11/11/21: Embracing constraints as focusing factors

Sent 11/11/21

    This week's Think Better Newsletter is about embracing constraints as focusing factors

    The Idea

    To convey one's mood
    In seventeen syllables
    Is very diffic

    I saw this haiku the other day and immediately knew what I wanted to write about this week: the power, and importance, of constraints.

    Take the haiku. It's probably the simplest poem with an obvious constraint (if we don't want to include "Roses are red, violets are blue"). And yet, it has become refined into an art form over the centuries.

    It is filled with constraints. The first and most obvious is the syllable structure. 5-7-5 is very short. In Japanese, it feels even shorter. It is very rare for a word to be fewer than 2 syllables, and they often have extra syllables just to identify a word's purpose. As a result, 5-7-5 in Japanese is probably more like 4-6-4 in English. It's so short!

    On top of that, a "real" haiku must reference nature or the seasons, and it should capture a mood or feeling. You know, in all those extra syllables!

    But those constraints are the reason haiku have remained relevant for so long. It's the constraints that define the challenge, and that illuminate the creativity or wit of the author. 

    90% of writing a haiku is getting yourself unstuck. It's rethinking your approach in order to achieve more with less. The constraints aren't limitations. They are focusing factors. They compel you to isolate the essential. 

    Now imagine that instead of haiku we are talking about workouts and instead of syllables we are talking about time and energy. How much are you isolating the essentials?

    The System

    We don't get to pursue all of our goals in our ideal situation. We'll never have all the time, the energy, or the resources we want. We have constraints.

    Rather than bitching and moaning about them, write them down. Then go one step further and imagine you had only half of what you think you have. If you have 2 hours a day, what if you had only 1? If you had $10k, what if you had only $5k? 

    Could you achieve your goals under these even more extreme constraints?

    I bet you could. You'd just have to approach the problem more creatively. Maybe you could even do less and still achieve your goal. Look at that haiku above. He expressed exactly the sentiment he wanted despite the constraints. And how creatively!

    Constraints are inevitable. How you use them is up to you. 

    The Question

    If you had but half
    Of what you think limits you
    Could you still do it?


    Go Be More,

    Bryan Green
    Author of Make the Leap: Think Better, Train Better, Run Faster and the companion Think Better Workbook
    Co-host of the Go Be More Podcast
    Co-host of the Fueling the Pursuit Podcast

    Take me down to the
    Haiku City where the grass is
    is green, and dammit.
    - Les Listes



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