“He really left it all out on the field” is a familiar phrase to many. The roots of it come, it seems, from the world of sports and it meant to praise someone who has given their complete and total effort to win the game, even if the victory wasn’t theirs. It means they didn’t hold back, they didn’t keep any effort in reserve, didn’t save anything for tomorrow because all that matters is today.

It’s been applied, though, to many other fields. A singer or performer who walks off stage exhausted after hours of baring their soul to the audience. Even someone who works a day job, if they’ve put in every bit of energy and effort to succeed on a given day. The comment is meant to be complimentary, showing that there’s no end someone won’t go to in order to succeed.

How realistic or aspirational is this accolade, though? How much should we really strive to meet that ideal?

If I “leave it all on the field” in a given day doing my job, that means I have nothing left for any other aspect of my life. My family and other interests are left wanting, then, as I’ve completely expended all of my energies in pursuit of some other goal.

There’s no question that you should do what you need to succeed in your career or vocation. That’s what I did when I was working full time and what I’ve done in the last year as I’ve transitioned to a mix of freelance work and part-time retail. You don’t want to look back and regret the moments where you didn’t give it your best effort. But make sure you’re leaving something in the tank to ensure you’re available to do likewise in your personal life.

I’ll be honest, this is something I’ve struggled with over the years myself. I thought *all* my energies needed to go into my job, no matter what it was. I thought I was showing my love and attention by coming home every night completely exhausted because I’d worked so hard and put so much effort (admittedly mostly mental and emotional since I’ve almost always worked in the “knowledge” industry) into my job. It’s only in the last few years that I realized I wasn’t doing anyone any favors and in fact was doing significant damage to my family relationships by insisting on burning through all my reserves professionally.

Now that approach not only seems selfish – I was actively neglecting those closest to me as a result – but also…well…pointless. All that hard work didn’t lead to an endless string of regular promotions or job security, nor did it do anything to shorten the length of my unemployment.

I thought it would, though. I genuinely thought “I’ve left it all on the field my entire career. Surely someone will realize that and this won’t last long/will be over soon.” It wasn’t, though. And now all that time I spent crafting strategy in my head when I should have been emotionally present while out with my family seems like the very definition of wasted energy.

Strong worth ethic? Yes. Commitment to providing the best work possible? Absolutely. Being an asset to your employer or clients? You bet.

Just make sure you’re not leaving it all on that particular field.