Limited Capacity

Sometimes, in some rare cases, I live up to my every expectation of myself; but almost always I fall short.

This isn’t a self-criticism, it’s a reality. And it’s one that I’ve learned to accept in the same way I accept that sometimes I would like to eat absolutely everything on a restaurant menu, but I know, much to my chagrin, that I cannot. I also know that if I did somehow manage to live up to those expansive ambitions, I’d probably regret it.

This more rational assessment of my true physical capacity can be discouraging, because limiting myself to only one or two choices requires that I, first, decide what I won’t be having at that particular meal, and second, decide where I’ll focus my attention, instead—two choices that often lead to an unfair comparison between my chosen entrée and all the delectable-paths not taken.

When faced with an overabundance of desirable options, I try to remind myself that this is not the only choice of this kind I will ever make, and that if I flood my palate (and stomach) with too many things all at once, I won’t be able to enjoy any of them fully: I’ll be overwhelmed, not immersed.

It’s possible to more completely experience a dish if it’s all you’re having because the finitude focuses your attention. Too many sensory signals all at once can numb your taste, texture, and olfactory apparatuses to the finer details of the cuisine you’re consuming.

This is also true of work you might do, hobbies you might adopt, and experiences you might pursue.

A reminder that there will be other opportunities to engage in such activities can help us dodge the choice overload-related anxiety that can otherwise arise, and can assuage the sense of buyer’s remorse that we might otherwise feel after deciding between seemingly equally desirable options.

Knowing that I’ll be able to try something different next time around—whether that’s a different menu item or different realm of inquiry I’m curious about—makes it more likely that I’ll be able to enjoy what I’ve got and focus on that chosen option.

Such focus is massively preferable to wasting my psychological energy worrying about what I don’t have and agonizing over my limited capacity.

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