Were you a Little House on the Prarie fan? I was. I loved that TV show.
Half-Pint was the super sweet nickname that Pa gave to Laura, which is the perfect segue into today’s blog post.
Capacity is not a one size fits all deal, yet I’d venture that hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people try to live as though it were.
And the funny/strange/sad thing about that it is people tend to relentlessly push themselves to match the capacity of whoever they perceive is the equivalent of their Sydney Harbour. BIG capacity. Huge. And for 99.8% of us, utterly impossible to match.
Why do we do this to ourselves?
Why the relentless sense that we MUST compete? And win.
Are we born with an internal soundtrack? “Anything you can do, I can do better. I can do anything better than you.”
No you can’t.
And that’s perfectly okay.
I am about to fly in the face of a great deal of popular thought here, brace yourselves.
Life is not a competitive sport.
It’s just not.
Not to me, and when I look around at the people I know who are grounded, happy, creative, giving, it doesn’t seem to be to them either.
Capacity, or more precisely knowning your capacity, is where it’s at.
Me, I’m a Quarter Cup.
I know my limits, and I live within them.
Becoming aware of my capacity, then changing my lifestyle to reflect that knowledge, was a completely life-changing realisation.
I have no desire to push myself to keep up with the 2.4 litre people out there. That’s their capacity, not mine.
Quarter of a cup. That’s me. The smallest cup in the stack under my sink.
“Capacity for what?” I hear you wondering. Let me explain the metaphor.
I’m sure we’ve all heard the stories about the college professor and his jar of rocks – he puts a jar in front of his class then fills it with various sized rocks and asks if it’s full. Some say yes, some see room for smaller pebbles, so pebbles are added and the once “full” jar becomes fuller. This continues until no more rocks or pebbles will fit in the jar. Professor Clever Nuts then adds water, showing the class that the jar wasn’t actually at capacity, but it is now.
I think this story is usually used to communicate the exact opposite of what I mean when I talk about capacity. It’s about pushing, finding every available crevice and filling it to the point of bursting.
Who wants to live like that? On the brink of breaching, like the Hoover Dam?
I didn’t think so.
Capacity is physical, mental, emotional, and social. Capacity is what you need and what you can manage, not what you imagine you should be able to manage, or what your boss/parents/friends/partner/inner critic expects from you.
How much socialising keeps you feeling connected to others?
How much time alone helps you to feel ready to jump back into the fray?
How much sleep do you need? This one is huge. Huge!
What is your most productive time of day/night?
Are you a morning person or a night owl?
How do you know when you’re running on empty?
What do you do to refuel?
These, and many more, are the kind of questions that will help you to recognise and honour your capacity.
There are no prizes for living according to someone else’s expectations or capacity.
Unless exhaustion and a nagging sense that you’re never doing enough are considered prizes.
I wonder if thinking about capacity, rather than thinking competitively, might be a lightbulb moment for you.
Could it be that reflecting on your unique needs and make-up could help you understand your capacity?
For those of you scoffing at this idea, running through the long list of responsibilities of your life and rolling your eyes, I want to say this; I don’t believe capacity is fixed and finite, we each have seasons where we can stretch and hold more, or where our capacity is diminished. Trouble comes when we attempt to do and hold more for too long, when we push and push and push without considering our capacity.
There’s wiggle room, that’s the good news. On the flip side, capacity doesn’t simply yield to our to-do lists forever. We can’t blithely operate outside of our capacity year after year and think there won’t be natural consequences to that.
This isn’t a one blog post idea. Clearly!
All I can tell you for sure is that knowing my capacity frees me to spend zero time fretting about whether I’m doing enough, being enough, whatever-ing enough. I am not required to live life comparing myself to the 44 gallon drum folks.
Can you imagine anything more ridiculous?
A teensy quarter of a cup trying to pretend they can hold gallons and gallons of liquid!
All that would result in is a mighty flood, and most likely a drowning. How tragic that would be.
I know when I’m able to stretch, and when I need to fill my near-empty cup. I know when the water line is too high, and it’s time to put my hand up and call in reinforcements. I can only give from what I’ve got.
Do you know your capacity? I’d love to hear about how you came to that understanding.
Whether you’re like me, a Quarter Cup, or you’re 2.4 litres or a 44 gallon drum person, I urge you to honour your capacity and ditch the comparisons.
PS Have you noticed that I haven’t been posting daily like I said I would? Capacity strikes. I am working loads of extra hours at the moment, and I know I can’t do it all. That’s what knowing your capacity is all about. You’ll also notice that I haven’t apologised or berated myself for the change in plans. Capacity breeds confidence.