I have this thing. Sometimes I hate to admit it, but my boyfriend and sister (and others) would never let me get a way with denying it.
If I don’t know a given situation’s rules or expectations, I will remain blissfully ignorant, assume whatever behavior I deem appropriate is acceptable and relish the idea that it is easier, after all, to ask for forgiveness than permission. However, if and when I do know a given situation’s rules or expectations, nine times out of ten, I will oblige and stay in line. Miranda knows what I’m talking about.
It’s not that I never break rules or question the status quo, but most of the time, I appreciate the Power of Positive Constraints, when a little bit of structure gives me just enough information or opportunity to move me into the right place, and relinquishing the responsibility of making the decisions allows me the freedom to truly enjoy the ride.
Let’s look at airport security, for instance. Regardless of how you feel about the whole relatively annoying, time-sucking, and uncomfortable process, when you know, acknowledge, and follow the rules, it’s just a smoother and more pleasant experience for everyone all-around. If you wear slip-on shoes instead of laced-up or strappy ones, if you skip the belt that day, empty your pockets, and take your laptops and toiletries (3-1-1!) out of your carry-ons before you go through security, we all just move on to our gates that much more quickly and happily.
How Letting Someone Else Lead Can Make Your Experience More Enjoyable
One of my absolute favorite parts about our Costa Rican vacation was white-water rafting the Pacuare River. I’d been rafting once before, on the Arkansas River in Buena Vista, Colorado, and I LOVED it. The experience in Costa Rica was unbelievable. We rafted down a river, on a mountain, through the rain forest. We saw lizards and toucans and herons and waterfalls and giant trees and greenery. The rapids were Class III and IV, our guide was amazing, and the fellow rafters in our boat were so much fun. The whole experience was a life highlight, without a doubt.
Before we got on the river, our raft guide spent time explaining the process, his commands, and what to expect. He explained that he needed two people in the front of the boat who were good listeners and good at following directions. These people would set the pace and be an example to the rest of those in the boat.
My eyes lit up. I felt a glimmer of that feeling you get when you just know you’re called to do something. Chris looked at me and smiled, and I let the guide know that we’d take on that role. Chris knew I was dying to get myself into not only the front of the boat, but into a position where I’d be expected and required to follow orders like “FORWARD” (paddle forward), “BACK PADDLE!” and “STOP!” I had to be able to listen and decipher twisty codes like “RIGHT BACK LEFT FORWARD” and remember which side I was sitting on. I knew I was up for it.
I’ve learned over the past few years that when I believe in the cause or the vision, I am really good at being a right-hand woman. This is why Nicole and I rock Bloggers in Sin City together so well. She says, “I need everyone in the lobby by 8!” and I rally the troops. I’d die trying to organize the whole event, but I excel when I know my purpose and can help manage the details. Maybe that’s the ENFJ, the people-pleaser, in me. Either way, I’m aware of it, and I use it to my advantage (and happiness) all the time.
How the Power of Positive Constraints Makes Me Someone You Want in Your Raft
The Power of Positive Constraints, in this instance, was the notion that I couldn’t just paddle that boat where I wanted it to go. I couldn’t look at a rapid, think to myself, “Oh! I know how I should best handle this!” or “I think I want to go check out the things to my right.”
No, instead I had to commit to following and trusting the instructions of the experienced raft guide. My constraints were to ignore whatever instinct and ideas I may have had and follow his directions. All I had to do was listen and act. The other rafters had to listen, then watch me (or Chris) and match our pace. In this case, Chris and I were leaders even if we weren’t the ones calling the shots.
I excelled. Trusting that someone else was going to be responsible for navigating the rapids, I could spend my brain-time enjoying the ride. I didn’t have to navigate, problem-solve, or plan. When we hit a Class IV rapid, I could turn off my brain and just be in the moment, feeling the water splash over me and enjoying the stomach-flipping drops and dips we encountered. The right amount of rules and deference to someone more qualified to lead gave me the freedom to get the most out of the experience.
And since this was a vacation where the biggest problems I wanted to solve was what type of fruit to have for breakfast, and whether to do a 9am or 4pm yoga class, I was totally happy with this arrangement.
Shot-Calling, Rule-Following, and How Trust Connects the Two
The key here is trust. Whether you are the person calling the shots or the person running with it, there’s a level of trust that the shot-caller knows what they’re doing and the job-doer can execute those instructions. Sometimes we call the shots, and we need people we trust to implement our ideas and get a job done, plan an event, and keep ourselves safe. Sometimes we’re the ones being trusted and its up to us to do what it takes to move things forward.