Choosing Your Battles

stress management

I often talk about unavoidable stress.  Particularly when it comes to running your own business.  Because there’s plenty of stressful things involved in running a business that you simply can’t avoid.

But do you ever find yourself getting stressed out over little things that maybe you could choose to react differently to?  In other words, are you stressing out unnecessarily?

I love the Oatmeal.  But today this comic about loading the dishwasher perfectly really spoke to me.  Yes, it’s very funny, not least because I suspect it is something that happens in many a home.  But I think it’s deeper than it looks…

Check out the comic, and then, ask yourself honestly now, if you’ve ever stressed out over something not being done properly, or quite to your standards.  Dishwasher, laundry, the fact that your other half doesn’t correctly organise your clothes in colour order, or your staff put staples in horizontally rather than diagonally and it messes with your karma?

Most of us probably have things that we get a bit uptight about, and like to have done a particular way.  That, in itself, isn’t necessarily a problem.  But if you find yourself habitually turning into this…


dishwasher_lady - 4


…when it’s not done just exactly how you like it, then you are causing yourself way more stress in your life than is necessary.

Here’s what to do:

  • When you feel your hackles rising and your blood boiling over the way someone else is doing something that you like to do a particular way, just stop for a second. Take a deep breath.
  • Ask yourself whether this is really a battle you want to fight. How important is it that this task is done exactly your way?  And how important is it that this person do it, rather than you do it yourself?
  • Focus on the results. Are you getting too hung up on the process?  Is it really THAT important that all the glasses are put next to each other in the dishwasher, if they get clean anyway?
  • If you can, then let it go – focus on the benefits you get from not having it done your way (usually that someone else is taking care of it, giving you time to do something else). Accept that and be glad. Do as much deep breathing as you need while you work on accepting it.
  • If it is imperative that it is done your way (to achieve a particular result, for example), you have two options:
    • Do it yourself, and happily accept that this was your choice.
    • Teach the other person, constructively, to do it the way it needs to be done. If you lecture them, you’re unlikely to get anywhere.  They must learn by doing, and actually understand WHY this is important (ie that there is a tangible result).  If there is a mistake that must be put right, then they need to correct it themselves, rather than have it done for them.  Then let them take ownership of the task.  Accept
  • Remember that you have a choice about how you react – you don’t need to allow your blood to boil over this thing. If you want to redo something that has already been done adequately by someone else, that is YOUR CHOICE.


It is incredible the freedom and calm that can be gained by choosing your battles.  People often talk about it in terms of raising kids.  But it applies to so many other areas of life too.  Fighting is tiring.  It uses energy that could be diverted into something much more constructive.


©Liz Wootton, 2014.  All Rights Reserved.

Images courtesy of The Oatmeal





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