I've written about constraints once before (Constraints - one minute read) and in this post, I'd like to explore them from a different point of view.
I'd like to talk about how beautiful and powerful they are.
First, let's talk about the Koch snowflake.
In order to understand a Koch snowflake, we need to understand the principle of self-organization.
Here's a definition from a book called Thinking in Systems: A Primer by Donella Meadows (a personal favourite of mine):
Self-organization is the capacity of a system to make its own structure more complex. A few simple organizing principles can lead to wildly diverse self-organizing structures. Imagine a triangle with three equal sides. Add to the middle of each triangle another equilateral triangle, one-third the size of the first one. Add to each of the new sides another triangle, one-third smaller. And so on. The result is called a Koch snowflake. Its edge has a tremendous length-but it can be contained within a circle. This structure is one simple example of fractal geometry - a realm of mathematics and art populated by elaborate shapes formed by relatively simple rules.
Image Source: xaktly
That's a lot of words.
Let's just focus on a few.
Its edge has a tremendous length-but it can be contained within a circle.
Take a look at the image above, more specifically the last row in the table.
From what I understand about the math behind a Koch snowflake—admittedly, I don't understand much—the numbers in that row can technically go to infinity.
And yet, the snowflake stays contained within—in this particular image—a square.
Insert mind blown emoji. Right?
I honestly can't decide what's more appealing about this. The fact that with one simple rule—adding triangles to a triangle—you can get to infinity, or the fact that infinity can be contained in a box.
Since I can't decide, I'll focus on both, because I think there's a sequence here and we can learn a lot from that sequence.
The first lesson to learn, is that you need to define your box.
I am realizing as I write this that if infinity can be contained inside the box, why on earth would you ever need to think outside it. But let's bookmark that for another time.
The second lesson, is that you need to define your simple rule. Maybe one is too few or too hard to do, and I guess you won't know until you try it for yourself.
Thus far in this post I've been a bit abstract, so I'd like to end with an example that puts this into practical terms.
I like to exercise at home, and I have a small home gym.
My home gym is currently located in our basement.
Our basement, is quite literally a rectangular box.
It's got a comfortable length and slightly narrow width, but as far as height goes, I can't fully extend my arms above my head.
So there's lesson one. My box, defined.
For a while, I struggled with this. It felt like a limitation. Not being able to stand up and raise anything over my head.
There's a beautiful reframing that can happen when you change a limitation to a constraint.
Enter lesson two. The simple rule I made for myself:
Stay inside the box.
This means don't investigate what it would look like (read: cost) to literally lower the floor of the basement or blow up the ceiling to gain more height. Yes, both of these thoughts entered my mind.
This means ignore buying any equipment for the home gym that exceeds a certain height, or any equipment that exceeds the height limit when I try to use it.
Luckily for me, infinity can be contained within the box.
Enjoy your constraints.