Whatever your mental or physical state, all of us have limits.
As someone who frequently tries to do everything and run before he can walk, I have an acute awareness, day by day, of my resources. Whether I am measuring up to my high standards or not.
This, obviously, is a recipe for unhappiness.
However, being that person who is highly strung, ‘high maintenance’, has given me an insight into how I function, and in some cases, how others function.
We each have a number of limited resources, which I would say limit us in different ways. The top four are:
- Energy, and
Many of us will have seen the aphorism,
When you’re young, you have time and energy, but no money.
When you’re middle-aged, you have energy and money, but no time.
When you’re old, you have money and time, but no energy.
This depressing maxim leaves one feeling somewhat empty, and while it is an exaggeration, there is a rhythm to life and we each have individual reserves and ‘special powers’. As I discussed a few weeks ago, resilience is something we can train. Resilience can reduce resource costs.
Let’s look at how some activities in my daily life impact on my resources.
Example 1, Willpower: Getting out of bed on a work day.
Time: effectively zero
Energy: effectively zero
I hate getting up. I especially hate getting up for work. So how can I reduce the cost on such a precious resource as Willpower? My solution is to put something else at the start of the day. Learning from those preachers who put their gym kit by their bed so that the first thing they do is see it and, zombie-like, don it and leave the house for a frigid morning run, I figured that the best way to circumvent my morning disgust is to put a pleasurable activity before work.
There’s also a degree of habit-forming here. I am a late chronotype. One of the latest I know; I am capable of staying up well beyond the vast majority of my friends without feeling tired, but I just cannot get out of bed. Getting up will always be difficult for me, but I can take steps to make it slightly less so.
Example 2, Energy: Going to an evening class after work.
Money: moderate, but if paid for by term, reduces Willpower cost
Time: quite expensive. Consumes an evening, and sometimes more if there’s homework
Energy: expensive, as each unit of energy feels more expensive than the last
Willpower: low, I wanted to do this. Sometimes can even restore some willpower.
This is usually the kind of thing I am dead up for, but now and then I’ll have to skip a class. The reasons are rarely to do with willpower, and typically I have enough money to sustain one or two classes in a week. If the class goes particularly well and I feel like I’ve made progress, I might even feel restored by it, despite the energy cost. However, if it’s too easy or too hard, particularly on a regular basis, this can erode my resilience, meaning the willpower cost rises.
Example 3, Time: Planning an event
Money: zero, assuming you are just planning it and not spending the money
Willpower: moderate, depends on how much you enjoy these things!
I love planning, so for me this might cost less than for others. Regardless, complex events like group holidays, weddings, or parties take time to plan well. They also take thought and effort to make them good. Money is variable here, as you might choose to spend or do ‘DIY’, find vouchers/savings, etc.
Writing this post has made me consider my own limitations. Right now, I am spending a great deal of my time, money, energy, and willpower on planning and booking my wedding. But I’m still doing two classes a week, hanging out with friends (also costs time and energy) and writing my blog thrice weekly (though the days I have to write will vary depending on my availability and yes, time, energy and willpower).
I did once try to catalogue my energy levels, but I didn’t really find much of a pattern. This isn’t helped by the unpredictable nature of my job, or of life in general. Sometimes doing certain things makes you feel like you have more energy (see earlier comments on resilience, willpower, and how when things go well they make other things less costly). This is not dissimilar to how people with depression behave (being one such individual). Some things cost almost nothing on a good day, but on another they cost more than we have to give.
Finally, learn to forgive yourself. You are always doing your best, no matter what anyone else says. The only things people say to you are what they are saying to themselves. Trite, perhaps, but certainly true. You are the only one who knows yourself, so you are the only one who will ever learn your true limits.
So, go and know thyself!