Activating Our Gears

“Life is like a 10-speed bike. Most of us have gears we never use.”
Charles Schulz

By Amy Burkett
People at a white board


Research shows that 78 percent of Americans feel stressed at least once a week, with 15 percent saying they’re stressed every day. Women are more stressed than men. 

I get that, because we’re working, raising families and taking care of everyone and everything around us. Did you know that Gen Xers -- people aged 41 to 55 -- are the most stressed generation? 

I’m near the top of that bracket, but I’ve learned how to control stress by increasing my capacity.

If you need a few reasons why this is worth the effort, here you go.

First, stress leads to a myriad of health problems such as heart disease, obesity, diabetes, depression, headaches, accelerated aging and premature death. But if we can’t quit our jobs and stop taking care of our families, what should we do?

Benjamin Franklin said, “If you want something done, ask a busy person.” Why do busy people get the most done? They’ve found the way to blow the lid off their capacity, and you can, too.

New York Times bestselling author John Maxwell wrote the book No Limits – Blow the Cap Off Your Capacity. While you definitely need to read the book, it all starts with this secret recipe:

Awareness + Ability + Choices = Capacity

If you truly want to reach your capacity, which allows you to reduce your stress, first you have to realize that change is necessary. You can grow your potential but you won’t get there by doing the same things you’ve always done.

I had a 10-speed bike as a kid, but I rarely used anything above the third gear. Peanuts comic strip writer Charles Schulz once said, “Life is like a 10-speed bike. Most of us have gears we never use.” That’s heart-wrenching. I want to use everything inside of me to make a positive impact on this world. Don’t you? Please say yes.

In his book, Maxwell tells us to never assume that we’ve arrived. Becoming self-aware is essential to reaching our capacity. What prevents us from doing so? Excuses. Talking without listening. Unresolved negative emotions. An unwillingness to pay the price for experience. Habitual self-distraction.

We have to make choices that maximize our possibilities, and that begins with three important steps:

  • Responsibility Capacity – Your choice to take charge of your life.
  • Attitude Capacity – Your choice to be positive regardless of your circumstances.
  • Growth Capacity – Your choice to focus on how far you can go.

There’s more, but allow me to leave you with the Rule of 5. What five things must you do and ask yourself every day to accomplish difficult tasks?

  • Intentionality: What do I want to accomplish?
  • Practicality: How will I accomplish it?
  • Focus: How many things will I do?
  • Action: What action will I take?
  • Consistency: How often will I do it?  

These may seem too simplistic, but that’s where you’d be wrong. The reason you don’t grow your capacity is because you don’t take the simple steps necessary every single day. I’ve followed these steps and seen great gains in my ability to accomplish things I never thought possible.

You can, too, if you take action right now. You can’t manage your life if you can’t manage yourself.

If you’re tired of the limits in your life, then guess what? You’re in the perfect place to create the change necessary to make the extraordinary impact you want to make on your world. The world needs you to blow the lid off your capacity.

It’s worth the effort. I promise. 

Amy BurkettAmy Burkett is the host of WTVP’s Leadership Series, a multi-regional Emmy Award-winning journalist, author of “The 7D’s to Your Destiny” and a certified John Maxwell trainer, speaker and coach.