – Don’t let your responsibilities, important as they are, carry so much weight you have little time or energy for anything else.
- Distractions – Related to #20, if you are constantly distracted your tasks will take twice as long to complete. Turn off the phone and email, and lock your door, if necessary.
- Isolation – Although in #21 I said lock your door, no person is an island, we need other people, at appropriate times!
- Vanity – If you care too much about what people think then you will get nowhere because you will be afraid of taking steps that impact your “image”. Be willing to make a public mess. Most of the successful people throughout history have goofed big and often!
- Ignorance – Unfortunately a lot of people who are ignorant are too ignorant to recognize it.
- Status quo – “Because it has always been done this way” is the very worst justification. Challenge the status quo and only keep that which demonstrably works.
- Power rush – Be very suspicious of anyone who pursues power, they are often dangerous. If you are looking to increase your control or power, look very deep to understand why. Partner with collaborators rather than control freaks.
- Management by spreadsheet – People are not numbers to move around on a spreadsheet. Look beyond digits and understand that you get the best out of people by treating them with humanity.
- Management by to-do list – Systems, unlike this list, rarely work in a 1, 2, 3 fashion. Work in parallel, see the dependencies and mitigate the risks.
- Focus on the negative – I left this last just to show that while my entire list is negative, it is best to turn negatives into positives! Look through this list, see if any might apply to you, then work on dissolving this constraint from your own life.
There will no doubt be more than 29 but to be honest, getting to 29 was depressing!
Dissolve Your Personal Constraints
The process for removing personal constraints, or at least mitigating them, is as follows:
- Check your results – Are your results improving, meeting expectations, or underperforming?
- Look at your behavior – Observe what you do, why, when, and how (for example, are you doing things always at the last minute or when someone asks for a progress update?)
- Discover the underlying constraint – Where are the bottlenecks, why do bust-ups occur, and when do you let people down? Where are the crises?
- Mitigation – Work on improving behavior or routing around constraints. Find coping strategies, or re-learning to take the problem away
- Go back to #1 and repeat – Clear a constraint and you will reveal another lurking behind it.
In brief, prioritize and work through one by one.
What Are Some External Constraints Examples?
To clarify what we mean by personal constraints it might be worthwhile talking about examples of external constraints.
External constraints are those where you have limited or no control over them.
- Laws and Taxes – We have to comply with laws. Only as a collective can we change them. Regardless of your opinion of taxes, they are a factor we have to live with.
- Employer or boss – While we can influence our employer or boss, we do not have the power to exert control over them.
- Geography – As a family, we have moved country back and forth. Believe me when I say that while we are proof we can change our geography that most people do not have as much control over their geography as we would like. We certainly do not have power over where we are born.
- The Economy – We can work within the economy to the best of our abilities but only within the boundaries of what is possible. As a person or a business, we have a limited impact on the economy as a whole.
- Responsibilities – As an adult living in a society we have responsibilities. Once we take on more responsibility, voluntarily or involuntarily, the old responsibilities do not often go away. While we can admire the lone-wolf nothing-to-lose heroic story of loss and redemption, most of us aspire to fulfill our responsibilities with care.
As I am not a tax or legal expert, and our migration story is unique to us, I am not in a position to offer how-to guidance around external constraints, even the ones I have mitigated or overcome. That said, I can offer examples of constraints on a personal level and how I deal with those!
My Personal Constraints Examples
So you know how you might deal with constraints, here are a few examples of my own constraints. Of course, there are many more constraints that we could discuss, these are just my constraint examples that come to mind right now!
Anxiety and Lack of Confidence Constraints
My anxiety and lack of self-confidence are likely the root cause of most of my constraints.
Fear drives as many of my decisions, or more, than logic. It manifests as overthinking and backing out of opportunities.
While promoting the Problogger book with Darren I had the opportunity to go on radio and TV, but I chickened out from all but a few.
It doesn’t matter what I achieve or what we overcome as a family and personally, I can never seem to fix the horrors of my own imagination!
I am working on it, and I think I always will have to.
