Why Positive Constraints Are So Valuable

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What Next?

I haven't managed to write nearly as much as I'd hoped for the past several months, but for good reason.

After Techstars finished, I did a bit of traveling to visit some friends in Europe, and then headed back home to Nova Scotia.  I ended up staying longer than planned - it's difficult to leave Nova Scotia in the summer (check out this video to see what I mean).  Ultimately though, it was one of the best summers in recent memory.

While traveling, much of my headspace was occupied with the question: what next?

Techstars resulted in opportunities: at the time I was consulting for several clients, which would pay the bills indefinitely.  I was also enjoying doing work in growing the drone-based aerial photography and video company my brothers and I started.

Ultimately, I made the decision to come back to Montreal and commit myself to a long-term project based on the idea of positive constraints.

Positive Constraints as a Productivity Tool

The general concept of positive constraints is this: more can be accomplished with limited freedom, rather than complete freedom.

Complete freedom, in the context of my decision, was the option to do consulting work from wherever I had a computer and internet, while traveling the world and living out of a backpack.

Limited freedom was going back to Montreal, getting into a routine, and working towards a long-term, big goal.

One of the deep beliefs I have is that habit is often the driver of long-term success, whether it be in fitness, health, skill-acquisition, or another area of life.

Establishing Habits

Establishing habits is a difficult thing to do when given complete freedom.  Think about the last time you traveled: did you exercise as much as you liked?  Did you eat what you wanted?  Did you view the lifestyle you were living as sustainable?

In my experience, it's very difficult to establish routines and patterns unless you are anchored to a particular location, which somewhat defeats the purpose of living out of a backpack.

Professionally, is it in your best interests to be constantly traveling?  Does networking and becoming connected to a workplace, colleagues, or a city, matter?

Establishing habits is a difficult process.  How many people try to follow a diet and fail?  Try to exercise and fail?  Part of succeeding is establishing a routine, and lowering the barrier to success.  Is it easier to follow a diet if you set up grocery delivery at your home, or have to find a new place to eat every meal?  Is it easier to workout every day if you have a weeks worth of workout clothes at home, or if you have one set that you need to wash every time?

The idea behind positive constraints is that limiting your available options can make decision-making and habit-forming easier (read The Paradox of Choice or watch the TED talk).  Unlimited choices for how you structure your day can lead to no structure, and an unfulfilling day.

Ultimately, I decided that while it was tempting to take advantage of some financial freedom that wasn't tied to a particular location, the goals and processes that I wanted to accomplish were much more likely to happen with some constraints.

So here I am!  Back in Montreal, having joined a new startup, which you can read about here.  Aside from always enjoying being back in Montreal, I'm embracing routine and the positive things that come with it.