Guest Interview: Joellen Kramer


On this episode, we sit down with Joellen Kramer, English Teacher at Lakewood High School and Coordinator of Lakewood’s International  Baccalaureate Diploma Program. Joellen shares her experiences with constraint personally and as a teacher during unprecedented times. She takes us inside her frontline work with tomorrow’s leaders and the self-leadership principles she hopes to pass on to her students. This is an inspiring episode you won’t want to miss!

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Protective Constraints


On today’s episode, we take a look at a different aspect of constraint. Explore protective constraints and learn how to discern if they support your efforts at living according to your values and moving towards your goal. Are you overprotecting? Listen in and find out.

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Boss Yourself First –


BYF Podcast Season 2 Episode 9

Welcome everyone, Thank you for joining me this week, I know I said we’d be starting our constraint hall of fame interviews this week but something has come to my attention that I want to spend this episode addressing and then next week I have an amazing guest interview, we are talking with an amazing woman who is in the trenches of wrestling with constraint as a high school teacher. Shout out to all the teachers who are important and incredible under “normal” circumstances but have been frontline warriors trying to educate our children through the pandemic. I’m so looking forward to sharing that conversation with you.

 But I’ve heard from a few of you that there is a different aspect of constraint that bears discussing. And remember so far this season we have been defining constraint as a limitation that we ourselves or circumstances or people outside of ourselves set that inspires creativity and innovation to get to our desired results. But what some of you have told me you would like to explore are constraints or limitations we put on ourselves to protect not necessarily achieve a result. And what happens when those protective constraints are no longer needed. Variations of this came up in a few conversations with listeners, so to me that means we should unpack it.

 Some examples of what I’m talking about here. We’ll start off with a really familiar one for most of us. “I’m limiting my physical interaction with others to protect my health during a pandemic.” So a different kind of constraint. Still limitation but to protect. It’s defense instead of offense. Here’s another one, I’m limiting my choices in foods to protect my weight. Or how about this, I’m limiting how and who  I’m dating to protect my heart. I’m limiting what jobs I’m applying for to protect my ego. I’m limiting my color choices in my wardrobe to protect my energy around choices. I’m limiting my appointments to protect my time.

So a lot of different scenarios here and I invite you to step out of judgement around all of them. Let these limits be neutral. Because protecting is important. There are things we really want and need to protect. Anything that feels limited in supply but high in demand are valuable resources worthy of protection. like energy, time, attention. It is the work of a self-leader to distribute and invest those resources wisely.

What about the other two we mentioned, health, heart and ego. Again, a skilled self-leader inventories and stewards these aspects of our humanity with wisdom and compassion for themselves and others.

In all of these instances we can think of constraints more like guardrails, that keep us moving forward safely to our desired results. Because I still think you can see the desired result being supported by the constraints above. Results like getting yourself and your family and neighbors  through the pandemic unscathed, connecting with others in a fulfilling relationship, losing weight to be healthy and live longer, finding a job that meets your needs and acts as a conduit of meaning in your life, having more energy and still being stylish, managing your time for maximum resilience and impact. So even though you’re building protective constraints, they are supporting your goals.

But how do you know, and here’s the real crux of the questions, how do you know when those limitations are no longer serving you. Or have even become a detriment? Honestly, I think this crosses over bit into the idea of pathway dependence that we discussed at the beginning of this season. When we repeat a way of doing things and in this case a self-imposed constraint, when we repeat it enough, it becomes more of a habit and less of a conscious choice. I believe a self-leader regularly reflects on their habits to make sure they are still the best choice, aligning with current values and goals. And pathway dependence means you’ve had success doing things a certain way to get a result, in this case protecting something, that you lose the vision for a different way of doing things, utilizing your resources differently. So I think this question fits in the pathway dependence conversation  but let’s unpack this a bit more.

The question again is how do you now when a constraint is no longer serving you  or has become a detriment. When I really focused on this question, I kept seeing an image of the character from Monk. Have you seen that? It’s an older show about a man who already had Obsessive Compulsive tendencies but with the death of his wife he went into high level protection and OCD. And after living in a pandemic, his obsessive use of hand cleaner and wipes just don’t seem that farfetched. And this is an extreme example of constraints. These rules you live by that at some level, protected something you valued but need to be adjusted to make sure that it’s not over protecting and actually holding you back in an important growth area.

