Choose your battles. If you’re a parent, you’ve probably heard—and given—this advice hundreds (thousands?) of times.
I recently read an excellent piece on applying this practice in the workplace—down to the specific questions we can ask when we find ourselves in a situation where something we care about is at stake.
And the very first sentence brought me up short: “None of us want to sit on the fence when it comes to things that we care about….”
Did you know that one definition of stress is “what arises when something you care about is at stake?” (I wish I could give credit where it’s due for that—and I can’t remember where I read it!)
This has me thinking: if we care about our work, is framing it as a long war full of daily battles the best analogy? (How) does it add to our stress to think about it this way?
battles: what kind of energy?
Liyana Silver has written a thought-provoking book, titled Feminine Genius, in which she talks about masculine and feminine energies.
Her work reminds me of Michael Gurian’s books about the differences between boys and girls viewed from a neurochemical perspective.
(I know, I’m opening a can of worms here—there is a LOT you may want to tell me about my generalizations and my use of the words gender, masculine/feminine, men/women, boys/girls, and the pronouns I assign. Know that I welcome constructive dialogue.)
Masculine energy moves in a direct line and has a pushing quality (think of an arrow). It tends toward providing and protecting, often by physical means and alongside/parallel to others. Traditionally, in many cultures, men have been the hunters/fighters. They tend to thrive in competitive situations.
Feminine energy moves in a wavy line with a flowing quality (think of a slinky). It tends toward tending and mending in cooperation with others in more of a give and take movement. In many cultures, women have been the gatherers/cultivators. We tend to thrive in collaborative situations.
Neither energy is right/wrong or better/worse than the other. In traditional Chinese philosophy, their coexistence is illustrated by the yin-yang symbol, which consists of a black “comma” and a white “comma” fit together to create a circle. Importantly, the black comma has a speck of white in it, and the white a speck of black.
Irrespective of our gender, we all possess both types of energy inside us though we generally tend to lead with one or the other in our daily lives.
If we’re very fortunate—or very self-aware—we’re able to move between the two energies as the situation dictates. There’s a harmony between our energies. (I don’t like the word balance—it sets up too many pitfalls for the perfectionists among us.)
whose sandbox are you in?
So back to the question of battles. (Finally, right?)
If you lead with a masculine energy, the idea of work as a long war full of daily battles might very well thrill you. The hunt, the chase, the competition—these light you up and motivate you.
If, however, you lead with a feminine energy, this picture is nothing short of exhausting—and we’re shezausted enough already.
Full disclosure: another detour ahead.
This scenario (one person vitalized, one depleted) makes me think about our political scene and our corporate culture. Yes, they are slowly changing—and they’re still predominantly sandboxes where the white men make the rules and play together, often to the detriment and/or exclusion of women and minorities and the damage of the planet.
How has centuries of rule by the masculine energetic model worked out for us? If you’re not a white male, not so well.
And our reaction has been to attempt to play in their sandbox by their rules. Or to try to adapt our language to theirs: “peaceful warrior,” “warrior for peace,” … say what?!?
I know I’m going to offend LOTS of women when I say the following—and I’m going to say it anyway.
While I admire and respect and appreciate the women who have succeeded in the sandbox (especially the political one), I’m holding out for someone who says, “I’m not going to play by your rules in your sandbox. I’m building a new sandbox over here, and if you’d like to join me in creating a government/corporation that truly supports ALL humans, I’d love to have you there.”
the new “pick your battles”
So what does that new sandbox look like? That’s a great question that I can’t answer!
I do know, however, that it will have room for both types of energies working in harmony for the good of all.
And it will have room for a language to describe work that linguistically-energetically resonates with the other half (or more) of the population. (LOL—linguistically-energetically. I made that up–what do you think?)
And that’s what the language nerd in me really want to know: what’s a feminine energy-informed way to say, “Pick your battles?”
I brainstormed this with my friend Audrey Acton the other day, and after generally geeking out about it, we decided that it most likely involved flowing water. Which may be the ultimate feminine symbol: yielding yet powerful.
“Decide which rocks to move and which ones to flow around?” That’s the closest I’ve gotten.
All these musings might feel a bit self-indulgent/useless. Yet because I work with employees on the verge or already in burnout, it’s important that we reduce as much stress as possible.
And even the language we use can increase or decrease our stress. Commas may save lives, but word choice is equally important.
Change your language, change your brain.
make the connection
I’d love to hear your suggestions for an alternative to “pick your battles”—drop them in the comments below?
And if you’re interested in employee wellness programming around stress reduction—not just through linguistic exercises—let’s talk! Here’s where you can schedule a time to discuss.