A little more than 10 years ago, I was haunted by the idea of living up to my potential. I had this idea that I didn’t even know my potential— that very few people have an idea of their capacity, and it usually goes to waste. I kept running into quotes like this one:
“Most people live in a very restricted circle of their potential being. They make use of a very small portion of their possible consciousness, and of their soul’s resources in general, much like a man who, out of his whole organism should get into a habit of using and moving only his little finger.” ― William James
And life obliged. I started grad school while I worked full time, I moved multiple times, and faced down a couple of family tragedies. I really did get a sense for how much more I had in the tank. Surprisingly, I don’t know that I came to the end of my capacity, but I got a sense for what life looked like lived at 100 percent.
With that said, I also determined that you shouldn’t live that way all the time. That it’s better for short bursts of high intensity to be interspersed with bits of boring and times of laughter. But as I alluded to last week, I tend to overcorrect toward intensity.
Lately, I’m hearing a lot about creating margin. Earlier this year, I listened to a really interesting series by Andy Stanley called Breathing Room on the recommendation of Michael Hyatt, probably the blogger whose advice I find most compelling.
Today, I saw an interesting article about the neuroscience of this. Now, this article has very little in the way of citation, and I can’t vouch for all of the claims that it makes. And it kind of fell apart toward the end, for me. But it says that downtime is a key part of the optimization process. And what I’ve experienced in endurance athletics (rest days during training and tapers before a race) reinforces these specific claims.
But that’s not the way I’ve been living. I have this cat, and his very favorite thing is to sit in my lap and gaze into my face and purr. And most days, it just doesn’t happen. If I’m home long enough, I’m not sitting for long enough. And maybe that’s the place to start. Maybe if I start with spending just a few minutes every day, letting this poor feline sit in my lap.
It seems like an experiment worth attempting.