And I’ll be honest with you, when I was wrestling with health issues in 2019 and we worked for months getting incorrect diagnosis after incorrect diagnoses and even still we haven’t figured everything out, I searched out and created rules or limitations that I adhered to because I so much wanted to feel better. I’ve shared with you before, the most helpful diagnosis we got was that of paradoxical vocal cord dysfunction and instead of adding more medications, I was allowed to drop most of them and began working with a vocal therapist. One of the first things we did is she had me describe my journey to her, and what showed up in that, was the rules I had been living by and we examined them, kept the ones that supported my healing and discarded the rest. And we added a few new ones to the mix. Part of that healing had been to not talk or whisper for two weeks prior to my therapy, to let my throat heal, but then with her, I began to speak, and even sing among other vocal exercises to work my throat. I remember one morning showing up to therapy and talking softly when my therapist asked my what was wrong. I said that I was so afraid that I had damaged my throat the night before shouting at my dog who was about to knock a hot dish off the stove. She told me something very important, I needed to trust that my throat was strong and getting stronger. I needed to believe it and I needed to live like it. I needed to let go of the constraints that had supported my healing but were no longer needed.

So here are a few steps to discerning if your protective constraint is still supporting you.

Are you growing? And this doesn’t mean growing in every way but do you feel you are continuing on the journey to being your next better version of yourself. I remember a song lyric from a song I liked in high school and I couldn’t really tell you any of the other lyrics but this one stuck, it said if you ever stop growing then you start to die. Asking this question, are you growing will help reveal if you are over-protecting. I’m all for margin and resilience but. Are you underestimating your capacity? Time, energy, family, heart, ego –

 So again, you don’t have to be achieving in every area all the time, that’s not how I define growth, but are you continuing to evolve as a human. Taking on challenges, learning new skills, expanding your awareness and impact. If you can’t identify any level of growth, have a look at your self-imposed constraints.

Limitations that once protected you could now be stunting your growth.

You may find it helpful to talk to a good friend or even a coach to help you examine your constraints. Remember these are self-imposed, you get to choose what to keep and what to get rid of.

Another question could be, are you dreaming? I’m not talking about do you dream while you sleep. I’m talking about awake dreaming. Are you playing with ideas about what you would do without any restrictions. Sometimes we are so locked into our constraints that we forget that at least many of them  self-imposed. We forget how to look beyond them and think bigger. If you answer that you’re not dreaming, reconnect with old dreams and then ask yourself what experiences would feed your soul? Challenge yourself to make a bucket list. Once that is done, ask what is stopping you from going for something on your list. See if any of those obstacles are self-imposed constraints that no longer serve you.

Once you’ve exposed the constraints that no longer support your pursuit of living according to your values and goals, take steps to let go of them.

The most important place to start in changing an old constraint is your mind. Create a thought that supports the change and repeat it as needed.

For me with my throat, anytime I begin to feel anxious about straining my voice or it’s unreliability, I remind myself that “my throat is stronger than it was and getting stronger every day.”

Yes I still have some self-care constraints that continue on and I show up to do my throat exercises every day but I no longer stress over shouting for my favorite team or singing a familiar tune.

So are you growing, are you dreaming, are self-imposed constraints responsible for a lack in either of those areas. What thought do you need to lift a constraint that has outlived its purpose.

I hope this discussion and these steps give you food for thought and support for your questions around a different aspect of constraint.




Own and Flip Constraints


On today’s episode, we look at a simple but powerful technique to quickly process constraint. Learn to own your constraint and then flip it to generate creative and motivating energy. We also take a peek into Laura Huang’s excellent book,  Edge: Turning Adversity into Advantage. Don’t miss this short and powerful episode!

