What is Capacity?
In my own words, I’d describe capacity as the ability to access and use your energy, time and focus for the things in your life that you want to and wish to create without consistent forced external influences that limit the access or amount of energy one can access in one or more areas.
There are different areas of capacity, and I want to share how these affect our lives and our ability to work, do, be, and receive.
There are 5 major areas of capacity I have observed over the past 20+ years in my work with hundreds of people, with dozens of small to big teams, in myself, as well as within my friends & family.
THE 5 MAJOR AREAS OF CAPACITY
🏋♀️ Physical Capacity
This is the most commonly acknowledged form of capacity, the one experienced by our physical body.
It’s the ability to use our physical body in the ways we want to and feel good about it. We express it by saying how our body feels, such as “energized”, “tired” or “sore”.
This capacity can be limited by consistent external forces such as chronic pain, chronic illness, dis-ease, and other ailments which highly influence how much physical capacity we can access daily. (Note: I call these external forces as dis-ease is never caused by the body itself but usually by heavy metals, toxins, viruses, injuries, etc. in the body that are external influences causing dis-ease. And even mental distress is often caused by outside influences. That is for another article though).
Our physical capacity also has one of the biggest impacts on the other forms of capacities as our body takes a lot of our overall energy and has a complex system that it is run by.
On the other hand, our physical capacity can also be easily influenced by our mental, emotional, and sensory capacities. If these are heavily impacted, they can take a lot of energy away from our ability to be active, productive and do what we plan to do. More about that further down in the text.
🧠 Mental Capacity
Our mental capacity is often talked about in terms of how “productive” we are – which is very limiting. Our mental capacity includes the ability to use our minds for specific tasks or creations that we wish to fulfill, such as to be creative, to remember specific moments, and access certain memories. It’s also about our focus as well as our ability to create change, follow habits, and choose to follow our thoughts (or not).
Everything that we consciously choose to do within the mind is what can be described as the ability to use mental capacity.
Our mental capacity often is influenced by our physical capacity first and foremost. Chronic pain and dis-ease can heavily influence our thoughts & energy and it takes a hell lot of extra energy and mental capacity for that person to do and create anything than for a person without dis-ease or chronic pain.
This is where many entrepreneurs are going wrong by bashing others that “look lazy” or have not gotten as far as they have or are not hustling & grinding (which is a topic for another article as to how unhealthy and toxic this behavior is!) – and they don’t understand the background of people who eg. have chronic pain or dis-ease.
I go as far as to say that neurodiversity, mental health, and disabilities all impact our mental capacity heavily as it takes a lot of energy to “do life” with this extra load of responsibility to take care of.
Even short-term injuries or illnesses can impact our mental capacity, and observing the posts from many people on Social Media – it very much does.
It’s clear why mental capacity has such a big influence on many other areas of our lives – when we are occupied with thoughts about pain, war, human rights violations or any other circumstances that are not just our normal day-to-day life … our mental capacity automatically is heavily influenced and these external forces are taking up a lot of space, energy and ultimately capacity.
This is where privilege heavily shows in many different ways.
Our emotional capacity is the ability to deal with any emotions that arise, regulating our nervous system properly and staying with a clear mind even if facing a crisis, which does not mean you can not express emotions, it simply means you are capable of not letting your mind be controlled by your emotions.
This area is often heavily influenced by our mental capacity – the mind and our emotions go hand in hand and the quality of the stories in our mind often determines what we feel or how long we hold on to certain emotions.
On the other hand, our emotional capacity often influences our physical capacity. Think of the times when you or someone you know had anxiety or depression. The truth is, oftentimes even if you’d wanted to do something, our emotional capacity is taking all of the energy available to us and barely leaves anything to work with for the other areas, leaving people extremely fatigued, exhausted, and simply unable to do even simple tasks.
This is something we have blamed humans for in a very long time without even trying to understand why people are incapable of “doing” when under such influences (like anxiety or depression). People who do not experience such strong external forces can often not imagine or understand how it impacts any other areas of capacity since we have not yet talked about it in a holistic approach.
📣 Sensory Capacity
This area of capacity I’d want to say is the least known or acknowledged and is only slowly coming to light thanks to the awesome neurodiversity community.
Sensory Capacity is the ability to receive, perceive and process external stimulation & information on an ongoing basis.
Not only neurodiverse folks but many other people are influenced in their ways of processing stimulation. Whether they are hyper- (over) or hypo- (under) stimulated or simply have less capacity – the fact is that we are living in a world with information and stimulation overload.
There is barely a place without any bright colorful advertisements, posters, or flashing lights, light pollution in every corner of this world even at night and let’s not talk about how LOUD this world is. You can rarely find a calm, absolutely quiet corner – not even on top of Mt Everest.
We are being inundated with stimulation at all times – and the results are terrible: people’s nervous systems are chronically dysregulated, their sensory processing is constantly overstimulated and their brains have trouble processing it all. All of this leads to disease, pain, and worse.
What we see now in this world is the result of our never-ending greed for more. More technology. More money. More advancements. More more.
When people’s sensory capacity is low, it automatically takes away energy from all the other areas, particularly mental & emotional capacity as these areas are connected to the brain, too. The more overstimulation someone experiences the less likely they can process any other information or emotions calmly and likely experience everything in overwhelm.
💫 Spiritual Capacity
This area of capacity is rarely talked about, yet it is one of the areas which affects many (if not most non-christian) people across the world. Whether it is for their religious beliefs, their spiritual practices, or their traditions & cultural background.
Spiritual Capacity is the ability to practice one’s religion and/ or faith as well as spirituality and traditions freely without the fear of being outcasted, discriminated against, or even harmed for doing so.
