As I listen to news and current events surrounding this year’s presidential election, my mind whirls with the shear number of things being hurled at President Obama. I think about him and know it is impossible for him to respond to everyone and everything, everyday, all the time. So it is with us as we take on crazy stuff at work. We too must avoid non-productive skirmishes and save our energy, save our resources, and save the support of our allies to fight those battles significant to the achievement of major goals. We must choose our battles and choose them carefully.
On any given day at work, you may face one, two, three, or ten different things that get under your skin. Things that make you stare in disbelief, things that make you shake your head, or things that make you angry or scared and want to fight. As early as 1914 or 1915, Walter Bradford Cannon described how animals respond to threats. He called it a fight-flight-or-freeze response. The response is primitive, natural, and automatic when there is a threat to our survival.
My fight response was in full bloom during my early working years, and sadly a few more years after that. I was a self-appointed vigilante for justice in the workplace, speaking-out for what was right, and speaking-up for those who were wronged (by those in charge). I did not fear authority and let it be known – not my smartest move. Most importantly, I was totally exhausted fighting every issue that passed my way, ineffective, and sometimes used by those who would not fight for themselves. Then, as my mother used to say, I got some sense.
A wonderful mentor, Bruce Jones, taught me to choose my battles and live to fight another day. He instinctively knew fighting was in my spirit and advised that I not purge the fight instinct, but develop discipline and other skill sets around it. I understood fighting. I had to learn selective resistance, non-engagement, and the fine art of winning!
All issues, problems, challenges and challengers are not equal. Ask yourself if the issue is vital to your career or your core values. Temper your response accordingly. Some things are just not worth the fight.
Do not take up the battles of those who will not fight for themselves. Those who will not fight for themselves are different from those who cannot.
Think about the situation and determine the most effective course of action. If you decide to fight, understand fighting takes on many forms, not always “in your face”.
Do not pick fights, and most especially do not pick fights with those who have more power and a longer reach than you.
Always, always weight possible consequences of a fight and be prepared to accept the consequences.
Choose your battles and live to fight another day!