It can be tempting to push yourself to go harder or faster. But the question to ask yourself is, What does the extra stress of doing so actually gain you?

Derek Sivers tells a story of how he used to ride his bike on a certain bike path. It was a 15 mile loop near the ocean, and was usually fairly empty when he rode. He started riding the loop a few time a week, and would always go as fast as he could around the circuit. He would finish exhausted, and no matter how hard he pushed himself, he would always finish in about 43 minutes.

After a while, though, he found himself becoming more resistant to going out to ride. He started associating it with the utter exhaustion he felt at the end. So one day, he decided he would take it easy. He would relax and dial back the intensity, trying to actually enjoy the ride, instead of pushing himself to physical exhaustion. And when he got done, he felt great.

Then he checked his watch. He had relaxed, enjoyed the ride, and therefore assumed he had taken much longer than he normally did. But the timer on his watch said he had finished in 45 minutes — only a couple minutes different from his usual time. Essentially, he could push himself, and be absolutely tired and exhausted at the end; or he could relax, enjoy the ride, and feel rejuvenated. And the only difference between the two was a couple of minutes.


We can put additional stress on ourselves to do more, to try harder, to go faster. But at the same time, we should be fully aware of what we’re actually receiving from this decision. And not just what it gains us, but also what it’s costing us.

Stress in itself isn’t always bad. Sometimes it can cause us to grow and develop. But there are other times where we take on stress needlessly, and it gains us very little (if anything). In those situations, we can stress ourselves out, end up tired and exhausted, and have very little to show for it.

Once we know what we’re actually gaining by pushing ourselves harder, we’ll be in a position to decide if it’s worth it. There are times where it may be, but there are many times where it’s not. In those case, better to stay relaxed and enjoy the process, than to wear ourselves out for minimal gain.