A prominent idea in current development economics literature is that of state capacity: the government invests resources now to build capacity to protect property or provide infrastructure. It's useful as a way to represent the many differnet legal cultures across the nations of the world, and condense them down into a comparable framework: how does performance across certain indicators compare? The idea was in recent development by Besley and Pearsson (2009), and a quick survey of humanitarian and development jobs shows the phrase has spread. (For one example see here.)
That's one idea that extends well to the individual. We all invest our time and money in various activities, and a select (though still broad) subset of those activities build our capacity in some specific way. Lifting weights builds strength, or one's capacity to push and pull with more force. Aeorbic exercise builds cardiovascular endurance. Studying builds capacity to acquire and regurgitate information, and to put out a smart connection every so often. Reading literature builds verbosity, articulation, and emotional intelligence. Among other things.
A problem I face is that I typically expect a change in my life to lead to some kind of instantaneous reward. For instance, in the recent past I have started studying, and though I didn't expect to lights to shine and mastery to immediately materialize, an anxiety quickly set in when I didn't feel a growing confidence or a clear way to mastery. I got bogged down in new ideas and information and needed more time for it to make sense, and I got discouraged.
When that happens, another side in me advises that I see these times as building capacity. I don't even always know what the capacity is. I just need to trust that there's an improvement coming, one for which I will be grateful.
There are many things in life we want suddenly. This blog post discusses approaches to anxiety and panic. It points out that people typically experience fear of things we have no control over