Why Overcoming Personal Constraints is the Key to Success
I have always been interested in what made some people successful while others just plugged along at a lesser level. Why does Tiger Woods continue to outperform other golfers? Why does Katie Couric continue moving up while others get fired? Why does Terry Bradshaw continue to be an anchor in broadcasting long after others have faded? Why, why, why? I was full of questions, and it seemed the only way to get the answers was to go to as many highly successful people as I could, study them, and find out what differences existed between them and their lower-performing peers.
So I did.
We studied everybody we could get access to—and that was a pretty impressive group of people. We studied the top performers on Wall Street, and we studied many of the top performers in industry. We studied many of the world’s top athletes from all kinds of sports, and we studied kids who were exceptional in test scores and performance. We studied television personalities, and we studied moms and dads who were doing an outstanding job raising their kids. We studied our nation’s top educators, and we studied many of the titans of the manufacturing world. We studied top people in retailing, and we studied top people in the military. We studied everyone we could get information on, and we are still studying people, because we want to continue to refine our understanding of the differences between those who perform at the top and those who don’t.
At the heart of Overcoming Personal Constraints (OPC) is the powerful notion that our strengths do not single-handedly define our success. No matter how formidable our talents, we are held back by behaviors that set the limits of our performance or define the reasons for our failure. In other words, our personal constraints determine our ultimate level of success. If you can identify those constraints and make a plan to overcome them, then you’ll see a dramatic surge in success, productivity, and happiness in all aspects of your life. In short you’ll learn who you were born to be.
The Personal Constraint Theory™ of success challenges two prevailing approaches to self-improvement that frequently did not work for my clients: Personality Theory and Strength Theory. Personality Theory asserts that our personalities are essentially fixed in ways that define how we act. A broad field that encompasses several sometimes-conflicting views of “the self,” Personality Theory offers little help identifying issues or strategies for improvement. I agree with the underlying idea that our innate characteristics or traits often define who we are, but Personality Theory fails to acknowledge our tremendous capacity for making positive change in our lives and, thus, offers limited use as a tool for growth. Dozens of profiles can describe your personality. Tests such as DiSC, Myers-Briggs, and Taylor-Johnson are interesting to take and helpful in describing your personality, but they are not particularly useful in bringing about behavioral change or directing personal growth.
Another popular school of thought, known as Strength Theory, suggests that if we pay attention to the directions in which we move naturally, this can reveal our strengths and show us where to focus our energies. Strength Theory goes something like this: our hardwired personalities resist change, so we should build on our natural abilities instead of concentrating on areas in which we underperform. In other words, to quote the phrase by which this theory has been popularized, we should “play to our strengths.” I certainly agree with the basic concept of Strength Theory—why work in an office when you are a gifted musician or stay in a job you hate just because it pays a decent wage? Find your gifts, develop them, and use them for the highest and greatest good.
Strength Theory contributes to success. But it’s not enough. If you know your strengths but are trying to get to the next level, playing harder to those strengths won’t cause a significant jump in performance. Most people I work with don’t need pep talks about being better at what they’re already great at or loving themselves as they are. Telling a highly creative person with no self-control to simply celebrate and expand his creativity, for example, would be counterproductive: his or her gifts can never be fully expressed without the focus and discipline that come with self-control.
Neither Personality Theory nor Strength Theory has been greatly useful to my work. The idea that my personality is impervious to change doesn’t help me much when I am trying to make my life better. And being told to focus on my strengths doesn’t address the behaviors I need to correct in order to move forward.
In contrast, Overcoming Personal Constraints™ is built on the notion that change is more than possible; it is imperative. To live fully we can and must learn how to minimize our behavioral weaknesses while we maximize our strengths. Granted, many obstacles are difficult to overcome, and a single-minded focus on our limitations could be frustrating and even depressing. But to ignore them is even worse.
Take the first step towards overcoming your personal constraints. Contact us.