I’m always amazed by the power of restrictions and limitations. It’s interesting how by adding a few boundaries, I’m able to create something from nothing. Restrictions can provide a framework for creativity, a way for us to take chaotic concepts and organize them into something tangible. It’s understandable then why so many great minds found success by enshrining themselves in restrictions, or approaching their work with a set of guidelines. The vital difference is that restrictions can simultaneously be rigid and freeing – they force us to stick to a plan while also allowing us room to be creative.
In my own work, I often use restrictions when pursuing insights in mathematics and physics. I allow myself a different set of restrictions depending on the field and nature of the problem. For physics, I set up equations and rules that I must follow while searching for a solution. For mathematics, I limit my thought process to certain logical assumptions and then use those to find an innovative solution. But I also use restrictions in my personal life, setting up boundaries that give me focus and focus on fractions of the day or week. For example, I set aside two nights during the week for my favorite physical activities, like fly-fishing and laser tag, and then spend the rest of my spare time on other pursuits such as reading and unicycling.
The beauty of restrictions is that they give us the power to limit our creative options, and in the process help us hone in on the most effective approaches. They also give us a sense of control, since we know that for better or worse we can only proceed within our carefully defined parameters. We don’t have to be restricted to our restriction behaviors, though. We can always use our restrictions as a simple way to stay on task, allowing us to explore outside of the box without losing our focus.
Ultimately, restrictions are a tool that we can use to stay on track while creating something truly beautiful. By placing a set of unified conditions around our work, we can find freedom even in the most restrictive of environments. With the right set of restrictions, we will find ourselves empowered to create the most unexpected, creative and innovative solutions. After all, restrictions bring out the best in creativity, allowing us to find something beautiful, no matter how dark the night may seem.