The Self-Leader’s Emotional Motivation

On today’s episode, we’re learning how to link and leverage emotional motivation to the process of making constraints beautiful and get the results we want. This is a great framework for building powerful emotional narrative around your desired results. Remember to grab your infographic for this episode at on the resource page under this episode. 


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Boss Yourself First –


BYF Podcast Season 2 Episode 7

Hey everyone, welcome to the Boss Yourself First Podcast. We’ve spent this season exploring constraint. And I have to tell you, that it’s caused a little friction for me at home. My family and I were talking about ideas to grow the podcast and my daughter suggested that I might gain more listeners if I use the word Constraint less. You see the humans that I live with get to hear a lot about the podcast season before its even the podcast season, so while you’ve been hearing about constraint for 7 weeks now, they’ve been living with it for months. Also, you have a choice and can just stop the podcast. My family is a bit of a captive audience –  they’ve even suggested that instead of a swear jar, I need to put money in for using the word constraint. But we here on the podcast are going to power through and continue exploring how to leverage constraint to slingshot forward toward our desired results. Last week we learned about mental contrasting and the WOOP method so if you missed that, have a listen to episode 6 of season two. And that really lays the foundation for today’s discussion about tapping into strong emotions for motivation to successfully process constraints. As Morgan and Barden say in their book “A Beautiful Constraint”, “To make constraints beautiful, we need to identify the activating emotions able to fuel more creative tenacity.” And to really create strong emotional connection we’ll utilize the mental contrasting we discussed last week to leverage the tension and energy of both negative and positive emotions.


To mine for the most powerful emotions and to connect them with the propelling question Barden and Morgan say we need to create emotional narrative. And I want to remind you that a propelling question is a question that combines a bold ambition with significant constraint. Like how do I make enough with my restaurant to keep all of my employees during a pandemic where I can’t have inside dining? If you want more of a refresh on propelling questions check out season 2 episode 3 .

 So emotional narrative is basically a story that highlights powerful emotional attachments with achieving our desired results and failing to achieve them.

This is going to take some reflection and for some of us, we just want to get the solution and move on. But remember that in the process of leveraging constraint to move forward, dealing with one constraint often reveals another and another after that. Tapping into emotions for motivation will help us be in the process for the long haul. It’s worth taking a little reflection time on the front end to have enough motivation to get all the way through to the desired result. Morgan and Barden have an approach to help us get the material for our emotional narrative. First, when you think of your propelling question, why is it important to you?

Second, they recommend checking in with 8 basic emotions to reveal connections with your propelling question. As I said, we’re looking for connections not trying to create or muster up emotions. We’re all human, and we already have emotions, we’re just searching for the strongest activating emotions. So they suggest working through the list of 8 emotions fear, excitement, love, desire, pride, greed, hate and rage asking yourself for the connection. For example, what scares you about this challenge? What are you afraid of in this challenge? What’s your biggest fear in facing this challenge? It is recommended that you ask yourself three iterations per question to really mine the depths of your emotional connection.

Third, leave your reflections overnight.

Fourth, choose the three strongest emotional connections from the eight and ask yourself why those are the three strongest. One note, is that when you’re choosing your three, try to pick at least one negative and one positive – that way we’re taking advantage of the tension between the two. In fact, reflecting on three, ask how you can intensify these emotions even more. You might spend some time mentally contrasting the vision and feelings of success with the vision and feelings of failure, remember in moderation. We’re hitting the sweet spot of mental contrasting.

Step five – Reflecting on these three, put together a narrative that answers our first question, why is this ambitious result combined with your constraint so important to you?


Now we’ve been talking on a personal level but this whole process can apply to teams. Creating an emotional narrative can help teammates connect in different ways. If you’re working with a team, think about how they will connect with the narrative that is emerging. Barden and Morgan recommend thinking about where their strongest connection may be. You could have the team leaders work through this process individually and then join together to debrief and co-create the emotional narrative. They say, “As leaders, we will need to be skilled at creating the tension in the story around what the team is trying to achieve…tying the promise of the future to the threats of today.


The last step is to keep the emotional narrative vivid and front of mind. You can do this with structures – a physical representation of the story. Something you see every day as your working to leverage constraint as simple as a few words on a post it, a band on your wrist, a photo on your phone or desk. But don’t stop at structures, use your words, keep telling stories that support your emotional narrative, stories of the people who will benefit from achieving your result, stories of who will be in distress if you don’t achieve it.


I know those steps are a lot to think about and all my multitaskers might be a little stressed about remembering them, so I’ve provided an infographic at to capture those steps for you. You’ll find it on the resource page under this episode.