It is easily influenced by faith-based/religious hate crimes, wars as well as human rights issues. Many ethnic minorities experience daily discrimination based on their spirituality and/ or traditions and hence experience a decrease in capacity, oftentimes for long periods of time.
HOW DOES CAPACITY WORK?
Now let me explain how capacity works across all 5 areas with a metaphor: Imagine you have a glass jar full of capacity cookies 🍪 for each of your 5 capacity areas to use on a daily basis. It is refilled with the same amount of cookies each night when you sleep.
You have 200 cookies spread across the 5 different capacity jars. So in a perfect life, you’d have 40 cookies per capacity jar.
For example: In order to get up in the morning and take a shower you may need 7 capacity-cookies from your physical jar and 3 capacity-cookies from your mental jar to do so. That’s 10 capacity cookies to get up & shower.
You then go ahead, make coffee & breakfast, and eat – which you may need 5 physical capacity cookies & 5 mental capacity cookies for – another 10.
You decide to check social media and your messages, which cost you 10 mental capacity cookies and 5 emotional capacity cookies. 15 more are gone.
So just for the first couple of hours in the morning you have already used a total of 35 from 200 capacity cookies.
After this morning, your capacity cookie jars may look like this:
You haven’t even started working, doing house chores, taking care of kids or pets or family members yet, and probably not yourself fully either.
Capacity shows you how you use the energy reserves we are being given every day again, and how certain things deplete us more than others, and also in different ways.
One thing to note is, that every person is different, so what will cost me 5 capacity cookies, may cost you 10 – and the other way around. This also depends on factors such as interests, talents, skills, knowledge, emotional intelligence, choices, boundaries (or lack thereof), privileges and so many others …
And then there are other, much bigger factors that can influence our capacity such as:
SHORT-TERM IMPACTED CAPACITY
Sickness, Accidents (without long-term impact), certain Family Incidents, Pregnancy … and others
LONG-TERM IMPACTED CAPACITY
Chronic Pain, Chronic Illness, Disability, Neurodiversity, Living in Crisis or War Zones, Hunger & Poverty, Systematic Oppression, Ongoing microaggressions, discrimination, Living in danger based on your religion/faith, sexual orientation, gender or other identifiers … and others
This also means, some of us don’t start out with the full capacity to begin with, yet it will cost us the same (and sometimes even more) amount of cookies for tasks, activities, and decisions we have to make on a daily basis, which often means with a lower baseline of cookies, we run out of capacity much faster.
If we then have to keep going because of many different societal factors and pressures we are prone to adhere to (or simply are forced to because of sheer unacceptable consequences) we tend to burn out, get sick or deal with mental issues much more than people who don’t have to deal with these long-term impacts.
Here are a few examples of people who may start out with a different / lower baseline of cookies. Please remember these are all just examples and will look different for each person in these categories, too:
A person with chronic illness/pain may have a baseline of 95 cookies
Remember, we all started out with 200 capacity cookies in our lives but circumstances – to no fault of our own – reduced the number of cookies we have now daily to do the same things other people are doing with 200 cookies.
What I am trying to explain and show you here is this: It makes a huge difference whether you do life and business with 200 cookies a day to keep you going – Or if circumstances have slowly but surely crumbled some (or many) of these cookies and you are left with much less than that – over and over and over again.
Yet, here you are, pushing through like a true hustle hero and trying to do life with 79 cookies and some crumbs.
If you can’t relate to this, that’s totally ok, and YEAH! I am so happy for you. AND please stop bullying, bashing, and looking down on people who don’t have the same energy, as you do. They are (mostly) not lazy. They may as well just deal with a very different set of circumstances as you do.
What does that mean for me as a Leader & Business Owner
As a business owner and leader, you need to be aware of your team’s circumstances.
This can be tricky because in many cases it is inappropriate to simply ask for these circumstances. Instead, we need to start listening more to what is not being said, read between the lines (without interpreting things into people’s lives that aren’t there), and keep learning about our team as much as we can when things are great.
That’s why creating a transparent, loyal, and engaged team culture is so important.
The goal is to create an environment that is genuinely safe for people to speak to you and share what is going on in their lives, at least to a point where you can support them and create better circumstances at work, so their capacity can be used, both, to create quality work for your business as well as to deal with whatever is going on in their lives.
Many business owners are afraid that most people will come and use this against them and – but mostly the opposite is the case. Yes, there may be one or another person to try and get more time off or money pre-paid, etc. – but they will reveal themselves very quickly.
You can also prevent this from happening by creating strong core values and integrating them into every aspect of your business and life.
The question is, why hire someone who is, for example, neurodivergent or living in a crisis zone, when those people most likely have less than full capacity on a daily basis to work with?
There are plenty of reasons that outweigh the lower baseline of capacity, for example:
- Stronger loyalty
- Bring new perspectives into your business
- Excited to learn new things and evolve
- Different thought processes … and others
Capacity is a form of privilege that has long been held in the shadows.
Since it is a form of ability determined by circumstances and external influences, that oftentimes can not be changed, it is affecting how much energy in different areas we have to deal with basically anything and everything in our lives.
It is crucial to understand that most people are not inherently lazy (there are always exceptions to the rule of course or cultures where this is actually celebrated) but most likely have a different baseline of capacity.
With this article, I hope to have shed light on the still rather not talked about topic of human capacity, energy, and the external influences that affect these so the next time you encounter people that have a different capacity set up as you do, you can have some more understanding and at least compassion for them.
It would help every one of us if we would simply take the time to try and understand someone else’s perspective or at least try to see that their lives are completely different.
I’d love to hear about your experience with capacity and/ or energy. Share below your experiences with it, I can’t wait to hear about it.
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