You never want a serious crisis to go to waste…
it’s an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before.
– Rahm Emanuel, mayor of Chicago

Learning to be creative within the confines of our limitations
is the best hope we have to transform ourselves,
and collectively, transform our world.
– Phil Hansen, artist

A problem is not something to be solved;
it’s a message to be listened to.
– Alan Seale

Limitations, challenges, crises – they are all around us all the time. We are conditioned to push against them, to “fix” them, or make them go away. Yet in pushing against, we often lose the great gift or opportunity that the challenge offers.

One of the secrets to success is having the ability to view every challenge or limitation as an opportunity – an invitation to a new perspective and approach. We may not be able to change our circumstance, but we do have a choice about how we look at it, how we think about it, and how we choose to be in relationship with it.

When we choose to partner with the limitation instead of fight against it, new possibilities often emerge that we never imagined before. The limitation can actually spark the creative process. Imagine that the limitation holds the secret to something entirely new – something that just might change everything. If we treat the limitation as a friend instead of as the enemy, doors start opening and amazing things start to happen.

Bring to mind a challenge you are facing or a limitation that is getting in your way. What if it was actually inviting you to think a new way? What if that limitation could actually open doors to a whole new world? Are you willing to give it a try?

One of my clients recently sent me a link to Phil Hansen’s TED talk, “Embrace the Shake.” You can watch the video below. While in art school, Phil developed a tremor in his hand that prevented him from doing the kind of art he loved. He tried to control the shaking, yet holding the pencil tighter just made it worse. Incredibly frustrated, dreams dashed, he gave up and left art altogether. All he could see was the limitation.

After three years, he missed art so much that he went to see a neurologist. The doctor’s diagnosis was that Phil’s nerve damage was permanent. The shake was not going away. But the doctor planted a seed in Phil’s mind. He said, “Why don’t you just embrace the shake?”

Those seven words changed everything for Phil. He chose to embrace the limitation and use it to inspire him instead of shut him down. You can watch the video to get the whole story. Not only did he create amazing art in ways he had never dreamed of before, he recognized the power of limitation to set us free. Phil says, “We need to first be limited in order to become limitless…Limitations may be the most unlikely of places to harness creativity, but perhaps one of the best ways to get ourselves out of ruts, rethink categories, and challenge accepted norms.”

Phil’s powerful message to us all: “Learning to be creative within the confines of our limitations is the best hope we have to transform ourselves, and collectively, transform our world.”

Enjoy the video.


P.S. If you would like to learn more about how to start partnering with your challenge, a good place to start might be our 4-minute “Push Against – Flow With” video in the Media Center of the Center for Transformational Presence website. If you want to go deeper, check out Chapter 17, “The Potential-Based Approach,” in my latest book, Create A World That Works. The book is available through our website store or bookstores everywhere as well as in digital format for most e-readers.


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