Capacity as a Central Priority

 In Blog

When it became clear to me that capacity had to be a central priority for my business and myself this year, I never imagined that I would encounter significant health challenges that would literally force me to deal with it.

Capacity, that is, having a realistic sense of how much you can do, as well as have a balance of work and play, has long been an issue for me.  I have always had lots and lots of energy, as well as workaholic tendencies.  Being in business for myself has only intensified those tendencies.  

I still remember a time in high school when my Dad told me one day that he had been reading The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.  I’m sure he wanted to share his “aha” with me, as well as instill a good work ethic in me.  He told me that if you had a to-do list that you actually finished, you didn’t have enough planned.

Well, for some reason, I must have been extra impressionable that day, and it has stuck with me ever since. The thing was, I didn’t go read the book, and I never heard the other side of that:  what is the good side of having a to-do list that never gets done? Here is what I ended up doing: I never got through my to-do list, but instead of viewing it as a good thing, I beat myself up internally for it.

How do you view your internal habits and capacity?

Personally, I got caught in a vicious cycle of working constantly, but never feeling like I did enough.  Looking back on it now, I see how much stress I put myself under.  It was exhausting!  It was also a recipe for never being able to truly relax and enjoy life.  There was always some underlying guilt: I “should” do more; I “shouldn’t” have time off to play and relax; and so on. 

To be fair to my Dad, I am certain that he never meant for me to take his words in this direction, but I did.  More than that, from my conversations with so many of my clients and students over the years, I know that I’m far from alone. In fact, Western culture tends to reinforce this.

Do you resonate at all?  While the details will be slightly different, I see so many people dealing with the issue of capacity.  

I thought I was dealing well with capacity, but then came some significant health challenges at the beginning of April, involving two ER visits, an overnight hospital stay, many tests, some meds for a while, and a lot of inflammation cropping up in various systems of my body.  It seemed that just after one would occur, yet another system would get affected. 

All of a sudden, capacity wasn’t something I could choose to deal with here and there, but it was front and center and unavoidable on a daily basis.  While I feel much better than I did, I still don’t know from day to day how much energy I will have.  I can no longer just count on being able to finish off whatever tasks I need to do.  When my body has had enough, it shuts down. 

Hitting these boundaries can cause a tough transition.

This means I have taken more naps than I have ever done as an adult (I was not a napper!).  It also means that I have to take breaks.  I have to go put my feet up and perhaps read for a little bit.  I’ve found that 20 minutes of rest, sleep, reading or just lying with my feet up is completely refreshing! 

There are so many blessings in this time of physical challenge, and one of the biggest has been around capacity. Somehow, knowing that I need to take those breaks has actually freed me (mostly) from worrying about what I’m not accomplishing or what’s not getting done.  A more realistic sense of my capacity is hugely freeing!

Habits of a lifetime take a long time to unravel, and I still find myself trying to push through. Having the physical stop (it’s like I hit a wall) helps me to remember that nothing is that urgent.  If I can’t do it, I can’t do it, full stop (literally). 

In turn that is helping me look at my larger schedule. I’m making new decisions about how much I can cram into a day, and how much rest and self-care I need.  It’s been a revelation to me how little self-care I allowed myself, so I’m creating a better ebb and flow. And I’m not just doing it in my schedule, but I’m also looking at what’s behind not giving myself self-care (a topic for another post).

Is your sense of your own capacity realistic? 

Have you looked at your capacity recently?  Can you relax knowing that you’ll never be able to do everything you want to do, but you can do some?  Can you let yourself leave your work behind to give yourself the rest and nourishment you need? 

If you answered no to any of these questions, then now is a great time to look at it clearly.  Ask yourself what you really need.  More importantly, look at what’s underneath, and ask yourself what’s driving those choices.  Dealing with what’s underneath will set you free to make new choices and to create a schedule that works with your true capacity.

If you want to work with your own capacity, please reach out.  I have two client openings right now and would love to help you work through what’s underneath your capacity challenges.  You too can be free!

Share this with your community!
Recommended Posts
Showing 4 comments
  • Dorothy Friesen

    Beautiful ‘testimony’ Mary.Thank you.
    I hit the wall in 1987 -chronic fatigue from social action rabble rousing. Slept 18 hours a day for 10 days.Sent up a ‘Hail Mary’ bargaing -I promise I will look after myself, just please, please let this fatigue lift- everyday, I changed my diet, walked everyday, joined a women’s book group, started writing fiction etc until a few years later I had the physical strength and emotional courage to join a women’s group for survivors of incest and worked with a therapist for 6 years. It was after all that that I was ready to find BodyTalk which I have been with for 20 years. In hindsight, I am thankful for the fatigue that stopped me in my tracks.

    • Mary Shields

      Thank you, Dorothy! And thank you for your beautiful “testimony” too! I am so inspired by the life-giving changes your working with your true capacity have made. Like you, even though I am at the beginning of this journey with capacity, I am also grateful for the inflammatory reactions that stopped me in my tracks. So grateful for you!

  • juliet Batten

    Thank you for sharing so openly Mary, with both honesty and compassion. Paradoxically, these experiences open up more capacity to help others, because we’ve been there and we know what’s needed, and can bring even more empathy to those dealing with the same issues.

    • Mary Shields

      Thank you, Juliet! I really appreciate your comments about open, honest sharing, and how that actually opens us up! Yes, I feel like I am better able to meet and work with others around the issue of capacity because it has impacted me so greatly! And yes, I totally agree that it gives me even more empathy for others going through these issues.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.