Even those of us who have a positive psychology orientation have to admit that sometimes life seems like a war made up of a series of battles. Active people have lots of things going on at one time. When you’ve achieved something that you’ve set out to do, it’s very satisfying and you feel like you’ve won. You can achieve successes, or personal victories as I call them, by managing the war and picking your battles.
It’s virtually impossible to do equally well at spending time with your family, building your career, improving your golf game, gaining control over your headaches, or other medical conditions, stopping smoking, going on a diet, exercising regularly, volunteering for a good cause, staying up with your favorite TV series, building your social life, and getting an adequate amount of sleep – if you are trying to do it all at the same time. Many a war has been lost, both real wars and personal symbolic ones, because of a strategy of over-commitment.
My recommendation: Pick your battles. People who have worked with me know that I believe that the ideal number is three. It is not only easier to win personal victories by focusing on three at a time, but it also is a confidence builder. Achieving success in three areas is generally manageable, and it becomes motivating to make the winning of personal victories an ongoing part of your life. (In my ebook , I call that the Proactive Positive Explosion – but that’s a discussion for another time. ) For now, your task should be to prioritize your battles and pick out the three that you will approach with optimism and motivation.
So what should you do with all the other important battles in you personal war? I suggest that you don’t give up on them, but call a truce. Accept the possibility that change may not come as quickly as will hopefully be the case in your areas of priority. In some instances a truce may involve an actual cessation of activities – e.g., putting career advancement on temporary hold so that you can coach your child’s soccer team. In other cases, the truce doesn’t mean stopping the activity but it does mean stopping unfair self-criticism – e.g., recognizing that your diet will probably go nowhere until your medical condition improves and you can give up certain medications that contribute to weight gain.
The late President Eisenhower, who first achieved fame as a general, once said, “Pessimism never won any battle.” Pick a limited number of battles that you can approach with optimism, and you will greatly enhance your chances of achieving personal victories.
Your thoughts, comments, and feedback will be appreciated.