I want to share just a piece of a story from the book “a Beautiful Constraint” In talking about this emotional motivation. This book is talking about a team of students who were working on designing a low-cost breathing device for babies with pneumonia for to be useful in rural environments.

They quote a student on the team as she spoke of her personal experiences with mothers and their very sick children in a Bangladeshi hospital: She said “ I would describe the impact as ‘the moment.” The boundaries completely collapsed; they fueled my motivation. I don’t care if I’m hungry, sick, tired, lonely – I’m going to be there, I’m going to keep working. “


That’s the kind of emotional motivation we’re talking about. Doing this work, this creation of emotional narrative around our constraint processing, will help us to not give up when it’s tough, it will prevent our regression back into the victim mindset.


We know from season one, that anytime we deal with emotions, we deal with power. Let’s use that power to our advantage and make constraints beautiful.

That’s all I have for you today, but I want to tell you about what’s coming up in the next few weeks, I have been curating a Constraint Hall of Fame meaning guests interviews with people in the trenches of dealing with constraint especially over the last year. And I say curating because, I’m talking with everyday people dealing with a variety of constraints. I’m really looking forward to sharing those conversations with you. I think we have a lot we can learn together.


Remember if you want the infographic to highlight the steps we talked about today, go to and look on the resource page under this episode. Also, I’d be so grateful if you would leave a review for this podcast wherever you listen to podcasts. That’s it for today, thanks for being here, take care.





The Positive Realist

On today’s episode, we’re taking a close look at mental contrast – a method that uses both positive and still realistic visioning to create desired results. We’re still working on processing constraint but understanding this method will help us create motivation for that process. Today you’ll learn the WOOP method to pursue your goals and be sure to pick up a WOOP worksheet at under this episode. 


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Boss Yourself First –


BYF Season 2 Episode 6

Hello friends. I hope you are well. If you’re here in the US, chances are you’ve had some pretty intense weather situations of late. So, I hope you are all safe and warm. We’re on episode 6 of our season talking about constraint which we’re defining as a limitation or parameter imposed by outside circumstances or ourselves that inspire innovation and creativity to accomplish a desired result. And like I said, we’re 6 weeks in so far, we’ve talked about what a constraint is and the freedom to focus it can provide, we’ve discussed the stages of processing constraint and worked on our question thinking to move through those stages, we’ve talked about the propelling question and the power of the can-if statements as a framework for innovation and last week we talked about building an abundance mentality as we look at resources to leverage constraint. It has been a great journey so far, because these episodes build on each other, I would encourage you to go back if you missed one, so you get the whole picture. Today we’re bringing back a familiar topic because we spent our first season exploring emotions. And then we were specifically looking at how to build emotional agility. Today though, we are looking at bringing in the motivating power of emotions into the process of leveraging constraint

I shared with you all that my youngest daughter has recently completed the college application process and in talking through questions from application, I asked her to describe herself. She said that she is a realistic optimist. And I think my young padawan may have articulated a key viewpoint for today’s work here on the podcast. Where we’re looking at the power of positivity linked to the realistic view of obstacles as we process constraint.

This shows up in a practice called mental contrasting. Before we dive into this explanation of mental contrasting, you might be asking how this practice ties into processing constraint. Well, I’m so glad you asked. The authors of our book for this season, a beautiful constraint built upon the technique of mental contrasting to build sustaining emotional motivation to the process of making constraint beautiful in pursuit of a goal or result. So I promise it fits but I want you to understand what mental contrasting and discover how to use it for yourselves. We go for practical self-leadership application here on Boss yourself first so let’s learn about mental contrasting. This technique was created by Gabriele Oettingen in 1999 as positive psychology was really building momentum. She decided to put positive thinking to the test. The basic framework of her many experiments around this were to have a group focus on their goal and really imagine what it would be like to achieve that goal. They really captured a vision for getting the desired results and when they felt motivation fading, they refocused on their vision. She compared that group to another group who really spent time visioning obstacles that could stop them from getting their goal, one more group was entered into the comparison, a group that did both positive visioning and realistic visioning of obstacles. Both the wholly positive and the wholly negative groups were much less likely to stay the course and achieve their goals. The group that succeeded most was the hybrid group that did both. Like my daughter, positive realists.  When they lost motivation around their goal, they revisited this vision of facing obstacles. Dr. Oettingen was surprised when the process of comparing and contrasting these positive and negative aspects of future desired results is what is known as mental contrasting

In an article for the NY Times Oettingen says, “Positive thinking is pleasurable, but that doesn’t mean it’s good for us. Like so much in life, attaining goals requires a balanced and moderate approach, neither dwelling on the downsides nor a forced jumping for joy.”