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Boss Yourself First –


BYF Podcast Season 2 Episode 8

As we wrap up our solo episodes of the season, I want to give you another perspective on constraint and another sort of quick hack for processing constraint.  We’ve spent the last 7 weeks looking at the stages of processing constraint and tools to help us clearly identify the constraint and ask the right questions to get to innovative solutions. We’ve also looked at supporting our work by tapping into emotional motivation. Today, I want to share another simple tool for processing constraints be they physical constraints, emotional constraints, mental constraints. When we run into an obstacle that limits our movement toward our desired result, this method can help you out. And this is a method I’ve used for some time and I really didn’t think about how it applies to constraints because I usually use it with myself and clients when it comes to limiting beliefs but since limiting beliefs whether they are held by ourselves or someone else, are a form of constraint. This all came together for me back when I was first preparing for this season and I was reading a book by a Harvard Associate Professor named Laura Huang. If you haven’t heard of her yet, you will she is an up and coming thought leader and a very popular professor. Her book is called Edge, Turning Adversity into Advantage and it is an excellent read and after reading it, I can see why she is such a popular professor. Anyway, Huang writes about a particular constraint and I want to share that with you and then I’ll share the method I mentioned earlier. As a child, Huang was place in a Gifted and Talented Math program but not the reading/language arts GT program. The reason she was given was that the language arts would be too challenging for her as a non-native English speaker. This was confusing as Huang is a multi-language native speaker and one of those languages was English. However, this was a concept that her elementary teacher could not grasp. Almost 10 years after that Huang was enrolled in the required Freshman writing course at her university. She received a failing grade on her first writing assignment and went to get clarity from the instructor. His explanation had a familiar ring, “Don’t worry, since English is not your native language, it will take you some time to get the hang of writing. It will come.”  Frustrated, Huang surmised that because of her last name the instructor had given her the constraint of being a non-native English speaker. Her suspicions were soon confirmed when she found another Asian student in her class had a similar experience with that instructor. Here’s where it gets really fun and leads into our discussion of today’s technique. Huang and her falsely constrained fellow student decided to grab hold of that constraint and use it. Huang says, “So we came up with a plant to “own” the constraint.” In Huang’s next essay, she frequently referenced her “nonnative English” and wrote about overcoming the challenges of overcoming this constraint. The instructor missed the sarcasm and bought further into the constraint he had set. She got a B- on the paper.

I want to share this quote from Huang’s book, Edge, she says, “ When we own constraints, magical things can happen. Indeed, when we leverage difficulties and use them as tools to propel us toward success, we start to carve out our edge. “


I want that to fall fresh on you today, no matter whether a constraint comes from an outside source or from yourself, when you leverage it as a tool, you have an advantage.


That’s what we are going to do in the next few minutes. And this is a really simple process, are you ready? You own the constraint. And I’ll share with you one of my most recent ones, I am in the second draft of my book and to be really honest, I’m struggling with motivation to go through the rewrites. So, my constraint that I’m noticing is that I have low motivation to get the work done on the book.

The next step is to flip the constraint. I’m going to repeat here just so you catch the flip.


I have low motivation to work on my book so it’s not getting done.

I am highly motivated to work so it’s going to get done.


So you caught that right? I just stated the opposite of my constraint. Now that you’ve got the flip. You ask yourself a question. This is where we take advantage of our brain’s hard-wired proclivity to answer questions. We just have to ask the right question. We make a question from our flip statement of constraint.


If I were highly motivated to work on this book, what would I be doing? And here is where you can nuance the question a little bit. Make sure your words are strong enough to trigger some answers in your mind. So, to be honest, the question I just stated didn’t generate a lot of energy for me, It didn’t really connect emotionally with me. So, I looked to amp up my question. It became – If I were obsessed with finishing this book, what would I be doing right now?


Boom!  I was off to the races. If I were obsessed with finishing, I would put other projects on hold. I would let my family know that they would see a little less of me for a bit. I would put someone else in charge of dinner time. I would get my readers reading and be excited about their feedback. I would be committing to a publisher. And the list went on all the way to the condition of my desk. A writer obsessed with her book, would not let other projects clutter her workspace.


