Thursday, September 9, 2010


 By Olga LaPlante

There is never a shortage of accounts of how limited things are. While this may be disheartening or simply annoying, little attention is given to defining those limitations, because that is where finding solutions starts.

This is not news, I just feel that it is often understated.

For example, there is a problem with a program at a school, which at first made me quite upset. While getting upset and moving forward are not easily compatible, moving forward is more important. By seeing that my needs cannot be met efficiently right away, my choices became a) sticking with the existing program but accepting its limitations - and as a result compensating as much as I could for them - or  b) finding another program which may be freer of limitations.

I did my homework, I know my options, and I know the limitations. For the purpose of my involvement in the program, I am willing and able to compensate for them. Knowing the limitations has freed up my resources and my energy to focus on something else and not worry about the possible breakdowns as I made sure they are less likely to happen. There were a few weak links and it was up to me to follow through.

Once the limitations are known and are accepted, one is less susceptible to the fallouts from them. Getting frustrated is not productive, and quite draining; by accepting limitations, you lower your expectations - and from what I heard that makes you very happy.

By no means am I endorsing limitations. I am just reiterating the benefits of knowing them.

I have been reading a book, Thinkertoys, by Michael Michalko; in one chapter he presents the Phoenix Checklist. Some of the questions are, "What isn't the problem?" "Can you restate your problem? How many different ways can you restate it?" I like that. What isn't the problem? It's as if you are asking, "What are the limitations of the problem?" See? Limitations apply to both the good stuff and the bad stuff. And it's definitely rewarding to recognize that the bad things have their limitations, too.
Now, let's see if this can somehow be applied to this whole Common Core Standards debate...


bketeyian said...

Good reminder. Paying attention to limitations is, indeed, freeing not pessimistic. Not accepting limitations is akin to denial, where you keep thrashing around not wanting to believe what's true. Whereas, being realistic (accepting limitations)opens the doorway to change. Thanks for the book reference. Sounds good.

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