Now we’ll talk in our next episode about how Barden and Morgen, the authors of A beautiful Constraint use mental contrasting in processing constraint. I want to spend the rest of our time today on how you can use mental contrasting with our goals.

Dr. Oettingen created a method called WOOP that I’m going to walk through with you here and I’ll have a downloadable worksheet for you on my website that can help you give it a try. Also. Dr. Oettingen’s website offers some fantastic resources if you want to explore a little further.

I really like this method, it’s basically self-coaching, this is a lot of what a coach does with her clients. We look at desired results, we look at what needs to happen to get the results, we plan for obstacles yes, it’s great to have a coach with you through this process and a coach can bring their own observations to help you explore but you my friends as self-leaders can take on this work on your own. I would recommend you add some support resources and accountability but the WOOP method is a great starting point.

What is your wish? Is it professional, relational, self-leadership? You may come up with several, pick the one that feels the most important. The one that would have the greatest impact on multiple areas of your life. Your wish needs to meet three criteria – is it important to you? Is it a challenge? Is it something you can accomplish? Choose a wish that is within your power to fulfill in a relatively short time – meaning two or three months. If your wish is bigger than try to break it into smaller wishes. Capture your wish in just a few words and record them on the next page.

What is the best outcome of that wish being fulfilled?

Really take time to imagine the outcome. What would it accomplish? How would you feel having that wish fulfilled? Capture those outcome feelings in just a few words and record them on the next page.

What is the obstacle within you that keeps you from fulfilling that wish?

This may take a couple of layers to get down to the real obstacle. The key here is “within you” because first you’re going to say I’m busy or lack of time, but you know that we make the time for the things that are important. How we use our time tells us what our real priorities are. So dig deeper. What is the obstacle within you that keeps you from fulfilling the wish?

Now really imagine that obstacle showing up. What do you feel when that obstacle shows up? Capture the obstacle in just a few words and record them on the next page.

Now we plan. With if then statements.

What can you do to overcome the obstacle you’ve visioned?

What is one thing you can tell yourself to overcome it?

What is one action to help yourself overcome it?

Put those strategies into “IF-Then” Statements

If (obstacles) show up then I will tell myself (strategy 1).

If (obstacles) show up then I will (strategy 2).

Generate your “if-then” statements and record them on the next page. These are not to be confused with the Can if statements of processing constraint although I bet Barden and Morgan were inspired by the if can statements in WOOP. These are your tools that you can whip out if obstacles show up.

When you feel your energy flagging toward fulfilling your wish circle back to the words in your visions. When you encounter obstacles, Work your plan.

Let’s work through a scenario to see how this plays out.

Frequently, the most dear wish, especially as shorts and swimsuit season approaches is to get more fit maybe lose some inches and have more energy.

Let’s say the wish is to get more fit.

Outcome – I would have more energy to do things with my family, I would feel better in my clothes, I would be stronger. I would feel confident and graceful. I picture myself leaving the house because hopefully 2021 will hold more of the leaving the house. So, I’m leaving the house and going for a long walk with my dog along the river near my home. I’m smiling, feeling good.

Obstacles within me – letting myself be distracted from my workouts and eating non-nutritive food, what is it really? Lack of belief that I can really get there and be more fit.

Plan – When I feel a lack of belief that shows up as being distracted and not eating well, I will tell myself, it’s okay, I still believe in you.

When I feel my obstacles show up, I will prove my belief by getting a brief two minutes of movement and a glass of water.

I hope you try it, remember I have a WOOP Worksheet for you at boss yourself under the resources for this episode. Try it and tell me about it at the website, on Facebook in the boss yourself first Facebook group or DM me on Instagram. In fact, I host a Facebook live for the Boss Yourself First Facebook Group every Monday at 8:00am Mountain time and next Monday I’m going to lead a WOOP session. It will only take about five minutes, but you’ll get to work through your WOOP worksheet with me. So, join the group and I’ll get to see you there.

I’m going to close us out today with a couple of quotes.

“Mental contrasting is a reality-bound and solution-focused practice that may help you and your clients reach new heights with unwavering motivation, even in the face of life’s biggest challenges. We strongly encourage you to give the practice a try.Positive thinking fools our minds into perceiving that we’ve already attained our goal, slackening our readiness to pursue it. “Gabriele Oettingen

And the last quote is from Viktor Frankl, we tapped into his wisdom in season one and here he is again as one of my favorite thought leaders. He says, “Our answer must consist, not in talk and meditation, but in right action and in right conduct. Life ultimately means taking the responsibility to find the right answer to its problems and to fulfill the tasks which it constantly sets for each individual.”