Doubt Constraint: Overthinking and Second Guessing
As mentioned above, one of my constraints is overthinking things. I am a daydreamer, a deep thinker, and a naturally cautious type. It’s only really bad when it crosses a line, but as with many of the things on the list, there are positive aspects along with the bad.
Get to it One Day Constraint
I love to learn new things, and when inspiration hits I get a spike of motivation, that wanes. This constraint manifests as having a thousand books, bookmarks, mind maps, plans, and discussions, but not actually doing much with most of them.
Those Constraints Lead to Procrastination
Procrastination is a huge issue when it comes to business but it can impact your relationships too.
While there are a lot of external reasons to put off or delay, we are focusing on personal constraints meaning the constraints that are internal to us or that we have the power to change.
It doesn’t matter if you are waiting
- For the right time
- For a special missing tool or ingredient
- To do it perfectly
- Make it complete and not half-finished
- Focused, uninterrupted time
- Or just because you don’t like doing it
The impact of procrastination is YOU DON’T DO THE THING!
The way I overcame procrastination was to balance my hesitant nature with things that have a more powerful influence over me:
- Project Management – I learned about project management, and put that learning into practice over and over. Breaking things down into manageable chunks, and working out what needs to be done and when helps with overwhelm and also gives you a sense of progress.
- Teamwork – I find it helps a great deal to work with others who are more action-oriented, less anxious, and more outgoing than me.
- Deadlines – Projects with deadlines, and working under a time constraint, keeps me moving forward, and not having an infinite runway keeps me on track.
- Self-binding contracts – I am a people-pleaser, I hate letting people down. Tell other people what you are going to do and get them to hold you to it.
- Vigilance – Just being aware of a trait and looking out for it before it manifests can help solve bad behavior
Shyness and Introversion Constraint
Dealing with people is a biggie, and one I still battle with. Of course, it is a symptom of me not having my head together correctly, but because I am guessing it is super common I will expand on this here for how I managed to overcome it to a point.
There is a good reason I like to partner with people who are outgoing and are good speakers. Heck, Lewis is also physically large (think Superman but more handsome) so I could literally hide behind him!
I am shy AF.
You might have heard or read me mention this before, but at age 15, around the time I was leaving school, I was so shy I literally couldn’t even order a Big Mac without blushing and falling over my words.
I was a stereotypical D&D and video games nerd; shy, socially anxious, and extremely introverted. I knew I had to do something about it, especially if I was going to have any kind of career, even in relatively solitary pursuits of computing or illustration.
My solution was to learn about communication, body language, and so on. That solved the knowledge/theory side, but I had to find a way to put that into practice to move it from an intellectual to a reality solution.
When people have a fear of spiders they can go to the zoo and hold a tarantula. Fear of flying is often overcome by special airline flights.
I took a teaching course and started teaching classes at my local college. If you have the same problem, find a public speaking group, or perhaps volunteer at a hobby club that matches your interests.
Thankfully that forced exposure worked, and I can now stand in front of auditoriums and not need to wear sturdy brown trousers and bicycle clips!
When we were living in Canada I kept up the speaking by teaching at the local university and I loved it. Going from not wanting to be seen at all to looking forward to speaking to a class full was a trip, I can tell you.
That said, I still find it extremely difficult to meet people for the first time, to speak up unless I know it is definitely ok, and I am terrible at small talk.
One way to get me to leave an event is for the MC to say “Let’s go around the room and introduce ourselves!”
Overcoming Personal Constraints Bottom Line
Overcoming your personal constraints starts with identifying them, then you need to figure out which you can avoid and which you need to tackle head-on.
Don’t get me wrong. This stuff is hard work and requires an honest look at your own situation.
Rather than taking it as yet another way to bring yourself down and give yourself a hard time, look at it as a golden opportunity to achieve more of what you want to in your life.
The first step is to look in the mirror rather than blame external factors. Before you can deal with “out there” constraints, fix the “constraints in here”.
Over to You – What Are Your Constraints? How Do You Mitigate Them?
Have you got tips or stories to share? Let me know!