Choosing the right battles

NZXT Swordphoto © 2008 Matt Darby | more info (via: Wylio)
Life is a series of constantly changing situations. Each situation evokes a different feeling in us.

Some of these situations are not very pleasant, they make us very uncomfortable. We feel compelled to respond. We either try to avoid them, change ourselves to become comfortable with them, or fight them. Most people, at different times in their lives, would pick up battles against situations they can’t stand.

How our choice of battles affects us

One interesting thing is, while your temperament and focus decide which battles you pick, in the long run, it is the battles you pick that decide your temperament and focus. Our whole life gets molded and shaped by our chosen battles. Think of a Lawyer who, over a 100 years ago, chose to pick up the battle for equality in South Africa. His whole life changed as a result of this battle. He was catapulted to the forefront of Indian freedom struggle. If you read Mahatma Gandhi’s autobiography, you will see how choosing this battle completely transformed him from the inside. On the other hand, think of those who, in the heat of the moment, kill someone who would have wronged them in a very small way. These people could have walked away, but now their whole life is colored by the decision they made in that moment, the battle they chose to fight so passionately. The battles we choose to accept, define our lives.

Taking up every battle

This life is limited and there seems to be a lot to fix in this world. If you take up any and every battle life presents to you, you will find it difficult to accomplish anything of significance. Choose your battles carefully. Avoid the smaller battles, save your strength for the bigger ones! If someone wrongs you, don’t spend your energies in exacting revenge, save them to find and connect with better people.

The first time in South Africa when Gandhi ji entered court, he was asked to remove his head gear. He refused, taking it as an insult to his traditions. Later, when he represented the Indian trader community in the Supreme Court there and was asked the same thing, guess what he did? He removed it. This is his explanation –

‘The turban that I had insisted on wearing in the District Magistrate’s court, I took off in obedience to the order of the Supreme Court. Not that, if I had resisted the order, the resistance could not have been justified. But I wanted to reserve my strength for fighting bigger battles. I should not exhaust my skill as a fighter insisting on retaining my turban. It was worthy of a better cause.’

Avoiding battles altogether

I also want to address the people who lie on the other end of the spectrum. These are the ones who try to play safe and avoid battles altogether. I don’t think that can take them very far. At best, they will end up doing nothing of significance in life, managing to exist as long as their physical body allows. At worst, they will end up having low self worth, boredom, irritation, listlessness and aimlessness in life.

We cannot avoid battles in life. But we do have a choice in picking up the ones we think will best serve us.

Genesis of battles

For a lot of people, their choice of battles is determined by their anger, frustration and ego. There are things they feel wronged about. There are people who seem to constantly do them wrong. These may include their parents, teachers, bosses, the Government, politicians, or any person who influences their life in a big or small way.

Most of the time, these battles are angry outbursts. They are unplanned reactions to what happens to these people. These reactions die out as quickly as they come. If you are one of these people, you feel angry and uncomfortable throughout the whole ordeal. You may feel the same problems have a way of recurring every now and then in different situations.

Facing the battle of your choice

Rather than reacting to the situation every time, and forgetting about it once the immediate crisis is over, it will help to follow it through to it’s solution diligently. Think and plan out a strategy to face it. Implement it the next time you face the situation. You will immediately feel more in control and handle things better.

As you follow this method of tackling the problem proactively, rather than just reacting to it, you will start noticing something even deeper. You will realize that your problems were never seated in those external circumstances or people. This method, sooner or later, brings you to the limitations in your own self that were causing the trouble every time. The seat of all troubles is within your own self. This also means that the solution too, is to be found inside! You start seeing all battles as personal growth exercises. Your focus takes a 180 degree shift and turns inwards. When you feel uncomfortable in a situation now, you automatically start searching inside for it’s cause.

You start carefully picking out your battles and taking them up diligently with determination and planning. Such battles are different from the previous ones, in that, they are chosen to serve a clear purpose, not your ego. They are consciously chosen and the solution is well planned and diligently pursued.

*****

All battles are endeavors to uplift ourselves to a higher, better version of our previous selves. Keep monitoring your battles, as long as they are directed towards an internal change, you are on a sure path to success and progress.

To conquer oneself is a greater victory than to conquer thousands in a battle. –Buddha

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