In other words, my friends, get out there and take action, use the WOOP method make a plan, get going and boss yourself first.

Talk to you next week, take care everyone.

Constraint and Abundance

On today’s episode, we work on approaching our “Can-If” statements with an abundance mentality. Self-leaders who process constraint from a place of abundance tap into fresh creativity and innovative energy. Learn to expand your abundance mentality and focus on four resource areas with new perspectives that can move you forward in leveraging your constraints.  


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Boss Yourself First –


BYF Season 2 Episode 5

Hey friends,

I hope you are having a great week and I hope you took the challenge from our last episode and created you can if questions. This week we are focusing on creating abundance to leverage our constraint. You remember how we’ve been developing our question thinking. Now we’re turning our attention to abundance thinking.

Abundance thinking enables us to approach our can if statements with openness and creativity. Processing constraints in the victim stage means giving way to feelings and thoughts of scarcity.

Stephen Covey, author of the Seven habits of highly effective people says “Most people are deeply scripted in what I call the Scarcity Mentality. They see life as having only so much, as though there were only one pie out there. And if someone were to get a big piece of the pie, it would mean less for everybody else.

The Scarcity Mentality is the zero-sum paradigm of life. People with a Scarcity Mentality have a very difficult time-sharing recognition and credit, power or profit – even with those who help in the production. They also have a very hard time being genuinely happy for the success of other people.”

And then Covey contrast that with an abundance mentality, he says,

“The Abundance Mentality, on the other hand, flows out of a deep inner sense of personal worth and security. It is the paradigm that there is plenty out there and enough to spare for everybody. It results in sharing of prestige, of recognition, of profits, of decision making. It opens possibilities, options, alternatives, and creativity.

As we try out our can if questions that we explored in our last episode, an abundance mindset enables us to tap into creative and innovative solutions.

So let’s pause leveraging constraint for just a minute and talk about how self-leaders improve their abundance mentality. First, remember awareness is the beginning of all work, so let’s notice when we slip into scarcity thinking. Remember that scarcity believes that if one person wins, another loses. I really want to camp here because it feels like scarcity thinking is running rampant in our culture right now. At least here in the US we only have to look as far as our political leaders to find a powerful example. People on one side of the political aisle feel that if the other side gains then their side loses. And I get it, our leaders are constantly barraged with scarcity messages about not having enough money to do make every idea happen. But it feels like if the mindset shifted to we are more and have more when we work together, we could actually move forward creating a stronger country and an better planet. Scarcity thinking is self-destructive thinking. Okay, off my soap box and back to next steps, so notice when you are participating in scarcity thinking. And I say participating because it is contagious, sometimes we’re catch it and sometimes we spread it. Remember the start of the pandemic and the toilet paper shortage? We created that with scarcity thinking. I’m not judging, I felt that way too. And I’m ashamed to admit that I felt smug with two four packs of toilet paper in my basket as a guy ranted behind me that the store had sold out. Please don’t think that because I talk about it, I’ve mastered it. We all slip into it from time to time but for some of us it’s become a habit. A habit that is not serving us. I’ve learned from my selfish actions with the toilet paper and worked hard to share our supply as the pandemic wore on. But it started with awareness in the grocery store. So notice these times. And then start to shift them.

Practice generosity. Generosity proves the belief that we have plenty. Generosity of time, of love, of money.

Practice genuine celebration of other’s success. By celebrating others, we prove out the belief that someone else’s gain just adds to the good energy of life well lived that we all benefit from.

John Maxwell says, “Give more of what you want. Although it may sound counterintuitive, one of the best ways to increase your abundance is to give. Don’t feel like you have enough time? Slip away from your obligations, even if just for an hour, to help someone in need. Don’t feel like you have enough money? Give to someone less fortunate. In other words, be a river, not a reservoir. Giving is sure to put you in a more abundant and appreciative frame of mind.”

Practice genuine celebration of other’ success. By celebrating others, we prove out the belief that someone else’s gain just adds to the good energy of life well lived that we all benefit from.

Express appreciation frequently and lavishly – verbally let others know that you’ve noticed their contributions to your life and work. They are part of the abundance.

Reflect and be grateful – it’s hard to feel scarcity when you are expressing thanks for what you have.

All right, now that we’ve got some tools to increase our abundance thinking let’s funnel that thinking toward leveraging constraint.

