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Building Capacity

people stretching in a yoga class
Photo by Anupam Mahapatra on Unsplash

They say, when you start something new, to begin with baby steps. As you move forward, you build capacity, develop skills and it gets easier. But right now, I feel like I’m barely taking little, tiny mouse steps as I work on writing and promoting this book on consultation.

Pushing the edge

This process reminds of me of stretching and yoga. When I first started doing yoga, my muscles felt like glass, like they’d break if I went any further. I thought the goal was to keep stretching day after day until my muscles weren’t tight anymore at all.

Then my daughter joined the cross-country running team. These kids trained every day: warm ups, stretching, running, racing. Then she’d come home and stretch some more, commenting on how good it felt because her muscles were tight.

It finally dawned on me—the point wasn’t to eliminate that “edge of stretch,” but to keep pushing it further and further, deeper and deeper.

Pretty soon, I lost that brittle, “muscles as glass” feeling. That original breaking point became my new baseline. I was able to stretch further.

The experience was always the same—tightness, STRETCH to discomfort, then release. But the point of stretch kept moving deeper until my former “breaking point” became a place of easy, comfortable movement. Now I have a new stretch horizon.

Building inner capacities

As I write this, I’m realizing this is how inner capacities work as well.

Take the quality of patience, for example. When I develop patience, it’s not that I never become impatient. (Believe me, I wish it did!) What it means is that the point at which I become impatient—my patience horizon— gets stretched out further and further. I am able to remain patient under more difficult circumstances.

What used to drive me nuts three years ago, is not a problem now. I can be at peace and patient with it. Now what drives me nuts are circumstances that are much more intense and tangled. And when I master my response to these situations, I’ll be facing a whole new level of intensity.

I will probably always experience impatience, but my “patience horizon” keeps moving further and further out as I develop my capacity for patience.

Measuring from the inside

But back to the baby steps (or mouse steps in my case)….

I told my husband the other day that I was feeling overwhelmed with all that needs to be done and all I need to learn. He looked at me and asked, “What is your criteria for success? Is it an internal measure or are you measuring yourself against someone else’s expectations?”

I realized that’s exactly what I was doing. I was feeling like a failure because I wasn’t measuring up to what I thought others expected of me.

The reality is, I have no idea what these people actually expect of me. And frankly, it’s none of my business.

So I sat down and reflected on what I expect of myself. That’s when I realized I’m just barely getting started. My steps forward are really small. But I am moving forward. The best thing to do is just keep putting one foot in front of the other.

I also realized that these tiny steps actually fall into four categories. If I can do just one thing in each category every day, I’ll make good progress:

  • Stretch – Do one thing that scares me each day.

  • Connect – Connect with one person each day, whether an old friend or someone new.

  • Learn – Capture one thing I discover each day.

  • Earn – Whether it’s money, clients, confirmations or insights, notice what comes in each day.

So this is my capacity building strategy for the foreseeable future. I feel so much lighter!

What strategies do you use to move forward? What works for you?

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