When it comes to our money, we often feel like there are many constraints. Constraints on the income we earn, on the money we get to spend, with the deadlines we need to meet for our goals, taxes and so on. It’s easy to look at these constraints negatively, and as something that holds us back. We tend to dislike and dread them. Think about it. Have you ever caught yourself imagining the day when you’ll have enough money to quit your job, or the day when you don’t have to think about your budget before spending?

Now take a moment. What if we were to look at constraints positively? Perhaps they are exactly the reason why we are efficient.

Constraints All Around Us

In every field, and in life, a constraint is a factor that makes every situation interesting and challenging. Humans love to take on challenges, and it’s also what gives us satisfaction. Take art, for example. Jack Butcher, creator of Visualise Value, a content mentoring platform, is a modern day digital artist. If you look at his artwork, the constraints are easily visible. His art is minimalistic, black and white, and he uses the same font throughout. Imagine! Art – a world that has a million paths for expression, a variety of tools to use. If Jack Butcher hadn’t defined his constraints, his artwork would be complex and confusing.

Defining our constraints is like defining the framework within which we can work. It brings about creativity, making work more efficient and innovative. Most of us have worked or completed a project under strict deadlines. In the process, we might have found ingenious ways, or ‘jugaads’ to complete it. Since time was a constraint, we applied our minds to find efficient ways of doing things. And the joy of finishing the project within the said time is unparalleled. 

Similarly, when it comes to managing money, a healthy dose of constraints can make your management more efficient.

How so?

The Budget Constraint

Personal Finance Consultant and Author, Dave Ramsey, put it beautifully when he said, “A budget is telling your money where to go, instead of wondering where it went.”

If you work with a budget, you are practically setting constraints on how much you want to earn, and how much you wish to spend. These constraints, although perceived as a limiting factor, are actually quite helpful and are required for growth. It can make way for bigger goals in life.

Just like time. If you plan your time well, you can achieve a lot more in the same 24 hours than you would without a plan. Having a budget, and being able to stick to it, is a great money management practice to follow. It’s a constraint that hones your ingenuity.

A Goal is a Dream with a Deadline

Speaking of time, without it as a constraint, some dreams may never materialise. Once the deadline is set, all our resources are directed towards it. Right from the energy and effort we put in, to the money we need to set aside for it.

If my dream is to hike the Pacific Crest Trail, putting a time constraint to it, makes the dream more concrete. I will then figure out the steps I must take to fulfil that dream. It cannot happen overnight. But it can definitely happen. Viewing deadlines in a positive light keeps you motivated to achieve your dreams.

Constraints Fuel Growth

A constraint can be a motivating challenge or a frustrating roadblock, depending on how we see it. Look beyond the negative connotation associated with constraints. Just as a budget keeps your financial life in good shape, so also goals encourage you to work towards the life you envision. Build in constraints for yourself, and use them to your advantage.

PS: A Beautiful Constraint: How to Transform Your Limitations Into Advantages, And Why It’s Everyone’s Business makes for a great read on this subject.

Rushina Thacker

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