Let’s use another example that we’ve used for different techniques this season. I cannot make a profit with my restaurant with no indoor dining allowed. If we own that and flip it we’d have. I can make a profit with no indoor dining allowed. What if we wanted to amp the question? It might become, I can make more profit than ever before with no indoor dining. Then we ask ourselves the flip question? If I were making more profit than ever before, without indoor dining, what would I be doing? I’d be delivering food. I’d be making prepped meal kits to sell curbside or deliver. I’d be taking online orders for pick up.


This is a quick and powerful technique. Just be sure to get the flipped question amped up to emotional connection. You’ll know when you’ve got it because the answers will start to come and bring you a punch of energy.


The last step is to act on your ideas as soon as possible. Take the smallest, most actionable idea and make it happen as soon as you have your list generated.  Get moving and you’ll get momentum.


Hey this was a quick one today, but I hope you are already thinking of some constraints to work on. I’d love to hear about your journey, you can reach me at or message me on Instagram or Facebook. I hope you have a fantastic week owning your constraints and flipping them for your own good purposes. Thanks for being here and take care everyone.



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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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.





The Self-Leader Way to Process Constraint

In this episode, we are jumping into the process of leveraging constraint. We explore each stage and I share a bit of my journey with constraint. Where are you in the process? Once you find out, you can take specific steps to move forward to get where you want to go with new perspectives and new energy. 


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Hello! I hope you’re having a fantastic week. What is your “normal” right now? Have you settled into a pandemic rhythm? We have for the most part.  My youngest was in school with a hybrid model and then it switched to all on line and now she goes back to the hybrid model again next week. The other three of us in the house are working at home full time. my youngest is just finishing up college applications. Then it’s just waiting to see where she will wind up next fall. And IB tests to wrap up her senior year. My husband’s busy season is wrapping up while mine is winding up but that’s okay. He’s pretty great and We shift the household responsibilities around according to our work schedules. My youngest grandson is teething, so my oldest daughter has her hands full.But  You know, life is chugging along. Sometimes that’s just perfect, we can rest a bit, restock our energy reserves. But sometimes when that regular rhythm of life has been steady for a while, we get comfortable and we lose energy on our goals., we need a little something to wake us up, engage us and help us move towards our objectives. That is part of self-leadership recognizing when to reenergize and when to get up and get going on those goals.  I think this is a great time .to talk about this as we’re fully into the first quarter of the year, whether you set resolutions or if you’re like me, I set out yearly vision and break that into quarterly check points, we start strong but as we get into the rhythms of the new year, we lose motivation and interest. Well, this season we’re talking about something that can help. That something is constraint. Yes, you heard me, constraint can help wake you up and when you connect it to strong motivation – you can slingshot forward toward your goals with new perspective, creative thinking and bold actions. Now I’m getting a little ahead of myself because we’re only on the second episode of the season, but I want you to grab hold of the rewards of doing this work with constraints. On episode 1 we talked about how we’re defining constraint and looked at examples of how constraint can be leveraged. We even started playing with constraint with our very own constraint challenge. So this week, i want to focus in on the cycle of processing constraint. We talked about it last week but as a reminder, our book for this season is A Beautiful Constraint by Mark Barden and Adam Morgan and if you want the BYF reading schedule you can visit the Boss Yourself First Facebook page and we’ll be talking about our reading inside the Boss Yourself Facebook Group which is completely free to join and we’d love to have you.  So remember last week we combined a couple of definition including one from our A Beautiful constraint to define constraint as a limitation or defining parameter imposed by outside circumstances or by ourselves that can stimulate creativity and innovation. I want to talk to you about the cycle of processing constraint and I want each of us today to figure out where we are in the process of dealing with a constraint. In Morgan and Barden’s book they identify three stages of processing constraint. I love this because it removes the idea that we do this work, and we will automatically feel great about working with constraint. The stages of processing constraint are victim, neutralizer and transformer and they break that down into actually two kinds of transformers that we’ll get into in a minute. It kind of reminds me of the stages of grief but as I thought it over it’s a little more like using a sling shot. Stage one the rock is placed in the sling and the sling is pulled back tighter and tighter creating tension and then you have Stage two that time while you’re aiming that you’re not adding or taking away tension and then stage three the release creates so much energy and momentum shooting that rock towards the target. So let’s talk about the victim stage Now Cambridge dictionary defines a victim as someone or something that has been hurtdamaged, or killed or has suffered, either because of the actions of someone or something else, or because of illness or chance:


