The Ultimate Power Trio: Pressure. Purpose. Constraints.

Whether you're an intrapreneur {like I used to be} or an entrepreneur leading your own show {like I am now}, you are driven. You're a self-starter. You want to read all the books, do all the things, smash all the goals, and also be a super awesome parent/spouse/friend/artist/bon vivant. You expect a lot of yourself and you're so excited to do big things.

All that drive takes a lot of fuel. That's where this trifecta comes in: pressure; purpose; constraints.

With the right balance of these three magical gems, you're all you know you can be. You're free from that awful nagging feeling that you could and should be doing more. Without the right balance of these three, you get lost. You wander into downward-spiral talk. You lose your possibilities or chase too many at once.


I think most of us thrive on the right amount of pressure, from the right sources. And as we move into different phases of our lives, the amount and types of pressure we thrive on will change.

Figuring out what the right amount is for you means finding not so much that it's unbearable, not so little that you're too comfortable (or, like me, uncomfortable with the lack of discomfort).

Noticing what the right sources for you are takes time and honesty. Maybe you need most or all of your pressure to come from external sources -- like deadlines imposed by projects assigned to you by others. Maybe you thrive on the pressure you create for yourself to achieve all that you desire. Maybe it's a combination of internal and external. 

I've become very used to a certain combination of external and internal pressure. As I learn to focus more of my time and energy on projects that are all my own, I'm finding that applying the right amount of pressure, when it's completely driven from within, is more challenging than I knew. And without it, I can lose sight of my priorities and purpose.


Why am I doing what I'm doing? It seems simple enough. But it isn't.

This one question can contain a multitude of supporting questions. Big things like: Why am I marrying this person (or not); becoming a parent (or not)? Why am I in this line of work; why am I doing this job at this company? Or as small as: Why am I sending this email; watching this movie; eating this food? 

It's easy to confuse being purpose-driven with being busy. You're doing lots of stuff, all the time, as fast as you can and as well as you can. There are emails to answer, social media channels to nurture, meetings to attend, challenges to solve, and goals to beat. 

Real purpose is more than getting it done. It's knowing why you're getting it done, and only getting done what fits your why. It's what drives accomplishment that goes far beyond checking items off a to-do list. Losing sight of your purpose can lead to a career that just follows whichever way the wind blows, or (and this is especially true for self-driven projects) a major case of the 'why bothers.'

Where work or side projects are involved, talking to someone, anyone, about what I'm doing, is often enough to reconnect me to my purpose. I can't help but talking about why I'm doing something when I'm talking with someone about what I'm doing. 


David Ogilvy famously said,"Give me the freedom of a tight brief." 

Freedom from constraints is not freedom at all. We're left to revisit every decision at every turn. We have all options open all the time. Without the constraint of time, we can spend an endless amount of time on perfecting work that might only be worth an hour or two. Without the constraint of desired results, we can chase endless ultimately useless tasks. 

In essence, without constraints, we're just treading water in an endless blue ocean. (Take that, blue ocean strategy!)

Constraints allow us to focus, to move forward, to get results. The obvious examples are time, budget, people, client expectations, performance metrics. But what if we go deeper?

Purpose can help us set the right constraints. Perhaps we're a creative business that values quality above all else, and so will constrain ourselves to only deliver work we'd proudly feature in our portfolio - regardless of time or client response. Perhaps we're a consultant who seeks to make a certain kind of impact on our clients and so will only take on clients that show they can make impactful use of our services.

And while pressure might be what we feel in the face of certain constraints, it is not the constraint.


What do you think? Have you seen the power of the Pressure-Purpose-Constraints trifecta in your own life? I'd love to hear your story!