April 5, 2013

Expanding Personal Capacity.

It’s eight am on a Wednesday. Morning run and yoga are long past.

The dishes are washed, laundry is folded, dogs are walked, the chickens are fed, lunches and backpacks are packed, the kids are off to school and I am settling in at my desk.

I cleared most of my inbox from the dining room table earlier this morning, and I’m ready to dive in.

My husband and I have a little personal joke; we like to ask each other: “Remember how we thought we were busy before we had kids?”

And we were. Our careers kept us on our toes, we entertained frequently, gardened massively, traveled, stayed fit and constantly strove to learn new things by taking classes and reading books.

Then came our first child…and we could hardly remember what life was like as a family of two anymore.

First came the expansion of love in our hearts; we thought we knew how to love before, but we had no idea.

Then came the expansion of time—in the form of less sleep and more waking hours, and more tasks than we could have imagined in a day. Yet, our work was still getting done. We were still entertaining, gardening, reading and pretty fit.

Then came the second child—and we could hardly remember what life was like as a family of three.

First came the further expansion of love in our hearts; we wondered if they could quite possibly burst.

Then came the expansion of time and with it the capacity to hold more. Our days filled with still more activity and our lives with deeper, richer experiences.

Expanding personal capacity is about personal growth. It’s about being able to manage, hold and accomplish things you previously wouldn’t have been able to do.

It results from increasing the level of your current personal challenges, stepping beyond your comfort zone…and stretching into the growth space.

Yet voluntarily arriving at the place where you’re ready to expand often takes some encouragement. Kids are excellent catalysts for expanding personal capacity, because you just have no choice.

It happens—they come with built in challenges.

A childless friend once told me he sees that people who have kids are able to reach a level of self-actualization that might be impossible to reach any other way. It certainly feels that way sometimes!

As they grow, time and experience expand in different ways. Their lives are more independent, and more full. They enjoy multiple activities, play with friends, disagree with siblings, go to school and parties and the dentist, do homework…in some ways, a miniature version of our lives. And, we must rise up to meet their needs.

And ours.

But kids are just one avenue to infusing your life with capacity-expanding opportunities—the possibilities are endless.

Running is another way I expand my personal capacity.

When I run as a form of daily exercise, I tend to run the same route each time. But when I train for a race, I need to expand my distance and decrease the time it takes to get there. I add new challenges mixing up my terrain and intervals.

And—key for me—I can measure my progress.

Have you ever kept a log of how much money you spend in a week or written down everything you eat in a week? It can be quite illuminating!

Similarly, one way to begin building your personal capacity is to log all the ways you spend your time and the amount of time you spend doing them. How much time do you spend doing the same thing each day—answering e-mail, eating the same food, going (or not going) to the same yoga class? How much time do you spend on social media?

We often think our daily routine leaves very little time to push beyond where we already are. By logging how our activities, we become aware of how we actually spend our time—instead of how we think we do.

And, we become aware of the opportunities to stretch ourselves to the next level. It becomes harder to tell ourselves that we really don’t have time for yoga, or to go surfing or to write that note to an old friend.

What possibilities exist for you to expand?

Expanding capacity is a continual process. Becoming comfortable is the signal to move on to the next challenge. And then it’s time to move to the next one. And the next. And the next.

The time to do so is now—the time is always now.







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Ed: Bryonie Wise


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jbillikerz May 28, 2013 9:04pm

Amazing and true!

julievanam May 3, 2013 1:52pm

Thanks for the comment, Lieve and for pointing to this article. I love the idea of tuning in to your workstyle and the framing of the styles as Doing, Leading, Loving and Learning. I am a bit of all of these, but if I had to choose one you'd probably not be surprised to find me as a Doer (who needs to pay attention to the Shoot, Fire, Aim approach!).

Lieve Maas Apr 14, 2013 4:42pm

You seem to be a master at expanding personal capacity and using your time wisely. My hat off to you, Julie! Just wanted to share a blog post I found about being "busy": http://lifehacker.com/productivity/ Think you might appreciate that.

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Julie van Amerongen

Julie van Amerongen is fascinated by the intersection of practice and optimal living. She serves as the Director of Community Development for Conscious Capitalism, Inc., and is the Founder and Curator at The Practice Project.

Check out www.thepracticeproject.org, or follow her on Twitter @thepracticepro.