The key to identifying as a victim according to this definition is being hurt or held back by something other than yourself. A victim is someone who believes that their circumstance is not due to their choice. Beyond their control. I don’t want to give a negative connotation to victim, victims are for real, blameless people get caught in damaging circumstances every day. However, no matter what the circumstance aside from catastrophic circumstances that result in immediate death, we get to choose how we respond. Back to our friend Victor Frankl from Season 1 that space between stimulus and response is where we choose to stay a victim or choose to move forward which in this conversation is the next stage of neutralizer.

Before we jump into defining the next stage, let’s define what Adam and Morgan mean as a victim in the context of constraint. I’ve already mentioned the stages are Victim, Neutralizer and transformer and each definition is a progression of how a person or company adjusts their ambition when confronted with a constraint. And it’s a process because depending on the severity of the constraint. For example, how many of you when the pandemic first started shutting things down, and schools closed paused most activities and watched the news, for me, I soon realized that the news perpetuated my victim feelings and I moved on to comfort food and binge-watching The Great British Baking show, that could only go so long because that behavior was not paying my bills or educating my children or serving my client. I moved to figuring out new ways to accomplish my priorities. And here we are with a podcast. But it was a necessary for me to work through the process and I found with myself and my clients that we each have our own rate of working through the process.

Okay back to Adam and Morgan’s definition of victim as person who when confronted with a constraint lowers their ambition. So referring back to my example, when things shut down, I lowered my ambition to watching the television and eating whatever I craved. It was a pretty low bar. The next stage is Neutralizer so for this stage when a person is confronted with constraint, they keep their original ambition but look for a different approach to fulfill that ambition. For me that meant team trainings on Zoom instead of in person. Rearranging the rooms in our home to accommodate learning and working for four people. We joked about having a university in the dining room, a coaching company in the office, a high school in an upstairs bedroom and a consulting firm in another bedroom we converted into an office. 

That takes us to the third stage of processing constraint and that is a Transformer which Morgan and Barden define as a person who when dealing with constraint sees it as an opportunity, even increasing their original ambition. I’m going to break with my dealing with the pandemic illustration to a different constraint that I dealt with in 2019. This was a health constraint, in early May of that year I contracted a serious respiratory virus, with violent coughing that lasted well into July, tearing rib and abdominal muscles. In June this manifested in a way that caused my airways to suddenly close where I couldn’t breathe or talk to explain what was going on. It did open as I was seeing spots and on the verge of passing out, but we followed that experience up with a trip to the ER in case it happened again. Well, that began a series of steroid, misdiagnosis and medications that continued through to September. And during that time, Iost my voice. It would work intermittently but I had to suspend my clients work. Eventually we got to a diagnosis that seemed to capture what was going on, called Paradoxical vocal-chord dysfunction which can be triggered by a vicious virus. The treatment was vocal therapy so finally in November of 2019, I was on the mend and my voice was becoming more stable. I bring this up because not speaking was a constraint I had never considered facing. I had been a singer and performer and of course a coach. Part of my recovery involved not trying to talk or whisper for a few weeks just to let my throat heal and we quickly found out that I am most often the instigator or conversations in our household. However, during this quiet time, I began writing my book. I refused to believe that I couldn’t support others with my work and so I wrote it out. In working on the book, I realized that I wanted to play with the concepts more and so I started this podcast. To continue to grow and explore self-leadership. My ambition actually expanded because of my voice constraints.

Remember I told you that Barden and Morgan actually divided the transformer stage into two categories and those are Responsive transformers – where a person or company is responding to a constraint as an opportunity for new solutions and the Proactive transformers who actually impose constraints to catalyze a better approach or solution.

So now my challenge for you, to think about a constraint you’ve faced or are currently facing. Can you see these stages in the process? There is no judgement here. We each deal with different ambition and different constraints at different speeds.

