How to Use Constraints to Find Clarity

If you ask me, “What do you want for dinner?” my brain melts.

It doesn’t work.

However, if you ask me, “Do you want spaghetti or shrimp bowls?” I can function.

My decision-making abilities return to me. Because clarity needs constraints. (So does creativity).

When we give ourselves constraints, we expand.

And yet, we often find ourselves resisting them.

Take niches for example.

Almost every single client I’ve worked with has been frustrated with their niche at one point or another.

Thanks to the concept of loss aversion, we’re hardwired to focus on what we’ll miss out on by saying “no” instead of focusing on what we have to gain by doing so.

Similarly, niching down can feel like torture because it can feel like we’re saying no to everyone.

But niching down is merely a constraint. It’s a chance for us to get creative with how we best serve a specific group of people.

I HATED the thought of choosing a niche for years…

Being a proud generalist in many regards, the thought of choosing a niche made me want to give up before I started.

It made me feel claustrophobic in my business.

But without a niche, focus becomes increasingly difficult and channeling our creative energy starts to feel impossible.

Constraints can be shortcuts to kickass results.

Here are 3 quick, constraint-filled exercises you can do right now to help you get clear.

Constraint to Clarity Exercises

1). Ask what do I want instead?

Committing to choosing a niche without some constraints feels paralyzing. But remember, we just determined having a niche is great.

So, to get there, do this. (But really, while this email is long these exercises are quick and will leave you feeling like you took aligned action so I highly recommend actually doing them instead of passively skimming them).

Start by asking yourself what you don’t want. We’ve all encountered someone who realllyyyy pushes all of our buttons. That’s likely not the type of person you want to attract so write down some characteristics.

For example, maybe you don’t love working with people who don’t appreciate a well-placed swear word.

Try to make a list of 5-10 things that you know you don’t want. It could be an industry you no longer want to serve, a type of customer, certain traits, etc…

Now, ask yourself, “What do I want instead?” (and write down your answers)

“Instead” is the critical word of constraint here.

For example…

Doesn’t want: A client who doesn’t appreciate swearing → Wants instead: A client who doesn’t shy away from authentic self-expression, who shows her quirks and appreciates mine.

2. Bravo for Brevity

An artist who constrains herself to paint on a 3X5 index card is no less creative than an artist who paints murals.

They chose different constraints.

In our case, getting creative with brevity can induce clarity.

Grab a sheet of paper and write the numbers 1-10 down the left side. Now that you know what you want instead, we’re going to refine your niche even more. Describe the type of client you want to attract 10 different ways. But here’s the constraint to keep your creativity focused… each line has to be 5 words or less.

I tested this exercise this morning as I was working on fine-tuning details for my upcoming group coaching program.

Here’s what came up for me:

  1. Women tired of self-study courses.
  2. Tired, overworked service-based providers.
  3. Multi-passionate, smart, & ready to shine.
  4. From behind-the-scenes to owning it.
  5. Smart badasses desiring self-expression.​

You can get creative with when to break the rules. Hyphens were my best friend in that department.

3. Set a timer.

This isn’t an exercise so much as a practice. When we feel like we have to infinity and beyond to complete something, we tend to procrastinate. All of a sudden, we’ve relinquished our creative thinking space to Netflix, Spotify, and research rabbit holes.

Setting a timer is an easy constraint that fosters momentum. I set timers when I’m reading and when I’m about to start writing.

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Alyssa Kulesa

Alyssa Kulesa

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