Usually when facing a constraint there is an element of scarcity, a lack of time, money, skill, knowledge which we can combat by recognizing abundance in

What we have – really looking at our assets from multiple perspectives

What we need – what we’ve identified could help us leverage a constraint

What we have that other’s need – think experience, workforce, audience, money, time, technology, skills

What other’s have that we need – again experience, workforce, knowledge, money, time, technology skills

How can we trade what we have that other’s want in a way that provides us with what we need to leverage our constraint?

When we start asking this question, we open up to literally a whole world of possibilities. What relationships can we foster that can create abundance for both parties? What could we do together that we can’t do apart or could create greater impact if we tried it alone? How can we combine our resources to create abundance?

Barden and Morgan, authors of our book for this season put it this way, “finding new ways to articulate the power of what we have, gives us many potential ways to approach new kinds of partners with new kinds of value.

Can you feel it? The possibilities that are coming to mind as we go through this? What kind of partners, maybe even competitors or resource owners are out there waiting to join with you?

Depending on what you’re doing right now, you can just pause the podcast and go list all the ideas that are coming to mind. You have my blessing but if you’d like to hang on for just a few more minutes, I want to share another story from A beautiful constraint. And there are so many wonderful examples in this book, I would really encourage you to read it. This story is called “how to feed a blue chicken” and I really love it because it shows the process of leveraging constraint – how dealing with one constraint often reveals another constraint and another. But when you have your system of leveraging constraint combined with abundance mentality, you will get where you want to go.

Okay so the story is about raising chickens in Kenya. Apparently, there are two major worries when trying to raise young chicks in that environment, one is disease and one is predators. A man named Paul Seward who directs Farm Input Promotions Africa, has devoted his work to increasing the productivity of smallholder farms in Africa. So, he went to work, trying to overcome the constraints of raising these vulnerable chicks. The disease could be dealt with by vaccination but because of the high likelihood that chicks would be eaten by flying predators, most farmers did not want to invest in vaccinating their chicks. I would really love to know how Seward figured this out, but he discovered that if the chicks were painted blue, the flying hawks and eagles didn’t recognize them and therefore did not eat them. He found an inexpensive and safe paint for the chicks and then the farmers began inoculating their chicks because they had a better chance of surviving predators. In fact, with the paint and the shots, the survival rate went from 20 percent to almost 85 percent.

So super! Now that the survival rate is up more farmer are seeing that chicken farming is profitable. Additionally, chicken painting jobs were created for the broader economy. But because of the rise in chicken farming, there were more demands on the terrain for feeding these growing flocks. Most small family farms in Kenya are very small just as they sound some as small as a third of an acre and all of the chickens are free range. Farmers can’t afford chicken feed so new constraints were revealed – lack of money and scarcity of range land. Additionally, even if the farmers have land, it’s not safe for the chickens to roam too far because of ground predators like the mongoose that are not fooled by the blue color. In trying to leverage the new constraints Seward realized that since the birds eat insects, there were actually an abundance of termites available, but the termites are inaccessible for the chickens. When figuring how to tap into this abundance, Seward looked to people groups who eat termites as a mainstay of their diets. They shared their knowledge of how to harvest the termites and now the chicken farmers can provide for their chickens. I love this story! What fun it is to watch Seward leverage the constraints to promote small family farms in Africa. It may feel a little less fun and a lot more daunting to face your own constraints but please be inspired, you can do it, when you recognize the abundance of resources available to you.  My challenge for you this week is to work on abundance mentality, and work through the questions to help you identify some new resources or even current resources in a new way. If you want some help with that process, I’ve made an info graphic with some resource awareness questions that you can download. It can be found at under resources on the page for this episode. Take the challenge, I’m excited to hear about your journey to abundance mentality. Also, if you could take a minute to leave a review of this podcast wherever you listen to podcasts, I’d really appreciate it and it helps more people find us. In the meantime, lead yourself in abundance and take care!




Self-Leaders and the Can-If Statement

Remember the Little Engine that Could? Today we’re talking about the little engine of processing constraint – the Can-If statement. Self-leaders learn to power their creativity and innovation around constraint processing with a simple (but not always easy) flip from seeing obstacles to finding solutions. Learn how on today’s episode.  