I’m going to leave you with a quote from Morgan and Barden in their book, A Beautiful Constraint “Moving from victim to transformer will require strength in mindset, (do you believe it’s possible?), method (do we know how to start doing this?) and motivation (how much does it matter to us)”

I think those are great questions to consider this week. First, do you believe constraint can be leveraged for advantage so much so that you welcome it and consider it beautiful? Second, Does it matter to you? Do you care enough to do the work of learning to leverage constraint for advantage? Is the cost worth the reward? And lastly, do you know how to do it? How to move forward with the power of constraint? That’s what we’re here learning, that’s why Barden and Morgan wrote the book. So that if we don’t know, we can figure it out.

I hope you are enjoying our second season of the self-leadership podcast. We learn and reflect and challenge ourselves to become the next better version of ourselves – not just to serve ourselves but to make the world a better place one leader at a time. If you are enjoying this and getting value from the work, please take a few minutes and leave a review wherever you listen to podcasts. And if you haven’t already done so, you are invited to subscribe to the Mind Your Monday newsletter to be the first to know all of the BYF happenings and to expand on the work we’re doing on the podcast. Also, I’d love to hear about your self-leadership journey and your wresting with constraints. You can find me on the boss yourself Facebook page, Instagram or LinkedIn. I hope you reach out and connect and I hope you have a great rest of your week, until next time, take care.


The Freedom of Constraint

Today we’re introducing our topic for Season 2. This season we’re exploring constraint. While freedom and constraint may seem like opposing forces, we’re going to spend the next couple of months exploring the way self-leaders can leverage constraint to increase creativity and innovation. We’ll learn to use the power of constraint to free up and even accelerate forward movement. Today we define constraint, introduce this season’s book club read and challenge ourselves to start playing with the power of constraint.  Join us, it’s going to be a great season and we’re just getting started!


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Episode Transcript

Welcome to season two of the Boss Yourself First podcast! I hope you had an amazing holiday season. I know it was probably different, I know it was for us but we got creative about how to connect with family and still take precautions to protect everyone from Covid. And that creativity to work around limits leads me right into this season’s topic. This season we are talking about constraint and how self-leaders can leverage constraint to move forward. As I just mentioned, most of us encountered or imposed constraints on our holiday celebrations so it feels like a timely pursuit. I’m so excited to jump into this season’s topic! I have a long history with constraint and I find the mindset and the process of leveraging constraint really freeing. Which sounds a little paradoxical – constraint and freedom but I think they are a powerful pairing. My constraints have generally come as physiological conditions. But I have had three major constraints I mean I have some of the normal ones of finance and busyness, but the health constraints felt the most impactful.  In fact, the first one showed up in my early 20’s the next in my 40’s and the most recent one in 2019. I’ll unpack these a bit more later in the season but I can track my self-leadership skill development by my exposure to these constraints and how deftly I processed constraints to leverage them for forward movement. Also, my relationship with constraint has really informed my client work in ways that my training and certifications never could. And I hope to bring the forward here this season as we explore and learn about constraints together.

As we do for each topic we explore, I want to get really clear on how we’re defining constraint. So Today we’re going to unpack our definition of constraint, explore why it is helpful and then share a challenge with you at the end of the episode. The first definition I found when I began to prepare for this is a limitation imposed by outside circumstances or by ourselves that materially affects our ability to do something. Well circle back to that definition soon,

But before we do, I want to tell you a couple of stories that can help focus our ideas about constraint.

I want to take you back to 1930 in Uruguay where a young teacher named Juan Carlos Ceriani devised a game similar to soccer but that could be played inside for his students. He named the game “futsal” The most noticeable difference between futsal and soccer is the size of the field. Futsal happens in a much smaller space. Ceriani’s game caught on and in the 30’s and 40’s became really popular in Brazil. Interestingly, today more people in Brazil play futsal than soccer and there are a number of speculations about why this is. A dominate one is that because of space limitations, futsal is easier to accommodate in Brazil but there was an intriguing side effect of Brazil’s love affair with futsal. Because many Brazilian children start playing futsal and later transition to soccer they develop extraordinary agility in ball handling along with quick reflexes and game decision making skills. The smaller playing area of futsal requires the athletes to speed up in their reactions, decision and movements. Check this out, during the 12-year span from 1958 to 1970, Brazil won three of the four World Cup Championships. The constraint of futsal brought innovation to the athletic training of Brazilian Soccer players.

