The seventh energetic law of leadership is the law that governs your time and capacity. This law is: “Your life has precisely enough time and space for everything inside your current capacity.”
This law makes itself known in the context of leadership, both personal and organizational. This law explains why no amount of time management, optimization schemes, and perfect systems will be sufficient to have you get out of your way and take on your breakthroughs.
This law operates because of a mistaken belief in our lives that we have spare time sitting around. In reality, our lives expand to meet the same one hundred and sixty-eight hours that we all have available each week.
When we set about planning to take on something new in our lives, we look at the time we relate to as being “wasted”, and assume we can just trade out our time in front of the TV for time spent doing whatever we want to take on next.
In doing so, we step over the pay-off that sitting in front of that TV, drinking our wine, or over-cleaning our house is providing.
As an example, let’s imagine Lucy. Lucy is an incredibly generous woman, but is afraid that she might be perceived as selfish at times. Her parents raised her, telling her that being selfish was the worst thing you could be, and so Lucy learned to compensate by going out of her way to give people everything they needed.
As an adult, Lucy is likeable and easy-going. She rarely leaves people feeling taken advantage of, or like they have to compete with Lucy. Lucy is able to create that experience for other people by continually being a doormat herself. She puts everyone’s needs and desires ahead of her own, because that way she can ensure she isn’t selfish.
This tendency of Lucy’s causes resentment to build up over time, and so, when she comes home from eight hours at her job, she’s left feeling exhausted and angry. Because Lucy has learned that anger is wrong and tells herself she has no right to be angry at other people, her anger has nowhere to go, and no way to be expressed. Instead, Lucy pours herself a big glass of wine, sits down in front of the TV, and numbs out for four hours before she goes to bed.
Now Lucy wants to take on something new in her life. She’s taken a look at her available time, and concluded it won’t be a problem — she’ll just need to work on this new project for a couple of hours each night instead of watching TV.
This will work fine for a while, and initially Lucy will feel quite good as she takes on something new. But, she hasn’t addressed her old ways of being, and consequently, her resentment is still getting triggered. As time goes on, and Lucy is no longer using TV to numb herself, she will start to notice that her resentment is taking over her attention. She just doesn’t seem to be able to focus on the new project she was sure she would take on.
Slowly but surely, Lucy reaches back for that bottle of wine and the remote control. Lucy may create explanations for why the new project is just temporarily on the back-burner, or she may adamantly insist that this week it’s going to be different — only to discover, once again, that it isn’t.
What Lucy is unable to see, and what this law points us back to, is that our life, exactly as it is, and exactly as it isn’t, is in a state of homeostasis. By a state of homeostasis, I’m not suggesting that your life isn’t chaotic, or even that it is sustainable. I simply mean that all of the constituent parts of your life are coherent with each other, and that you are compensating, consciously or unconsciously, precisely to the extent needed for everything that is going on.
Any time you attempt to make a change in your life, you are disrupting this homeostasis. In the example above, when Lucy takes action to start a new project and stop watching TV, she’s disrupting the balance and coping provided by watching TV, and that throws everything else into disarray.
This doesn’t mean that transformation is impossible, but it does mean that we will need to be willing to stand in a state of imbalance and get supported while we distinguish what is actually going on (rather than insisting we can just make this happen and trying to white-knuckle through it).
The upshot of this law is that waiting until you “have time” to take on what’s next is self-defeating. You will never “have time” available to take on what’s next, because your life currently makes use of all the time you have.
The last point to be made here is that this law will not prevent you from making changes that stay within your existing capacity. If you’re using TV to cope with your underlying resentment, and you swap out watching TV for over-cleaning your house, this will fit within your existing capacity.
This law only applies in situations that would require an increase in your capacity — a breakthrough in your way of being.
Think of it like rearranging the furniture in your apartment — your apartment has room for this, and for a while, things will feel novel and different. But at the end of the day, you’re still living in the same apartment.
This law is the reason that there is no substitute for transformational work with a coach or leader. You can swap around the circumstances in your life as much as you like, but your underlying experience and capacity to be with life will not shift — only the trappings on the surface.
To truly create something beyond what you already have requires a transformation.