How do we become all we are meant to be? I believe it starts with knowing our limitations and capacity. Knowing your limitations helps you understand your capacity. Capacity is “the maximum amount that something can contain; the amount that something can produce; the ability to do something: a mental, emotional, or physical ability.”
If capacity is how much you can hold in this one container called life, then you have to know the limitations of your container. Knowing your limitations helps you know your container size. How much, and what, can I fit into a day? How full can my calendar actually be? You may have the capacity to have six children in your home; I do not. You may have the capacity to join the PTA; I do not. You may have the capacity to work sixty-five hours per week; I do not. Your capacity is not the same as my capacity, but knowing your capacity is key.
Capacity varies by person, so we cannot compare or judge. Yet I often measured others’ capacity against my own and decided I didn’t measure up. This capacity comparison crept into my thoughts and tore me down. It all started with paying attention to the “shoulds” circling through my brain. Where did all these “shoulds” come from? We make these judgments on ourselves for not measuring up to some ideal we have construed—the greater capacities of those around us. We must shut down the “shoulds” so we can understand our limitations and capacity.
An easy strategy to help you recognize your capacity is to write down your limitations. Your limitations are beacons guiding you to deeper soul-needs you may be missing in the busyness of life.
Here are a few examples of my limitations:
- Limitation: I can’t work all day and then work at night as well.
- Soul need: I need to decompress and relax my brain at night. (I even daydream while at work about curling into bed at night with a book.)
- Limitation: I can’t be inside all day.
- Soul need: I need to spend time outside in nature every day. (This can look like going for a walk, working in the garden, or taking my kids to the playground.)
- Limitation: I can’t be around people 24/7.
- Soul need: I need alone time when I don’t speak to anyone. (If you have small children, you might understand this also includes a no-touching zone.)
Once you have asked yourself all the hard questions and feel like you know your capacity, the next step is establishing safeguards and boundaries to keep it in check. Explore questions like these: How can I protect my calendar from filling up? Do I need to schedule my weekly or daily personal time into my calendar?
Maybe I need to talk with my partner about my need to have one hour a day away from the kids and figure out a plan. Maybe I need to limit myself to going out only twice per week. “Your greatest weakness is your strength overplayed,” my brother-in-law likes to say, and that couldn’t be more evident in the ways I have “pushed through” most moments of my life, with no thought of myself.