I get asked often what I think has made my podcast and coaching business so successful so fast and I always answer two things: Managing my mind, and CONSTRAINT.
Constraint means constraining, or limiting, the number of choices available to you in a certain arena. It means deciding ahead of time what options you have, and then only giving yourself those options.
Constraint is important for the same reason they taught you in school to write an outline before you write a paper. If you just sit down and free-write a paper, it’s going to be all over the place. The outline tells you where you’re going and how to get there.
Practicing this tool requires using your pre-frontal cortex to make decisions and plan. When you leave decisions until the moment you need to make them, you spend a lot of mental energy worrying about or deciding what to do, but if you decide ahead of time, you cut down on that energy. The parts of your brain that handle planning and execution are separate, so constraint allows you to use them separately, rather than trying to use them both at once, which just creates analysis paralysis.
It’s no accident I’m teaching this after teaching on restriction a couple of weeks ago. If you don’t understand restriction and allowance, you can’t practice constraint effectively. You’ll just turn constraint into restriction and rebel against it.
Constraint is not about restriction—it’s about choosing for yourself what you’ll do ahead of time. Paradoxically you must make your constraint choices from a place of allowance. You need to fully own your autonomy and make your decision from there.
But be warned: Even if you make your decision from full allowance and ownership, that doesn’t mean your brain won’t complain when you go to execute. So often we take that brain complaining to mean something—that we should listen and swerve—but your brain is going to complain. That’s just a given. True constraint means doing what you say you’re going to do, no matter what. It means ignoring a complaining, whining brain.
The other beautiful thing about constraint is that it makes you get super specific. A lot of people fail at reaching their goals because they haven’t made them specific. I see this all the time around people’s calendars and schedules. People work from unscheduled to-do lists, and they have unrealistic expectations of what they can get done in short term periods, like a week or a day. This keeps them overwhelmed but always taking on more.
Constraint is a people-pleaser’s and perfectionist’s worst nightmare, because it makes you get clear on what you have time to do, what you’re going to do, and what you aren’t. You get real very fast about your productivity, your work-life balance, and your priorities.
Constraint has been key to my success in 2 ways:
First, I created constraint in my business. For most of the time I’ve been creating this business, there was only one way to work with me—just one offer, one thing. I didn’t create a dozen different programs and try to sell them all. I didn’t try one thing for a few weeks then switch when it wasn’t working fast enough.
Second, I created constraint in my own life to build the business. I focused on building the business as my main goal. For the last 18 months or so, my business has been my #1 priority. That doesn’t mean I don’t work on other things, have downtime, spend time with loved ones, etc. I do that stuff a lot! But I didn’t take on an additional second priority. I didn’t decide to build my business and learn to run a marathon at the same time—I picked one priority.
I also exercised constraint by scheduling and calendaring my tasks, my free time, and everything else. I even calendar totally free time where I’m not going to decide what to do ahead of time, or I’m going to decide ahead of time to do nothing, but it still goes on the calendar. I calendar everything.
Try it for yourself and see what happens!