How do you know if you have reached your capacity? What happens when you exceed it? Is that even possible? When I reach a new training goal and exceed my capacity, I just move the line to the new personal best. If I could increase my capacity by 1% 5 days a week, the gains in a month, a year would be remarkable. My squat personal best is 250 pounds of 5 sets of 5 reps. A 1% increase would add 2.5 pounds tomorrow, which seems entirely doable. After 5 days my capacity would be set at about 263 pounds. For my age and frame size, there is likely an extreme capacity. With a little bit of Google sleuthing, it seems that the record for a 64-year-old is 369 pounds. That seems impossible for me to imagine lifting but shouldn’t we strive to reach the outer limits. And if the record holder, John LaFlamme, add 1% a week for a month he would reach more than 390.
What about other workloads? If I write 2500 words today and read 200 pages can I increase both by 1% tomorrow? That is only one more sentence and a couple more pages. If I contacted 6 prospects tomorrow could I contact 7 and then 8 and then 9 or ten a day, by the end of this week. Are we afraid of capacity or is capacity a synonym for fear? Fear erodes capacity; fear of failure, fear of the unknown, fear of success, fear of commitment, fear of accountability. Let me offer this assurance if you try to improve you will fail, the outcome is uncertain, you may be asked to do more, you won’t have the same excuses, and you will improve (probably not all on the same day but maybe).
What if your potentials and mine are infinite? Well, not technically infinite but so much greater than we are reaching as to seem unlimited. Do you have enough desire and drive to move your needle 5% a week or even 5% a month? What activities and projects are you working on? How could you apply a metric and the set a 5% improvement target? Let’s pretend that you aren’t already walking your 10000 steps a day, like we have been convinced that we should be doing or that you aren’t drinking 64oz of water every day. Improving on these might go hand in hand. If you are walking 6000 steps and drinking 4 glasses of water already you might be able to add 60 steps and an additional 4 oz tomorrow and then repeat and repeat and repeat until you can check the box. Sometime next week you would be up to your 8-8ounce glasses and be pounding out 6500 to 7000 steps. Within a few weeks, you would have increased your capacity and reached the goal through habitual, committed improvement. (Be sure to consult your medical advisors before undertaking any new strenuous activity that could exacerbate an existing condition)
Technology can be a great tool to help remind, prod, coach, and hold accountable our improvement goals and serve as a record of the achievements. I use Duolingo to both encourage and prompt me to continue with my French lessons. Curious.com keeps me learning across an array of subjects by sending an email and then suggesting additional lessons. Noom counts my steps and my TomTom calculates my distances and 5X5StrongLifts coaches me in weight training and kicks my butt when I don’t. In my coaching practice, I act as all of those to my clients and hold them accountable to both the goals and schedules that they have created.
The 1% better every day is credited to Kaizen and in modern terms, this might be the impetus but our neolithic ancestors improved on a daily basis or face dire consequences. Their increase in all kinds of capacity leads us to today where the urgency to improve isn’t as pressing as it was once was. If I don’t learn to conjugate the verb avoir or do 5 sets of bench press and overheads, I probably won’t be eaten by a predator. Where fear once compelled us it now seems to fear detours and derails us from moving forward. The motivation is more intrinsic and inspirational rather than pragmatic survival.
My simple and simplistic analysis would then suggest that capacity is up to me. If I want to improve my fitness, my health, my financial resources, my relationships then it is up to me to participate in the work at the least and design and command at the most. The same is likely true for all of us.