Beginning in 1966 and running for only three seasons, Gene Roddenberry, the creator of Star Trek, envisioned a story set in outer space, yet akin to Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels. But more daring, his creation subliminally addressed contemporary issues of the time, which included social inequality. One of the classic characters of the multi-ethnic cast was Montgomery Scott. Scotty was the Chief Engineer on the starship Enterprise, and as luck would have it, he continually had the good fortune of coming to the rescue in terms of keeping the ship together when all was in harms way. And in dramatic form, when demanded by Captain Kirk to conjure up the impossible, somehow Scotty would deliver—squeezing out additional capacity from the ship's core even when all seemed on the brink of imminent disaster.
Capacity is a powerful thing. In the example above, capacity refers to an inanimate object, but capacity can also refer to one's own being and their capability to understand, experience, or do something. It is a measurement that defines the maximum amount a person or object can contain or produce...but there is more to it. The part that this definition fails to recognize is there can be a difference between conceived capacity and actual capacity. What do I mean? Well, look at a gallon of water. A gallon jug will only be able to put a gallon of water inside it. Water is an incompressible liquid so no matter how hard one pushes, more water will not go in. So in this case, conceived capacity matches actual capacity. On the other hand, looking at ourselves as humans, our conceived capacity is the point where we start to feel overwhelmed. Our actual capacity is much, much more.
Gandhi is quoted as saying, "If I have the belief that I can do it, I shall surely acquire the capacity to do it even if I may not have it at the beginning."
I made a flippant comment recently stating I felt as if I was being pulled in three very different directions. The result was a sense of being in an arrested development and unable to make traction in any of the three directions I felt pulled. When I was in that state, two people offered up advice. One person said I was too busy, had too much on my plate, and suggested I quit some of my commitments to put more time in my day.
The second person simply said, "Increase your capacity."
Reflecting on Gandhi's quote, I'm reminded of the effectiveness of setting goals. Obviously we get a tremendous amount of satisfaction when we meet our goals, but meeting our goals is not the sole purpose of setting them. Setting goals stretches us and makes us grow. And as we move forward, we find ourselves better and more equipped than when we first started. In other words, pursuing our goals increases our capacity.
So, to the person that offered up I have too much on my plate, my response is this: "Too much on my plate, good sir? Obviously I just need a bigger plate to increase my capacity!"
Rabindranath Tagore, friend of Gandhi and winner of the Nobel Prize in 1913, is quoted as saying, "Everything comes to us that belongs to us if we create the capacity to receive it."
And as the old saying goes, "When the going gets tough, the tough get going," meaning when faced with a challenge or overwhelming scenario, the strong will work harder to meet the challenges.
Gandhi continues, "Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will."
It is said that what lies before us and what lies behind us are small matters compared to what lies within us. And when we bring what is within out into the world, miracles happen. If we believe in ourselves, focus on the goals we have set, recognize the strength of our inner being and continue to press forward, we will create the capacity to carry us. What may feel like the impossible at first, actually becomes possible in the end. There is extra capacity at our core—sometimes we just need a Scotty of sorts to help us find it before launching into a bigger world.