Feb 092011

Dr. Earl R. Smith II

In a recent piece – Fighting The Wrong Battles – I suggested that much time and energy was wasted in fighting the wrong battles. That article generated quite a few responses. They varied from agreement through incredulity to outright disagreement. I suggested that most of the ‘battles’ that we wage are really straw men – distractions from the challenges that we ought to face.

I wanted to deal with a couple of the most interesting responses as they highlight reasons why individuals don’t manage to change course and end up sailing in the tight small circle.

One individual objected to my characterization of weight loss efforts as a distraction. He suggested that it was a laudable goal to reach a ‘healthy weight’. Certainly, in today’s world, it is easy to find people who would agree with him. I see them all the time when I take my daily trips around the track next door. In fact, there is a whole industry out there which constantly assaults us with the next best thing that will put you on the road to that healthy nirvana. But then I wonder. I recently heard someone observe that becoming a healthy office rat is not much of an improvement. The ‘office rat’ designation was the one that was important. They were talking about the life balance between work and self.

This fellow seems to have a good point. What is the use of being healthy if your healthy life is the surface manifestation of an unhealthy existence? Putting aside the argument over what is healthy and the one-size-fits-all contentions of these weight gurus, it seems to me that the individual needs to ask the questions “is this the battle I really need to fight? If I win it, will my life be that much better than it is now?”

Now I am not advocating that we all let ourselves go and become obese. I am suggesting that spending time and money on that battle may not make out lives very much better. It is, after all, easily possible to be fit and live a life or quiet desperation.

Another response took a different line. This person wrote that she was stuck in a job that she couldn’t stand and saw no options. I hear this a lot. The battle against a job that you can’t stand is not nearly as important as the battle to find one that you love. Go back and re-read the article – particularly the part about the man and the streetlight. Isn’t that exactly the way this person was fighting her battle? She was in a job – that was where the light was – and that was the battle she chose to fight. As a result, the real battle – the one that would set her on a course to a brighter future – was being foregone.

The very difficult problem in finding the right battles to fight is that we are so good at deluding ourselves – so very good that our chances of overcoming avoidance tendencies and finding the right ones is very slim if we attempt the search on our own. At the core of this dilemma is a tendency towards self-sabotaging behaviors. One of the great benefits of working with an experienced coach is that they have trod these roads before and know the kinds of tricks we play on ourselves.

Call it coaching – or, if it is easier, call it mentoring. The distinction isn’t as important as understanding the dynamics of the relationship. People who have made contributions to my life have done so by calling me out when I mistake dalliance for progress – mistake the swamp for solid ground – the mist for clarity – and myself as my own best friend. The road forward is difficult enough. Fighting the wrong battles only makes it more difficult and frustrating. Finding the right ones to wage means breaking through those delusions and into the clear, fresh and unpolluted air that sustains growth.

I provide Executive, Team and Leadership Mentoring both in person and via phone and email. Let me help you make your future!

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© Dr. Earl R. Smith II


Green_Vest__1.jpgI provide mentoring to those who have both the courage and determination to make a truly transformational journey. My approach is heavily influenced by core principles of Zen Buddhism. I don’t offer quick fixes or follow the latest fads. If you are willing to make the long journey – if it’s time for you to come to know the person you really are and can become – if you intend to finally find the path you should be following – if you want to start living life you were truly meant to live – then perhaps we should talk. Send me an e-mail and we’ll arrange a time to chat.



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