You may already be familiar with the next story but a writer was challenged by his publisher, to create a children’s book limiting himself to 225 words chosen for him from  6-7 year-olds vocabulary lists. His goal was to make something more interesting and challenging than the current Dick and Jane books used in education at that time. The writer grew frustrated with this list and gave himself a further constraint. He would choose the first two words on the list that rhymed for the foundation of his story. Those two words? Cat and Hat. Yes, the writer was Theodor Geisel also known as Dr. Seuss. He leveraged constraint to focus his creativity. If that wasn’t enough, Geisel’s publisher then challenged him to create a children’s book using 50 words –they bet $50 and Geisel once again gave himself another constraint and utilized 49 one syllable words and 1 three syllable word at the end – 9 months later, (no one said it was quick or easy leveraging constraint) Geisel presented his publisher with what became Green Eggs and Ham.

So constraint! Now you know that I choose a book to go along with our season and I’m not choosing Dr. Seuss but that’s always a fun read, so maybe we’ll have to add it in. If you want to read with our group you can join the BYF Face Book group where I will post a reading schedule and we will discuss what we’ve read during the season. This season’s book is A Beautiful Constraint, by Adam Morgen and Mark Barden. And you’ll hear me refer to it throughout our season but one reason I chose it, is I really appreciate it’s approach to constraint is the recognition of the cycle we work through when dealing with constraint. Which we will jump into in episode two. Right now, I want to bring us back to our definition of constraint which is is a limitation imposed by outside circumstances or by ourselves that materially affects our ability to do something. Now Morgen and Barden want to amend that definition just a bit they would like to define constraint as “’A limitation or defining parameter, often the stimulus to find a better way of doing something.”

I like this focus on the effects of constraint so for our season we’ll be defining constraint as a limitation or defining parameter imposed by outside circumstances or by ourselves that can stimulate creativity and innovation.

As our definition states, there are two kinds of constraints external – limitations imposed by outside forces or circumstances – like the weather Ceriani encountered motivating him to design inside activity for his students, or the space restrictions that motivated Brazilians to embrace the smaller, inside game. The other kind of constraint is internal – a limitation you impose on yourself to focus and inspire your thoughts like Geisel did with choosing the first two rhyming words and then later limiting himself to one syllable words. I find it really interesting that most external constraints have a negative connotation while most internal constraints have a negative connotation. I’m sure you’ve already noticed what might be contributing to that difference. Choice. We feel empowered by choice and disempowered by the lack of it and who wants to feel disempowered? There are so many different facets to explore and variety of skills we can develop around constraint. I hope you feel empowered and use that power to choose to tune in for our whole second season. The best way to ensure you don’t miss an episode is to subscribe where ever you listen to podcasts and I would be so grateful if you would take the time to leave a review. It helps others find the podcast and it really encourages me. On our next episode, we’re talking about the cycle of processing constraint and the self- leadership principles to move through that process. Now before you go, I want to give you a challenge that I gave myself so we can start playing with choosing constraint. And there is a bit of a story behind the challenge. And it is really a myth, the origins of the story are questionable but it sets up our challenge well. Once again we’re traveling back in time this time to the 1920’s to a crowded restaurant at the Algonquin Hotel in New York City where Ernest Hemingway made a $10 dollar bet with some other writers that he could write a six-word short story. After composing the story on to a napkin, he passed it around the table and collected his winnings. His story read, “For sale, Baby Shoes, Never Worn.” My love for this story is not really diminished by it’s debatable veracity. The constraint of those 6 words allows Every reader to bring their own context to the story. So my challenge for you is to answer two questions using only 6 words in each answer. The questions are: How would you describe 2020? How do you hope to describe 2021? I’m no Hemingway but here are mine. In answering How I describe 2020 in 6 words I wrote “And the whole planet stayed home.” In how I hope to describe 2021. Gratefully, I left my mask behind.  I hope you accept the challenge and I would love to hear your answers. You can email them to me at or post them on the Boss Yourself First Facebook Page or comment on a boss yourself first post on Instagram. C’mon take the challenge! And until next time, take care!