Four questions to ask yourself before picking a battle
People are always telling us to pick our battles. But what does that mean? And how are we supposed to pick them?
Depending on your job and the type of person you are, you may find yourself picking any number of battles that might seem like really big deals at the time.
Sometimes they are really big deals – like if you’re a surgeon making a life or death decision. And sometimes they’re probably not – like if you’re a designer fighting over whether to move a widget two inches to the left.
Or maybe the widget thing really is a huge, hairy deal. What do I know?
Here are four questions to ask yourself before donning that armor and going to battle.
1. Why does this matter? Does it matter because you want to be right or does it matter because everything is going to FALL APART – or at least go very wrong – if things don’t go your way? If people are going to lose a lot of money or be hurt if you lose, that is a good reason to go to battle. If you just want to be right, that’s not a good enough reason to go to war. I mean, people do it all the time, but it’s always a bad decision.
1.a. If the answer to Question 1 was “Because everything is going to FALL APART – or at least go very wrong- if things don’t go my way,” ask yourself this: are you sure you don’t just want to be right?
2. Could I be wrong? Think about this very hard. Are you always right? Have you ever been wrong in your life? Could this be one of those times? Listen to the other side of the argument and ask yourself if there might be some reason on that side. I’m not saying you’re wrong but it is possible. Keep in mind that fighting, winning, and then turning out to be wrong, might be worse than losing.
3. Can I win? Here’s the thing, even if you’re right, there might be no possibility – or only a very small possibility – of you winning, in which case you have to weigh the stakes and decide whether it’s worth it.
4. Is it worth it? Here’s where you go back to Question 1. Fighting for what you want can damage relationships and cause problems. It can also be incredibly rewarding and change things for the better. Ask yourself if the potential fallout is worth it. The answer will probably be obvious if you are honest with yourself. If lives will be destroyed if things don’t go your way, it’s worth fighting, even if you’re very unlikely to win. If you will lose allies and the only potential fallout if your bruised ego, it’s not worth it.
In the end, you might find that most battles are not actually worth picking. And that’s a good thing. Because when you do choose the right one, you’ll be more focused and passionate, and increase your chance of winning.