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Boss Yourself First –


BYF Season 2 Episode 4

Hello, Hello everyone! How are you doing right now? I like to picture you all listening as you go about your busy lives. Thanks so much for hanging out here with me as you go for a walk or load the dishwasher or commute to work. We’re doing well here. Waiting for our vaccine time, so far it looks like sometime this summer. But hey, time is flying by, at the time you’re hearing this it’s around Valentine’s Day, so summer is just around the corner. This season we’re talking about transforming constraint. And in our last episode I challenged you to start working on your question thinking when you encounter a challenge by asking yourselves – what assumptions am I making and how else can I think about this? We’re working on questions because it is questions that enable us to move through the process of leveraging constraint to build momentum toward reaching our goals. So today, we get into the questions that will actually get us to solutions. Are you ready to move forward? First step is to frame the constraint and our goal into what the authors of A beautiful constraint call a propelling question? Before I give examples of a propelling question, I want to recount a story told by Morgan and Barden in their book. The story is about Audi trying to win a race in Les Mans, France. Remember that race portrayed in Ford Vs Ferrari? That 24-hour endurance race. So, their goal was to win the Les Mans race and the obvious solution would be to build a faster car. However, they believed they had maxed out the speed capabilities of their designs and that became the constraint. So their propelling question was born. “How could they win the race if their car could not go faster than the other cars? They figured out that they could win the race if they took fewer pit stops and so their focus turned to fuel efficiency. They used diesel fuel for the first time in their race cars and won the Les Mans Race, not just in 2006, but for three years in a row.  They believed they didn’t have the resources to build a faster car. So, did you catch the structure of the propelling question? An ambition goal plus a major constraint. How can I choose a college without ever visiting campus? How can I run a restaurant without having diners in my café? How can I create a cohesive team that is never physically together? How can I launch a business without capital?


I want to stop just for a minute here in our propelling question and refocus on the goal. Don’t just breeze over the goal to identify the constraint and jump into solutions. Really look at that goal. What does success here really look like? How would it feel to achieve it? What will happen because you achieve it? What if it’s better than you can even imagine?

Take the time to really vision out the result of leveraging this constraint.


Okay back to our next step:

I’m hoping the propelling question came pretty easily, especially as we are becoming such skilled question thinkers.


Once you feel you’ve captured your propelling question. (Oh also, you may go back and adjust your propelling question if it becomes apparent that you’ve misidentified the constraint. But once you have your propelling question, it’s time to get solution focused.


To really answer our propelling questions, we must turn can’t because statements into can if statements.

For example,

I can’t win the Les Mans race because I can’t create a faster car to

I can win the Les Mans race if I have fewer pitstops for refueling.

I can’t run a restaurant because I can’t have inside dining. To I can run a restaurant if I use my staff to take online orders and execute curbside pickup.


Barden and Morgan emphasize the power of the Can If Statement –

A can if statement keeps the conversation productively focused. They say, “It keeps the conversation about how something could be possible, rather than whether it would be possible

A can if statement fuels optimism and curiosity

A can if statement keeps everyone looking for solutions instead of identifying barriers

It boosts our sense of self as transformers, problem solvers instead of victims

According to Barden and Morgan and this is maybe my favorite is “It is a method that maintains a mindset. The failure to generate an answer with one line of enquiry simply leads to another ca-if, another how.” That’s my favorite because you just keep producing can if statements. Meaning if you find a solution with one can-if statement that ends without the desired result, failure, you simply use the data from that failure to iterate a new can-if statement and try again. It’s a method that supports leveraging constraint because be ready, Barden and Morgan warn that often dealing with one constraint often reveals another constraint or more before the desired end result. Again, it’s a process!


Remember that we are aiming for the transformer state where we don’t lower our goals to fit the constraint, but we actually view the constraint as a gift or tool to improve creativity and accelerate innovation. The other night, my husband asked me on a date, in our basement. He fixed dinner and let our daughters handle the clean-up. While we ate we watched a show we frequently watched back when we were newlyweds called “Whose Line is it Anyway?” It’s an improv show where the actors are given different games to play that require them to improvise taking on different character roles, emotions, making up songs with different rules each time. Watch that show, and you’ll see how they treat the constraint of the rules. When doing improv every participant has to have a “Yes, And mentality. If you’re partner starts a scene where they are an alien in a car wash you take that as a gift and build your story on that premise. If you go the other way the “No, but” way  –  you kill the momentum of the scene, disengage your audience and handcuff your fellow actors. This is what a transformer does with constraint when they formulate the “Can-if” questions.


So, you know how this works, it’s your turn. My challenge for you this week is to formulate a propelling question around a constraint you are experiencing or even imposing. Then get your “Can-if” statements rolling. Now if the can if list is too difficult at first, then start with the list of “can’t because’s” and then one by one, turn those statements into “can- if’s”.


I hope you take this challenge, if you want help, join the Boss Yourself First Facebook group and we’ll hash it out together. Also, keep tuning in, I will be announcing a new self-leadership opportunity in just a few weeks. I’m really excited about it and I’m looking forward to sharing here with you. Next week we’re talking about creating abundance in constraint. Until then, take care everyone.

