We all have full lives, crowded schedules and constant demands on us. When people are busy, often the first thing that goes by the wayside is health. Even if you know what to do to live a healthy lifestyle, it’s easy to sacrifice a few hours of sleep each night to fit more into the day, or skip a week of exercise because you can’t find time, or choose the unhealthier, but easier, food for dinner.
But our physical health doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Everything we do is determined by our health—from our energy to get things done, to our ability to avoid getting sick when working under pressure, even to our ability to think and focus.
While our brain helps drive and guide us through life, it’s our body that is asked to do the heavy lifting day in and day out. If your body is weak and fatigued, your mental stamina and ability to focus will suffer as well. To be a high performer, no matter what you’re doing, you have to build your physical capacity.
What is Physical Capacity?
Physical capacity is your ability to improve your health, well-being and physical performance. It acts as either an accelerant or drag on your performance. When your physical capacity is strong, you have more endurance and resilience. When it is weak, doing anything is more difficult because you’ll lack the energy and ability to overcome stress needed to excel.
It’s easy to take health for granted. So many of us don’t pay enough attention until we get bad news, either with our own health, or that of a friend or loved one. I hit a turning point of my own in 2009, when I had panic attack triggered by extreme stress. At the time, when my heart was racing and I was collapsed to the floor, I thought I was having a fatal heart attack—and that moment compelled me to pay closer attention to my diet and exercise.
Nutrition and exercise routines can be confusing—what works for one person may not work for others. A good start is to be mindful of what you’re putting into your body. Your diet has a profound effect on your daily life—if you make some positive changes in what you eat, you will quickly notice improvements in your energy and ability to focus.
For an exercise standpoint, it’s important to do a combination of cardiovascular exercise and strength training of some kind, whether that’s weight-lifting, yoga, Pilates or something similar. Remember that it’s never too late to start—I ran my first Olympic triathlon at 41, despite having never run over a mile out side of sports practice before I was 35.
But building physical capacity goes beyond just diet and exercise—another great way to start is focusing on stress management. Stress is often treated as an inevitability of life, and functioning under heavy stress, or on little sleep, is often considered heroic. You have to control your own schedule to combat stress—schedule 15 minute breaks throughout the day, and, whenever possible, get eight hours of sleep each night. You’ll notice a difference in your energy and focus.
Ask yourself—are you doing all you can to become all you can be? Do you consider health to be something that can be sacrificed to get through a busy day? Do you neglect to set aside time and energy to improving your physical performance? Are you doing what you can to live a less stressful life, even with something as simple as getting more sleep?
It’s never too late to start. Wherever you are building your capacity, you can certainly reach another level with the right improvements. The people closest to you deserve the best version of you.
-Robert Glazer, Author of Elevate
I want you to picture two people, John and Sarah. John is stressed throughout the day. When things are going well, he’s focused and high-performing, but when adversity strikes, he crumbles under pressure. Sarah is often described as resilient and unflappable. When Sarah encounters obstacles, she works through them quickly, and treats failure as a necessary part of learning. Great leaders look more like Sarah than John. When challenges strike, you need to be the one to rally your team and stay confident. No matter how talented, focused and purposeful you are, you have to have the emotional capacity to overcome adversity.
What is Emotional Capacity?
Emotional capacity is a measure of your ability to overcome limiting beliefs, your ease in adapting to challenging situations, and the quality of your relationships. No matter how talented, disciplined or values-driven you are, if you don’t have high emotional capacity, you’ll fall short of your goals eventually.
A challenge in building emotional capacity the self-limiting beliefs we place on ourselves. An example of this is a force called cognitive dissonance, when a person holds two or more contradictory beliefs at the same time. Cognitive dissonance causes us to double down on harmful behavior, invest in negative relationships, and close our minds to information that challenges our preconceptions.
While it’s hard to see at first, a close-minded approach inevitably limits your ability to grow and reach your full potential. To build your emotional capacity, you must honestly evaluate your own mindset and become open to difficult feedback.
Many of us limit our potential without even realizing it, and it takes conscious effort to understand what is holding us back—and to address it. As a personal example: for years, I wanted to write a book, but I kept giving myself excuses to avoid doing it. That changed in 2016; while I was in the second year of a three year entrepreneurial masters program, I made a commitment that I would write a book by the time I reached my third year.
Simply changing my affirmation from, “I want to write a book,” to “I will write a book,” gave me the extra push I needed. I challenged my limiting beliefs, built my emotional capacity, and published my first book, Performance Partnerships, a year later. This year I published my second book, Elevate, which explores capacity building in detail.
Quality of Relationships
Building emotional capacity is not just about how you interact with your own mind—the quality of your relationships is also vital. Legendary entrepreneur Jim Rohn once said, “you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” You need to surround yourself with people who give you energy, who genuinely care about helping you improve, and are not afraid to challenge you to do so.
Do you have many relationships with people like this? While it can feel good to spend time with people who always make you feel good and never expect you to change for the better, doing this will limit your ability to improve. Needless to say, it’s similarly damaging to spend time with people who are always tearing others down and blaming others for their shortcomings.
Think carefully about the people you spend the most time with—do they share your core values and respect you enough to tell you when you’re wrong? Are there people in your life who make you feel drained and dissatisfied? If you make a conscious effort to spend time with people who share your values and give you energy, while limited exposure to people who drain you, you’ll feel better in the long run.
What’s great about capacity building is that it empowers you to not just make yourself better, but to inspire those around you to grow alongside you. If you surround yourself with people who are as committed to achieving as you are, you’ll all push each other to keep growing. If you tackle each day with gratitude and are capable of adapting to adversity, you’ll set an example for people you lead to follow.
Ask yourself—are you doing all you can to become all you can be? Do you push aside your self-limiting beliefs and take adversity as an opportunity to improve, rather than a crushing setback? Are you spending time with people who want you to reach for full potential, rather than pulling you down to their level?
You already know the answers to these questions. Wherever you are in your journey to build capacity, you can reach another level. The people closest to you deserve the best version of you.
-Robert Glazer, Author of Elevate