Embracing Limits

A few years ago I attended a talk by artist Phil Hansen. He spoke on embracing limitations can spark creativity.

Phil was an artist focused on pointillism–which meant creating art from tiny dots. But he developed a tremor in his hand, effectively ending his career.

He sought out medical opinions to stop the shake. In one of the sessions, the doctor delivered the news he’d heard before: the tremor was permanent. Phil, exasperated, asked what he could do. The doctor replied, “Embrace the shake.”

It turned out this was a turning point in his career. Instead of staying focused on pointillism, he broadened his ideas–and now he makes all kinds of art. You can see his artwork at his website here, and you can see his TED talk here.

This idea was a turning point: it changed how he thought about his condition.

“When we’re confronted with a challenge, our success is determined by our ability to change how we think about the challenge.”

Limitations often come paired with a self-limiting belief. The limiting belief is holding us back, and it’s connected to an actual limitation, which is often a gift.

But we can separate them. The limiting belief can be mitigated. We can make a plan: what can I do to manage this limiting belief when it arises?

The limitation itself can be a spark to creativity. We can explore it: what about this limitation makes me curious?

I thought this was a powerful idea. I hope it encourages you today.

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