The Currency of Beautifying Constraint

In this episode, we’re learning to become affluent in the currency of beautifying constraint with question thinking. We are breaking free of path dependency (habit thinking), which keeps us from working through the stages of processing constraint. Listen in to start building open and flexible thinking that characterizes self-leaders who know how to leverage constraint, to their own and their organizations’ success. 


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Episode Transcript

Boss Yourself First –


Have you ever been relying on your maps app to get someplace and there is a turn immediately followed by another turn? Have you ever not made the second turn and suddenly you’re lost? Of course, your maps app will start recalculating but the few seconds or sometimes moments we’re a bit disoriented, heading who knows where? That is a little like being confronted with a constraint suddenly your regular route is disrupted, and you have to figure out a new path to get where you want to go. You have to be really clear on where you want to go, and you have to really want to get there and you have to be willing to work harder than you originally intended to figure out a new path to get your desired result.  This season we’re talking about constraint which we’re defining as a limitation or defining parameter imposed by outside circumstances or by ourselves that can stimulate creativity and innovation. We talked about the stages of processing constraint in Episode Two and today we’re talking about the currency for processing constraint.


Before we get there though, I think we need to talk about what keeps us in the victim stage. And what keeps us there is habitual thinking or as the book a beautiful constraint says – path dependence.


Now I want to preface this with saying any time a constraint is encountered we have a period of disorientation. Things have changed and depending on the severity of the constraint, we a little shocked, Once the shock lessens, we stay in the victim stage because our ways of thinking and doing no longer yield the results we want. In the book Barden and Morgan tell a story to explain path dependence. The story begins with the required dimensions for the fuel engines for the original Space Shuttle. The engine dimensions couldn’t exceed 4 feet 8.5 inches not because that is what the designers’ believed would be the best sized for fuel burn or efficiency or aerodynamically but because that is the width of the rail line that would transport the engines from Utah to Florida. Here’s where the story gets really fun. Why is the rail line 4 feet 8.5 inches? Because the workers who built the railroad largely came from England and their predecessors had built the rail lines in England along paths made by horses pulling carts that fit those dimensions. The carts were made to fit those dimensions because that was a suitable size to fit the width of the roads first built by the Romans on which the paths were based. So the modern technology was built to suit a path designed and built over 2000 years earlier.  – Path Dependence. I love the story because it’s such a great example of having created a habit based on past constraint and desires but not current ones. If you’ve ever tried to break a habit you know how entrenched they can be. When explaining Path Dependence, Barden and Morgan say that “Today’s approaches are in effect yesterday’s approaches, based on what was appropriate then, not necessarily now. They are not simply processes, but paths made up of self-reinforcing bundles of beliefs, assumptions, and behaviors, whose nature a- and underlying rationally – may no longer be visible, and rarely questioned.

Here’s is an example that I’m still working on, my children range in ages over a span of 9 years so we all spent a significant amount of time in the car, traveling from one siblings activity or another. My constraint was that all the kids had to go with me is any of their siblings had an activity. Another constraint was there was often the matter of picking up from one activity and heading straight for the next one. How could I work with theses constraints and still keep the kids energized, healthy and happy? I made a habit of packing a plastic box of snacks. I would restock it once a week. We needed them for quick turn arounds or long waits in the car, Additionally, I also made sure to have fruit snacks, beef jerky or chocolate in my purse. It’s just handy if you wind up someplace with a fussy kid but don’t be deceived, I would snack right along with them after all they didn’t want to hang out with a fussy mom either.  And there’s the rub. My children are pretty much grown and no longer rely on me to get them from place to place, but for some reason, I still take snacks with me if I’m going somewhere. And I’m not talking road trips, I want to break the habit of the car snack. I had a helpful and legitimate reason to be armed with food at all times but that constraint of keeping my kids energized, healthy and happy is no longer there but the habit remains.


Barden and Morgan say, “The most significant and disabling constraint we face may not be the external ones but the internal ones that determine how open-minded and flexible we are in our problem-solving ability.”


So, if being open minded and flexible is what enables us to process constraint, how do we get open-minded and flexible?  Remember I told you we were going to focus on the currency of processing constraint. Let me ask you this,

Do you ever stop and ask yourself what’s going right? Isn’t that a crazy thought? Now I realize that some of you may already have that as a practice but more often than not, I find myself laying my head on the pillow and thinking either about what went wrong in the day or what I need to do to avoid things going wrong tomorrow. I get it, that our brains are wired to perceive and focus on threats – things that are wrong or could be wrong. But what if we changed the question to what’s going right? It changes the things we’re noticing, to the things we did well, the things worth celebrating. It’s amazing the difference a question can make and questions are the currency we must build up to move from victim, to neutralizer to transformer and make constraint beautiful.


