Here is the universal truth of human nature: people are generally lazy. Me included of course.
When I go surfing and I have to paddle out very far away just to reach the break and there are strong currents out there, I need to preserve some energy to get back to the shore. Not following this rule got me already in trouble few times, luckily with a happy ending. We are all constantly learning. So we don’t do the stupid mistakes like that again. And conservation of energy was necessary in this case.
Researchers have studied marathoners and ultra marathoners (people who regularly run very long distances) to learn about how the body responds to pain. Here is what they have found: when you are so tired, that it feels like you are about to die at any second, physiologically you are not even close to actually dying. The signals, your brain is sending to your body is to keep some energy in reserves, just in case you might need it later.
There are some genuine reasons to conserve energy, like my example with surfing and having enough of it to get back. Other times do, conservation of energy is stoping you to get better, to progress.
Conservation of energy explains why some people stay in dead end jobs for decades, even thought they know, the position isn’t great. If the work is ok, the bills get paid, and the job never becomes stressful or frustrating enough to violate expectations, people generally won’t go out of their way to get a promotion, find another job, or start a new business.
If you think you make enough money, you probably won’t do much to earn more. The same way, if you think you are fit enough, strong enough, and in good enough shape, you won’t push yourself to get better. Yes it’s great to have all the good stuff. But as soon as you reach the good enough level for yourself, you become to stagnate. You will start to conserve energy and with that stop growing. It’s quite natural thing to do. We are wired to conserve energy to survive.
It’s pretty common thing to see a successful athlete maintaining his performance level for 10 years after reaching it in 3 years. Or a successful businessman getting complacent, fat and lazy after amazing his fortune.
The message here is this: know when to conserve energy. It is important. However, if you conserve it and you don’t really have a good reason for it, you stopped getting better. Your growth got stumped. Not a very good place to be, however successful or fit you are.
Should you conserve some energy? The answer to the question is no, unless you are in life threatening situation like for example, getting out of woods without having any food left. It wouldn’t be smart to do 10 – 1 mile laps around the lake before starting looking for a way out. But you will most likely never face situations like this unless climbing K2 is on your to do list. And all you are doing right now, when conserving energy, and we all do conserve energy is drifting in your comfortable zone.
The best way and safest to reaching our true potential is actually reaching our true energy limits in a safe environment. If you can get to that point, congratulations. It’s very, very, very hard thing to do.