If You Want Freedom, Embrace Constraints

A group of researchers took a group of children to a park. You know the kind, one that takes up an entire city block. “Go play!” they told the kids. “Play tag, run around, go wherever you want!” The kids took off, and started playing.

But for the most part, they stayed grouped together in the middle of the park.

Then the researchers took the kids to another park, almost identical to the first one but with one core difference. This park was fenced. “Go play!” they again told the kids. “Play tag, run around, go wherever you want!”

And this time, the kids spread out through the entire park, playing and laughing throughout the entire space.


I can’t remember where I first heard about this research study, but its core message is one that has stuck with me. It’s one that I’ve told my clients many times, but it’s something I’ve never really talked about here before.

Time to change that.

Your Flexibility Will Be Your Undoing

See, a lot of entrepreneurs (including myself) start out on this “building a business” journey because they are sick of the constraints. Sick of having someone else telling them what to do, sick of having to be at their desk from 9 to 5, sick of bureaucracy and politics and policies.

And then, as time goes on and the business evolves and grows, you start to hear a different tune being sung:

Sometimes, I just wish someone would tell me what to do!

It’s completely normal. In the absence of any and all boundaries, we freeze up. We suddenly have so many options, we get overwhelmed and — as a result — we get paralyzed.

[Tweet “Unlimited choices are paralyzing.”]

By the way, this is completely true for the members of your courses and programs, too. Overwhelm is a real problem in the teaching world. You’re afraid of it for good reason.

But it’s also a symptom of a deeper problem.

Overwhelm is a Symptom.

Overwhelm, whether in your course or in your business, comes from a lack of constraints.

  • Q: Why do you include too much content in your course, completely disobeying the 80/20 Rule of Curriculum?
  • A: Because you didn’t limit yourself enough.
  • Q: Why do so many clients avoid taking the action you know they need to take?
  • A: Because they can get away with it.
  • Q: Why do you feel like you aren’t nearly as effective as you could be?
  • A: Because you keep blindly trying things, essentially throwing spaghetti against the wall just to see what will stick.
  • Q: Why do you feel like there’s not enough time in the day?
  • A: Because you aren’t focused enough. You don’t know what or where to put your attention. You don’t have a Chief Initiative.

Freedom Comes From Constraints

In every problem of overwhelm, the root issue is the same: you’ve neglected to put in place the boundaries that will free your creativity.

You need to build constraints into your program. You need to give deadlines, to provide structure, and outline expectations.

You need to build those same constraints into your business. You need to give deadlines, to provide structure, and outline expectations.

[Tweet “The truth is that freedom comes from constraints.”]

When you know the parameters within which to offer, you’re able to make better decisions. You’re able to prioritize. You’re able to choose A versus B. You’re able to apply your problem solving skills at a much higher level specifically because there’s a defined problem to solve.

You Must Lay Out Boundaries

Let me make this as plain as possible:

You cannot let your personal value for flexibility result in an unwillingness to set constraints.

Your customers, clients and students need more from you. They need you to show them what they can and can’t do. They need you to stand up for their best interests. They need you to be their guide.

Your business, your team and you need more from you, too. They need you to be focused and not a whirlwind that leaves upheaval and disaster in your wake. They need you to put in place a strategy so they can be creative and figure out how to get there.

You need focus. You need boundaries. You need constraints. You need to know what you’re saying no to, what’s “not yet”, and what you’re saying yes to.

If you want freedom, you must embrace constraints.