©2016 Kari Carlisle
There’s no shortage of advice out there – good and bad. And there’s no shortage of people willing to give it, including myself. I love to give advice because I’ve learned much of value in my life and sincerely wish to use what I’ve learned to help others. Of course not everyone takes advice well, but certainly you’re not one of those, because here you are!
So here it is, the best advice I ever got… my mother always told me, you’ve got to learn to pick your battles. That’s good advice in business and in life. So what does that mean?
I’ve met people who are slugs. People who simply won’t fight any battle. They don’t take a stand on anything maybe because they just don’t believe in anything they think is worth fighting for. Or maybe they’re just too afraid to fight for anything. Or maybe they don’t know how.
I’ve met people who don’t seem to know how to stop fighting battles. They feel passionately about everything they believe to the point where even the smallest thing will set them off.
I find both kinds of people very annoying. Take a stand on something already, just not everything.
Some time ago there was a video floating around Facebook. I don’t know that it technically went viral or not, but it illustrates my point. The focus of the video was a bunny. Bunnies are cute. They are gentle, right? When faced by a predator they will run away, right? Well, this particular bunny’s offspring had been swallowed by a snake. This bunny did not run away from the snake. She picked her battle and fought the snake until she got her baby bunny back. This was a dangerous battle for her, but it was worth fighting.
Thinking back, I was probably turning into that type of person who wants to fight every battle. Why else would my mother have given me that advice, more than once if I remember correctly. And I suspect many of my battles had something to do with my little brother. Sorry, bro!
Now as an adult, I am guided by her words daily. I literally do think on an almost daily basis, is this battle worth fighting?
I recently bought a big box of granola bars at Costco, later to find that the number of bars that was supposed to be in the box was more than I received. What’s the point of shopping at Costco to pay less if you don’t get what you paid for? I went so far as to take pictures, which proves nothing of course, but I intended to take on this battle. In the end I never did. Making the trip, standing in line, explaining the problem… it all seemed more trouble than it was worth.
We’re faced with potential battles every day. Big ones. Small ones. Problems at work. Problems at home. Financial problems. Health problems. Problems of others. Problems halfway around the world. There is no shortage of battles to pick from. If you pick too many, or the wrong ones, you may never win any of your battles.
In the TV show, Last Man Standing, Tim Allen’s character admits he sometimes lets his wife get her way because it means sometimes he gets his way. Though his wife didn’t take that news well, I still get that. I don’t like the manipulative undertones, but sometimes it’s important to just let things slide. Nobody likes someone who always must have things their way.
Sometimes even the big things should be let go. You may absolutely be in the right, but if fighting a battle means taking it to court, for example, you really have to consider whether the cost of fighting the battle is worth winning it or risk losing it. Money, stress and relationships may be at stake. This is what picking your battles comes down to. Do you have the resources to fight the battle, and is the battle worth fighting, even if you may lose?
There are losing battles. Sometimes these are worth fighting. A terminal disease. Climate change. Pollution. There is a lot we can do to slow the progression of major, negative forces.
Then there are battles of social justice. Poverty, crime, human trafficking, disease, abuse, freedom – I’m sure no one thinks these are battles not worth fighting. But the one who picks all of these battles is doomed to fail in all, because these battles are more than any one person can handle. Sure, we can donate money, volunteer time, shares memes on Facebook… it all helps, but the problems persist. Battles are fought well by those who concentrate their resources on the battles they can win or at least make significant impact.
And then there are political battles. It’s almost impossible to not notice that the U.S. is currently embroiled in one. Millions of dollars are being spent, tens of thousands of people are being employed (paid and volunteer), thousands of hours of air time are being utilized, relationships destroyed, vast resources spent, all to fight the battle for the presidency of the country. Is this a battle worth fighting? Absolutely. But each must decide for themselves what resources they are willing to devote to such a battle. The smallest thing you can do, and it will make a difference, is VOTE.
Sometimes it may feel like life is just beating you up. It may feel like you’re facing battles on every front. Take my mom’s advice. It’s good advice. Pick your battles wisely. Know what you can handle, and let the rest go. Truly let it go. Know what’s important and what you can devote your limited resources to. At the end of the battle, even if you don’t win, you’ll feel good about what you did, and you can sleep well.
One more thing – let others pick their own battles. Respect their right to their own opinions and how they choose to use their resources. You may not understand how someone could not feel as passionately about something as you do, but you may not know what’s going on. They may be tapped out on their resources emotionally. They may be stretched thin financially. Fight your own battles and let others fight theirs.
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