Questions are a coaches’ foundational tool, we use them to create awareness and as a self-leadership coach, I support my clients in cultivating questions into their self-talk. Not self-doubting kinds of questions but learning and exploring kinds of questions. The kind that creates open and flexible thinking. Marilee Adams, in one of my favorite books, called Change Your Questions, Change Your Life its one I often send to clients, Marilee writes about one of her characters’ mentors, Joseph S. Edwards, she says, “(Joseph) introduced me to Question Thinking, or QT, as he called the skills he taught me. QT opened up a part of my mind that otherwise, I might never have discovered. Like everyone ese, I believed the way to fix a problem was to look for the right answers. Instead, Joseph showed me that the best way to solve a problem is to first come up with better questions. Let that sink in and apply it to processing constraint. We need to first focus on asking a better question that takes into account our constraint.



First, I’d like to speak to that first experience of a new constraint. Depending on the constraint, some of us breeze right onto the questioning phase but some of us may get a little stuck. I think I shared this in season one but here are a few ideas to help deal with that first wave of a new constraint. Change your focus, change your face, change your physiology, change your space.

When you’re still in the first shockwave of constraint, be aware of your input, seek inspiration for your focus – other people who have leveraged constraint, A beautiful constraint is full of examples, change your face, smile, laugh, it releases good chemicals in your body, change how you’re sitting or standing or moving, change your location or just rearrange elements in your space.  These can be small things that give you momentum and energy to start of your question thinking.

So once you’re through the initial shock of a new constraint, how do you start asking questions that can move you through the process. I’m giving you my translation of the four areas that Barden and Morgan recommend.


Question your assumptions: What assumptions cause me to take my current approach, which of them are no longer valid with the new constraint?

Question your routines and systems: What routines or systems do I currently have in place, that may no longer be needed or could be adjusted with the new constraint?

Question your resources: What do I already have that could be used differently? What resources could I create access to, that could help me function with the new constraint?

Question what does success looks like: What will let me know if I am successful?



Think about your normal approach to getting your desired results. Let’s take my friend who owns a Café in the town where I live. Normally, her café is busy from open to close. They have a lovely and large dining area and a small patio and usually have lines out the door for breakfast. They normally have people dine in and some who stop by for take out. The questions here are what are the assumptions that support my current approach? For my friend, it could have been I assume that people will come to eat in my café if I have great food, great space and great service.

Next, what about my assumptions may no longer be valid based on new constraints? How do they need to change? For my friend, her new assumptions needed to be something like people need supplies like eggs, milk and veggies. People want coffee and tea. People will drive up curbside to get what they want. People want goods delivered to them.


Then look at normal routines and systems:

What routines do I currently have in place that are no longer needed or could be adjusted to work within the new constraint? For my friend she employed people to bake, mix drinks, clear tables, wash up and serve clients. She still needed people baking, but the cleaning and serving customers was adjusted because of no indoor dining. Those employees could shift to delivering food to locals and local businesses. Some of her employees instead of taking in person orders could help develop and implement online ordering.


What do I already have that could be used differently? What resources could I create access to, that could help me function with the new constraint?

My friend had suppliers bringing produce but no diners to eat it. She decided to sell grocery packs. Instead of selling baked goods in her store she created online menus with curbside pickup and delivery options. She had her staff develop kits for coffee and cocktails. She developed cookie kits for families to decorate cookies at home.


What will let me know if I am successful? My friend decided that she would consider her café a success if she could keep her employees and make the payments on her space.



The solutions may not present themselves with these questions but remember, we’re not looking for solutions yet. We’re trying to create open-minded and flexible thinking. And we’re just warming up our question thinking because next week we’re going to bring out the heavy artillery of questions. So my challenge for you this week is to practice open minded and flexible thinking.



I want to turn back for just a few minutes to fully inspire you and equip you to work on question thinking. Remember I mentioned Marilee Adams work. Merilee writes that with our question we make the world. Questions open our minds, our eyes and our hearts. With our questions we learn, connect and create. And in case the four questions are too much to take on right now, try this when you face a challenge this week ask yourself, what assumptions am I making? How else can I think about this? These are questions Merilee recommends and I think they are a great place to practice opening our minds and creating flexibility. Give it a try and let me know how it goes.