God, save me from the feeling that I am capable of everything.
Maimonides, 12th century rabbi and philosopher
We all have limitations, though some of us are loathe to admit it. Maimonides summed up well the sometimes double-edged nature of feeling as if we can take on anything that comes our way; it feels good to feel capable, and it feels daunting to live under the tyranny of expectations.
Sometimes finding our limits is an exercise in the obvious. I will never be invited to sing the national anthem at a baseball game (major, minor, or any other league). No amount of voice training is going to change my inherent tone deafness. Other times it’s a matter of trial and error. I learned over time that I lack a strong sense of direction. Each time I lose my car in a parking lot I’m reminded of this deficit.
There are benefits to knowing what we do well and allocating resources appropriately. Learning our limits also goes hand-in-hand with determining our strengths. If we focus solely on limitations, relying on a deficit-focused view of life, we miss out on countless opportunities to show the world what we’ve got and to thrive. The concepts of flourishing and thriving have been described by various authors in the positive psychology movement. Flourishing adults are described as having high levels of emotional well-being. They feel a sense of purpose, mastery, and self-acceptance. They capitalize on their strengths, while maintaining awareness of their limitations.
What are you capable of? How do you go about discovering, discerning, and developing your strengths? And what of your limitations? Do they keep you stuck, or have you learned to turn your gaze to what they can teach you about yourself?
I am not capable of everything; thank God. But I am capable of many things; as I work to determine what those things are, I grow and change, sometimes in unexpected ways.