Leaving Some Gas In The Tank – The Power Of Holding Back

I think a lot of us have a tendency to push ourselves to our limit. Society, our family and our peers encourage us to, “Do our best” or “Reach higher” or “Push harder”. There’s certainly nothing wrong with striving to reach our goals, working hard and feeling satisfied that we have, indeed, done our best. But is there an argument for holding back? For doing just a little bit less? For leaving a bit of gas in the tank?

The power of holding back

I have absolutely no qualms in calling myself an entrepreneur: I have started and grown businesses, sold businesses, seen opportunities where others see closed doors and I have built a life that I love. But there is one tiny fly in the ointment; when you are an entrepreneur, you tend to be the the linchpin of your own destiny. Sure, there are heaps of talented people that can design a piece of my entrepreneurial puzzle, and a massively important part of running and growing your own business is learning how to delegate. However, I usually stand alone when it comes to being able to see the whole picture – only I can put all the pieces in their correct places.

So sometimes it’s incredibly easy to push myself, to work harder, achieve more ……… and then I’m exhausted, and far less likely to have the mental energy that I need for the following day. So I work hard, but if I feel myself wanting to push myself to my limit I pull back. I let that desire slip away and I moderate my working hours, leaving a bit of gas in the tank. Which means that I’m far more likely to achieve more the following day. This approach allows my creativity some space to breath, and it’s far more sustainable in the longterm.

Transferring this approach to daily life

Holding back is not only a powerful approach to business, try transferring it to every-day life:

  • We go on holiday, or visit a new city. We want to see everything and stuff as much as possible into our trip. Our holiday comes to an end and we have camera cards full of pictures, yet we’re exhausted.
    Slow down, try not to see everything. See a few things and take the time to really enjoy your surroundings. Memories are built on experiences, not on how many outings we’ve managed to cram into one week. Finish your trip knowing that there is still more to see; almost leave yourself wanting more. If we’ve ‘seen it all’ and ‘done it all’ we are in danger of becoming jaded, let your holiday destination or a city hold some secrets – there’s always next time.
  • We book a table at a great restaurant. We want to try all the dishes, and eat as much as we can. We leave the restaurant feeling overstuffed – sometimes painfully so.
    Take your time, choose slowly – savour the whole ritual of ordering and eating. Maybe order two starters instead of a starter and a main. Leave the table still wanting just a little more, your waistline will certainly thank you for it. When you look back at your restaurant experience, waistline-busting discomfort won’t cross your mind, instead you will remember the delicious food you ate and the time you spent with your family/friends.
  • We fire up our computers. We move from one task to the next, quitting only when we have spent far more time staring at a screen than is good for us.

    Try shutting your computer before you’ve done everything. You will never be done with everything; there will always be more to do, one more site to visit, one more email. If you walk away from your screen before you are spent, you will have reserved some mental energy for your offline pursuits. You’ll also be raring to go on the following day.

Let’s counter the tendency to want to do as much as possible. Let’s all do less and leave some gas in the tank. And let’s enjoy the less that we do even more!

Here’s to less.


  1. Caitlin
    August 20, 2015 / 10:14 pm

    You have some very wise advice here! I’m all for “leaving some gas in the tank.” It’s very tempting to go and do until you’re ready to drop. But I think life is more enjoyable when you take some time to just kick back and enjoy whatever experience you’re in.

  2. March 16, 2016 / 3:20 pm

    Brilliant post Michelle with some very sound advice. As a fellow blogger, freelance writer and online business owner, I too strive to push myself harder, to keep going until everything looks as though it’s done. But it never is! I think I need to take your advice and walk away from the laptop a little earlier each day than I do so there is a bit left in the tank for the following day xxx

    • March 16, 2016 / 4:07 pm

      Exactly Liz, you will never be able to do ‘everything’. I’m glad you found the post useful, and here’s hoping to fuller tanks in the future.
      Michelle xx

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