Thursday, April 28, 2005

Capacity vs. Potential

Have you ever heard someone say that you have a lot of potential? On the surface, that could sound like a compliment, but when you really start to think about it, what does that say about your current level of performance? If you have a lot of potential, does it mean that maybe someday you'll live up to it, but it's not happening now?

Maybe as a young person that's a great thing to recognize. After all, what do young people have to compare anything in their lives to? They haven't had time to develop too much personal experience.

But for those of us who have been around for a while, what are we waiting for? If we're still seeing ourselves in the eyes of potential, when might we choose to start living it?

That's what I see as the distinction between potential and capacity. If I've got a 12 oz. cup of coffee, that cup's capacity is 12 ounces. That's the maximum amount it can hold. If the cup is 100% full, it's (figuratively) living its capacity.

How many of us can say that we are living our capacity? Potential is somewhere off in the future. But is the future really sure? All we really have is today. So if we're living in someday, we're living in potential.

I've spent a good portion of my life in love with the potential - in personal relationships, business relationships, career opportunities - but have only recently begun to see that that isn't always the reality. The reality is right here, right now, today - the capacity.

I choose to live my life each and every day at 100% capacity, whether that's a 12-ounce cup or a gallon jug. I think as we grow and learn and evolve in our thinking and our ways of being, we move from the 12-ounce cup to the 20-ounce cup to the 32-ounce cup and eventually, wherever our capacity takes us. But it's not an immediate jump from one to the other. That's where we might get hung up.

"But he's doing more than I am." "She's smarter than I am." Comparing the size of our cup to another's can have us focusing backward instead of on the reality of the present.

Maybe the goal should be for each of us to examine our container (whether it's 4 ounces, or 12 ounces or 10 gallons) and determine whether we're living at full capacity. What is your 100%? If we can all figure out first what that 100% is and feels like, and then figure out how to give that - or just to be aware of how much of the percentage we're comfortable giving - we can find that place where we know we're doing our best.

Isn't that what excellence is all about? Doing our best and being happy with the outcome?


At 11:37 PM, Blogger Chris Young said...

Cool thoughts, Jodee Bock Superstar...

I have been wondering about this as well. I notice that typically, I am operating at less-than-my-full potential. What is potential really? The perfect idealic case scenario?

If I woke up tomorrow with the best possible attitude, ate appropriately, walked a little, drove carefully, smiled often, and acted as if I am a Daymaker the whole day - I would probably hit my potential.

The challenge for me is hitting that potential because I don't live life perfectly.

So what am I maximizing?

A scary thought for me is all the lost potential in the world... I see people hurting one another and they in turn don't live to their potential. The people they hurt - they don't either.

Can the cup be flexible? Can I actually help others increase their potential by the way I treat them? Can I diminish it by being rude?

WOW! That's power...

Rock on, Jodee - fellow traveler... You have helped me dig deeper... As you always do.

At 3:26 PM, Blogger Jodee said...

Chris: I think we're all in such pursuit of potential that we forget to fill up our current cup of capacity. Maybe you're not living up to your potential, but will you ever? Potential is in the future ... can you ever "hit your potential?" Wouldn't it then be cacacity?

Maybe when we first start with this self-awareness stuff, we have a 4-ounce espresso cup and the goal is to fill that capacity. As we learn more and grow more, we start to overflow the 4-ounce cup and move up to an 8-ounce glass and then work to fill that capacity.

If we look at potential, we never even know when/if we reach it. It seems like a no-win situation ... kind of like perfection.

But helping others live their capacity - and then increasing the size of their vessel as they get there, that's POWER!

Chris - you have such dynamism and it's been so fun to watch you come into your own POWER. Keep on being who you are becoming!

At 1:19 PM, Blogger CJohnson said...

One of my favorite quotes is from Thomas Edison:

"If we all did the things we are capable of doing, we would literally astound ourselves".

Connie Johnson

At 2:21 PM, Blogger ScienceDave said...

I sort of stumbled on this site, but I'm glad I did.

When I think about my experiences as a scientist, I see the word "potential" as being sort of fear-laden; specifically, the fear that if I concentrate on one thing, I miss other opportunities that I could legitimately pursue. If I concentrate on chemistry (which I do) I miss being at the edge of biology, are area that I think has so much to teach us about ourselves. To take any path logically constrains me to not take another, at least simultaneously.

With time and experience, I have learned to let go a little, and to cheer for those taking roads that I have not. It means I have to take a little time to look up from the path that I have chosen.

Dave Eaton

At 1:15 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bravo. Most of us live in the shadow of potential, but how many of us are living at capacity?

We are afraid of ourselves. This same concept is discussed in a book called A Return to Love, by Marianne Williamson. Highly recommended.


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