Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Picking Your Battles – What's Worth Fighting For?

Today is Wednesday, February 5, 2014.

Be selective in your battles; sometimes peace is better than being right.

When I lived in Japan, I often felt that I was being peeled like an onion, layer by layer.  In a country where so many things are done differently from the way I was brought up, I could have fought a new battle just about every day, if I wanted to.  That was when I realized that there is more than one way to do things, and sometimes picking a fight is tantamount to beating one's head against a wall for no good reason.

In keeping with the idea of living consciously and gaining a measure of control over your emotions, it's important to become aware of your personal behavior patterns.  What people, situations, words, or ideas upset you?  What makes you see red?  When you figure out what makes you angry, look for patterns.  Is it certain types of political comments?  Does it have to do with your religion?  Is it how your boss treats you?  Does it always seem to involve dishonesty on someone's part?  Is it usually about some type of racist behavior?  Do you usually end up feeling insulted, personally?  Does it often involve money, the kids, the house, the car, or sex?  Is it your mate who bothers you?  Your boss?  Your teenagers?  One of your co-workers?  The neighbor from hell? 

Once you figure out what makes you mad, it will become apparent in which areas of your life you are overextended, or out of balance.  If you are overextended, you will need to decide how to get a few things off your plate by requesting help, delegating responsibilities, or just learning how to recognize your limits and when to say "no."   If you are out of balance, you will have to dig a little deeper to find out what is causing the imbalance. It may be that the things that anger you now are simply new triggers for an old anger that you have not yet resolved.   When you figure out the original issue and resolve it, you may find that you don't have as many battles to fight as you thought.

In picking your battles, you have to consider whether the issue really needs to be addressed, and whether now or later might be a good time to do that.  What is your goal for this battle?  What changes do you wish to make?  What problem do you wish to solve?   Will the solution benefit only you or all concerned?  Your participation in a battle should always have as its goal a solution to the situation at hand, and ideally, the best outcome for all concerned.  If you are in a battle whose sole objective is to hurt another person or simply to express your anger indiscriminately, you are fighting for the wrong reasons.

Are you arguing simply because you wish to prove that you are right?  Remember that if you are really "right," you will continue to be right whether or not anyone else acknowledges it.  Sometimes you have to ask yourself: Would you rather be married or right?  Would you rather have this job or be right?  Would you rather get the job done or be right? 

There are times when no change can be made, and then you will have to decide whether to at least say something about the issue, hoping that it might lead to a change in the future.  For example, there were a lot of women who struggled for women's suffrage years before their sisters were given the right to vote. Many civil rights workers gave their lives in hopes that one day racist policies and practices would be ended.  People are fighting against Big Business, Big Oil, Big Government, Big Banking and Big Pharma, the Keystone XL Pipeline and racist team names and mascots.  Even if their causes are successful, some of them may not see the ultimate outcome.  That's what you always have to ask yourself: is this fight worth it, even if I never reap the benefit?

Some people pick small fights because they are reluctant to engage a larger issue.  If you are constantly going tit for tat with a colleague at work, for example, what's the larger issue?  Are you afraid that the colleague is after your job?  Or is your colleague afraid that you are after his/her job?   It may be best to get the real issue out in the open, rather than doing little things to bug each other every day.

Some fights are just not worth it.  For example, will that political argument you are having on Facebook change the outcome of the election?  Will arguing with your boss really help your situation, or might it be better altogether to find another job?  Is it going to matter 50 years from now which wedding dress you choose?  Is it really necessary to argue about Justin Bieber with a cousin you see only a couple of times a year?  

“Choose your battles wisely. After all, life isn't measured by how many times you stood up to fight. It's not winning battles that makes you happy, but it's how many times you turned away and chose to look into a better direction. Life is too short to spend it on warring. Fight only the most, most, most important ones, let the rest go.”   ― C. JoyBell C.

There are times when it is simply better to walk away, knowing that no good can come out of a pitched battle.  Here are three more tips for avoiding unnecessary battles: 

1)  Avoid holding people and situations up to an impossible ideal.  You may wish to aim high, and there's no sin in that, but recognize that nothing is perfect. Being angry because things are not going according to an ideal in your head is a sure recipe for self-imposed misery.

2)  Realize that some people just like to create drama wherever they go to create a little excitement in their lives.  There are better ways to create excitement.  Don't take the bait.  Don't be a prop in someone else's play.

3)  Hanging onto relationships and situations that are no longer serving your best interests will result in a lot of disharmony.  Instead of fighting, let them go.  Keep moving forward.  :-)

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