There was study done on how fences around a playground affects children’s behaviours. The 1st group of children were taken to to a playground with no fence while the 2nd group of children were taken to a comparable playground with fenced border. The kids were to play as usual. This was what happened:

1st group of children – no fenced border
2nd group of children – with fenced border

“In the first scenario, the children remained huddled around their teacher, fearful of leaving out of her sight.  The later scenario exhibited drastically different results, with the children feeling free to explore within the given boundaries.” &

The conclusion was that a limitation (in this case, a fence) allowed the children the freedom to explore within the given limits, even more so than without a fence.

Limitations Breed Creativity

Many times, we think that the less constraints we have on a certain project (especially creative ones), the more freedom we have and the better the results will be.

“If only we had more budget, we could produce a greater ad!”
“If only we had more time, we could have launched a better product!”
“If only we had more manpower, we could cover a wider sales area!”

However, this research shows otherwise. It seems counter-intuitive at first, but having limitations seem to expand our mind and increase our creativity. Consider this article that showcases 7 examples of how artists used limitations to their advantage. Some are physical, some are legal and some are self-imposed.

I have personally experienced this a number of times. When clients have a specific timeline or budget to meet, I seem to come up with ideas much faster and better compared with a more open-ended, general criteria situation. Maybe you have experienced the same?

What Limitations Do You Need?

The current global pandemic lock-down gives us many great examples of this principle in play:

  • People are cooking more. A lot more. Even those who thought they couldn’t cook their entire lives!
  • Musicians are going back to basics – no elaborate fireworks, just great music.
  • Cancelled programs find their way online, just like this choir.
  • Everyone can use video calls and run live webinars now. Education is going online, and may stay that way.
  • Families get silly together and does an incredible parody of Les Miserable. Who would have time to think of a parody on a ‘normal day’ when you have KPIs to meet and school work to do?
  • Businesses are pivoting to new strategies which would have otherwise taken months to launch or never at all!
  • Citizens crowdfunded on Facebook to provide severely lacking medical equipment in Malaysia.
  • Even doctors are raising morale in unique ways.
  • People are creating more (like how I started writing in!

So, the next time you are faced with limitations, rejoice!! It is fuel for your creativity. You may eventually find that you work better with given limitations than when you’re not. Instead of wishing for more time, money or team members (which you probably won’t get anyway) try to use these limitations to your advantage – in your work, daily life, personal projects or in honing your craft.

And if you’re lucky to find no external limitations forced on you, then maybe you could self-impose your own.
Ask yourself: What are some limitations that could help my work?

As always, thank you for reading! If you made it all the way down here, let me know by leaving a comment down below! 😊

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