Thereâs only so much you can handle.
Like any kind of container, each of us has our capacity. You can keep pouring things in, but unless thereâs an outlet, eventually there will be an overflow. There are two things we need to know in order to effectively understand and respect our human capacity: 1) How much we truly can handle, and 2) How to determine whether any given commitment that is presented to us will keep us below our max fill line or overflow our capacity.
Itâs tricky to know what your capacity truly is. Yours is not the same as mine, and mine is not the same as anyone elseâs. We cannot get sucked into the belief that we should be able to handle a certain number or assortment of things because it appears others are able to do so. Emphasis on appears! Thereâs no telling for sureâespecially not judging by social media highlight reels or select stories shared during a casual coffee chatâwhat things really look and feel like for others beneath the surface. Our capacity is our capacity, and thereâs nothing we can do to increase itâthe container is already built. What we can do is spend time getting to know ourselves to understand how much is too much and what signs indicate weâre on the verge of an overflow.
I do a quick mental assessment that I like to call the âPasta or Egg?â check. Hereâs the idea:
You can cook both pasta and eggs in boiling water, but they must be treated very differently if you want to get the best result out of each ingredient. Pasta has a very specific cooking time, after which it gets gummy and gross and no one will want to eat it. Whatâs more, as pasta boils, it slowly breaks down and changes the consistency and properties of the water that itâs cooking in. (Thatâs why we can use pasta water to thicken up sauces. Mental health and cooking tips for the win!)
Eggs, on the other hand, can handle a little bit more cook time. They donât break down or get mushy if theyâre boiled too longâthey stay in-tact, and so does their environment. But, after a while, too much boiling will give them a bitter taste, so while the water will still be fine, the eggs canât stay in the hot water forever.
The point is this: When we pile on commitmentsâour âyesesââweâre putting ourselves in that pot of hot water. The deadlines, pressure to perform well, and overall mental and physical taxation that result from the responsibilities we choose to take on boil our brains after a while. We have to decide when and what we say yes to and determine if saying yes will make us more like pasta or an egg. Is the commitment one that will turn we have to manage carefully to avoid our brains turning to mush and us tainting the work environment or relationship weâre in, or will we be able to handle the pressure and keep ourselves and our environment in-tact and in good taste?
Once we determine whether weâre in a pasta or egg state and have a better understanding of how much we can handle, we must then carefully consider each individual commitment and the affect it will have on our capacity. We choose how to respond to presented commitments by evaluating them against our âwhyââour overarching mission and purpose. Once we know how something will support or subtract from our why, we can respond appropriately. We have three responses to choose from: no, yes, and our best yes.
I love the book âThe Best Yesâ by Lysa Terkeurst and highly recommend it to my Superheroes. I learned that my âbest yesâ is an acceptance that gives me the opportunity to do more of what I love while furthering my âwhyâ. My âyesâ allows things into my life that will give me room to grow. My ânoâ allows me to decline those things that will take away capacity from things to which I can and should give my âyesâ or âbest yesâ. âNoâ is a powerful tool that can be hard to use; but when I think of it as the lifeline for my âbest yesâ, it is empowering!
I love this video by Michael Jr. that explains the significance of our âwhy.â Defining our âwhyâ isnât just limited to our business or brandâit informs the way we want to live, the definition of our character, the prevalence of our purpose and the architecture of our goals. Develop a system for what gets your âbest yesâ, âyesâ, and ânoâ and always ask, âWhy?â
When we say yes to things that will take us beyond our capacityâto overflowâone of two things will happen: either weâll experience a pebble-in-water moment, or a Mentos-in-Coke moment. When you drop a pebble in water, it causes a bit of a splash and some of the water gets displaced, but everything settles fairly quickly and smoothly. But have you ever seen what happens when you drop Mentos in Coke? (Donât try this at home near the furniture or light-colored carpet!) The Coke fizzes and foams to the point of explosion. Internally and externally, everything is a mess, and thereâs very little left in the Coke bottle thatâs of any use to anyone.
Weâre no good when we overcommit ourselves to the point of explosion. How much better will we be able to serve our âwhyâ when we learn how to properly evaluate, accept and decline each individual opportunity that arises? Itâs a mental shift that has the power to preserve our capacity and propel us forward in our purpose.