I Know You Can Do More, But Not Today

Do you ever hear something in a certain context that should apply only to that context, but instead it completely revolutionizes the way you think about your entire life?

That happened to me this weekend.

I’d had a really heavy lifting week and my muscles were fried. I decided to take a Low Impact ride on my Peloton as a way to work up a sweat without putting too much strain on my body. The premise of Low Impact rides is that you intentionally hold something back, never kicking your engine into fifth gear.

The ride was super easy, and I was feeling good. I was getting that antsy feeling that tells you to push yourself harder, and I was just about to add some resistance to the bike, when the coach said something that I haven’t forgotten since then.

She said, “I know you can do more, but not today.”

She explained that sometimes we know we have more to give, but training smartly means being comfortable keeping a little in the tank. It means being willing to take it easy, even when we know we have more to give.

I’ve been thinking about how this mindset applies to all the areas of my life. As a headstrong Capricorn who fully lives up to the name, I have always felt that if I’m not leaving it all on the field, then it’s not even worth doing. I push myself to the absolute limit at just about everything I do. It’s why I burn out quickly — collecting sports activities, hobbies, and even careers like other people collect Pokémon cards.

I push myself to the edge of my mental, emotional, and physical energy until, like a dying star, I collapse on myself.

And why? What is the purpose? What do I have to show for myself as a result? Sure, I’ve accomplished some things that I’m very proud of. But also, I’ve walked away from things that I truly loved because I used myself up until I couldn’t enjoy them anymore. Turning fun into duty and obligation, I’ve robbed myself of joy.

Life seems to be telling me I’m supposed to slow down right now. Things aren’t falling into place the way I want them to — things I need to happen for me to move forward personally and professionally just aren’t happening. My urge during this time is to push harder, to stay up later, to white-knuckle my way toward my goals. But maybe right now I’m supposed to lay low.

Perhaps I’m supposed to embrace knowing that I can do more, but I don’t have to.

Life is more than achievements and accolades, despite what any Type-A, over-achieving Capricorn might tell herself. So, I’m leaning into that (or at least I’m going to try). I’ve spent the last few days at the pool with my kids. I catapulted myself out the door without my laptop before I had the chance to overthink it. I left the book I’m reading behind, too, because even that is something I can turn into an achievement instead of something to be enjoyed (did I read the requisite number of pages today??). I decided to just be for a while instead of do. For so long, I’ve walked the overwhelming tightrope of prioritizing my children while also meeting my professional objectives. I think I’ve done a good job. My kids are secure in their relationship with me, and they know they are loved. But that work has come at a cost to my sanity and my mental health.

So, I’m choosing to make space for myself for a while. To slow down. To accept that I can do more, but maybe not today.

Today, I’m just going to exist. Enjoy my kids. Appreciate these warm summer days and sun-kissed skin. Life will find a way to let me know when it’s time to pick up the pace. But even then, I’m going to try to embrace the calm, quiet knowledge that I don’t have to do it all today.

Things can wait. They’ll all still get gone.

I am allowed to take it slow.

Amber Wardell is a cognitive psychologist and author. Want to see more like this? Subscribe to make sure you never miss out on weekly content!


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