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      Capability and Capacity

      Just Because You Can Doesn’t Mean You Should

      As you engage life, I know it seems as though you are in constant motion. Even when you are at rest, your mind often is projecting the next scene onto your mental movie screen, anticipating what’s coming and how you’ll handle it.

      Life is an off balance proposition. But it can be a situation where you feel in command of the circumstances, like an expert surfer on the cusp of a powerful wave, harnessing nature’s forces with purpose and confident action. Or, it can feel like you are paddling furiously, face down on your board, as the brutal waves repeatedly flatten you.

      The dilemma, I think, comes down to two components: Capability and Capacity. What you experience on a daily basis – flow or frustration – is a result of whether your capacity and your capability are in sync.

      Capabilitythe quality of being capable, physically or intellectually; ability; skill; talent .

      Capacity – the ability to receive, hold or absorb. The maximum amount that can be maintained.

      These words are often used interchangeably. But as you can see, there is an important distinction. I believe we can benefit from a quick “reality check,” relative to our present capability and capacity.


      What are your greatest skills and talents? Are you living up to your potential?

      Are you “in over your head,” attempting to perform at a level that is, at this stage, far beyond your abilities? Or, are you bored by what you are doing, because it demands less than you are capable of delivering, physically or mentally?

      We all have many capabilities – areas in life where we naturally excel. We are led to these because they spark our interest, turn our heads, and elicit an emotional response. They “feel right.” The emotions inside us trigger an action, a desire to engage these projects and opportunities – to further stimulate these interests because, deep down within us, we know we are capable.

      Our emotions and instincts are doing their job – alerting us to our potential. Yet, without restraint, these instincts can overwhelm us. We become tempted to say “yes” to all the options (even when our plate is full) and we feel resentful or unsatisfied because we cannot do it all. Our instincts are in search mode, but they need a check and balance. Attempt to do it all, and you will quickly reach a point of diminishing returns. Attempt to do too much, and it becomes difficult to do everything well. You’ve reached full capacity.


      Have you passed the point where you can “receive, hold or absorb” more information or experiences without negative consequences? Are you operating at (or beyond) your limits?

      We get to this point for a number of reasons, including:

      • Our feeling of self worth is tied to our capabilities.
      • We experience a need to control – to do it all ourselves.
      • We try to prove ourselves to others.

      There are Some Things You are Great at … and Should Stop Doing Immediately.

      How do you know when to stop? Here are a few possible reasons to consider. Even though you are great at a particular task or pursuit:

      • It isn’t necessary – doesn’t need to be done.
      • It doesn’t contribute to your long term health and happiness.
      • Someone else can do it.
      • You need to improve in other areas.
      • Your best is yet to come.

      Your best is yet to come. What is your highest capability? Will you be able to get there, or are you unable to absorb any more? Only you can answer that question.

      Into Action

      1. Determine your greatest capabilities. List the ones you know and the ones you suspect are yet to come.
      2. Are you less capable than you should/need to be? What skills or knowledge do you need to acquire? Close the gap – read, develop your experience and find a class or mentor to show you how.
      3. Determine what is restricting your capacity (for any or all of the above reasons). Figure out a strategy to stop it at the source – turn it over to someone else, hire it done, or simply let it go.

      Both capabilities and capacity can be stretched. The more you do, the more you can do. But at a point you begin to do yourself a disservice and limit your potential. Instead, let’s stay ahead of the wave, on top of the board, and at the leading edge of our greatest possibilities – off balance on purpose.

      Hang ten! Or better yet … eleven.

      Your partner in action,


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