Bret L. Simmons posted a thought-provoking piece on his blog this week where he talked about human “capacity”. Simmons defines capacity as “the potential each of us has to do more and be more than we are now”. Although this lead to some debate over whether human capacity could be viewed as being without limits, as I pointed out in my comment on this piece, the real issue is how do we go about defining or quantifying the limits of our capabilities.
As children, we learned early on about the limits of our abilities, of what activities we excelled at and which ones we struggled with. Thanks to the varied curricula of the education system, we were able to test our competencies in understanding scientific principles, of creating inspired works of art, and whether we could score a goal in a hockey net. Even if we couldn’t do some of these well, we were still expected to try, to push ourselves to do the best we could. Although we took on these challenges in order to get decent grades as we went through the school system, it also had the tangible benefit of teaching us something about what our strengths are, of what activities we were capable of undertaking.
However, as adults, what exercises or activities do we perform for understanding better what our limits are? How are we pushing ourselves to figure out the limits of what we’re capable of doing? As I commented on Simmons’ blog, I think for many of us our limits are defined more by what we perceive them to be, rather than as a result of having tested the waters of our capabilities. Naturally, many of us are uncomfortable with pushing on those boundaries, of moving outside our comfort zone, in large part because we fear the risk of failing miserably during the pursuit of some new activity. And yet, by not attempting to move past these lines we use to delineate our abilities, how can we be certain we’re not holding ourselves back from fulfilling our real potential? By playing it safe, we not only deny ourselves new opportunities for personal growth, we’re also keeping ourselves from truly appreciating our inner talents and abilities.
Do all of us have limits to what we’re capable of doing? Absolutely. However, unless we really push ourselves and take that chance at trying some new field or activity, we will never have a realistic view of what we’re really able to accomplish.