Connected Career Women Series

Pick Your Battle: Let Love Trump Fear

When you are pursuing a career and a life purpose, you sometimes need to fight for it. Call it workplace politics, call it conflict: how do you deal with it and is it always worth the fight? Maybe not. The legacies of Martin Luther King and Mahatma Gandhi continue to inspire millions of people across the globe. What we can learn from their legacies is much more than their non-violent protest. It is how they framed their cause. When you are creating your dream you are much more powerful than when you are trying to prevent your nightmare from materializing. Are you fighting for prosperity and economic transformation, or are you combatting poverty? It might look like a difference in semantics, but it is not. To reach your desired outcome, not only do you need to pick your battles – you also need to fight the right fight… which sometimes means, no fight at all.

We must concentrate not merely on the negative expulsion of war, but the positive affirmation of peace.”

Martin Luther King Jr.

Withdraw from the endless cycle of reactivity

Who has not had the leadership training, where a participant gets asked to be part of the following exercise: The instructor pushes and as a reaction the participant pushes back.

It is an illustration of this endless cycle of reactivity. The harder you push, the harder the other pushes back.

The “push” or trigger can be a nasty email, a mean remark, a certain tone of voice, anything.

The best way to take off the steam is to not be triggered… do not react in an automatic way. Reflect, delay a reaction, react differently than expected.

There are ways to understand the bigger picture dynamics, to experience empathy or to withdraw from the fight – if it is not your battle. Most fights are not very useful, so you want to be very careful to pick a fight. Only those that are absolutely essential to your core being, to your path and purpose, deserve to be fought.

Half the battle is knowing when, and when not, to fight – or in the words of Sun Tzu, “He will win who knows when to fight and when not to fight.”

In fact, if there is too much of a struggle, if there are too many obstacles, you may want to make sure you are on the right track.

Choose your battles wisely. After all, life isn’t measured by how many times you stood up to fight. It’s not winning battles that makes you happy, but it’s how many times you turned away and chose to look into a better direction. Life is too short to spend it on warring. Fight only the most, most, most important ones, let the rest go.”

C. JoyBell C.

Focus on the desired, positive outcome

It is easy to get roped in by all that is bad in the world. If you focus on the bad, you will find more of it. If you focus on the good, you will equally find more of it.

Henry Ford has been quoted saying, “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t – you’re right”. This quote has often been associated with attitude and mindset.

I would, also, highlight it in the context of attention or focus.

It appears then, that it is all a matter of attention and what you give your attention to is your choice. Instead of focusing on an undesired outcome and fighting that, why not focus on the desired outcome and work towards that?

Attention energizes whatever it is focused on or, as is often said, what you focus on expands. If attention is directed at the negative, it will give momentum to the negative – even as you are trying to fight against it. If it is focused on the positive instead, that will grow and expand.

In a world where we are connected 24/7, where our senses get over-stimulated, in a world where we have social media persona and a busy existence, “attention” is a rare commodity.

Brands and companies fight over our attention with the latest pieces of content and the most human-like chat bots they can find. All the while we are also trying to command other people’s attention, to go viral. In such a world we risk losing track of attention itself. Attention is like fuel for a car. It energizes desired outcomes. Now more than ever we need to be in control of what it is we spend our precious attention on.

If we are not distracted by “energy catchers” online, how can we ourselves use the energy of our attention to build something up, rather than to break it down?

Where focus goes, energy flows.” 

Tony Robbins

Reframing the outcome: From nightmare to dream

Are you in prevention or promotion mode?

In the prior, you are trying to prevent an (imagined) worst case scenario; in the latter, the focus is on an imagined best possible outcome.

Making a better world starts with a vision, associated feelings and beliefs. If you want to be effective, fight for something that you wish to achieve rather than against something you want to stop from happening. The intended outcome of your action, your vision, is a powerful shaper of your outcomes. The attention you put on the intended outcome, further energizes it into existence.

Perhaps then, the difference between success and failure is not so much like the difference between night and day rather than a subtle pivot or a shift of angle – a new pair of glasses through which you view the world.

Let yourself be drawn by the stronger pull of that which you truly love.”


Thus, the best way to fight negativity and evil is not to stoop to its level, but to spread its opposite: positivity and good. You don’t fight fire with fire, as we all know, but by cutting off the oxygen that energizes it. Although your goal may be to stop something bad, reframe it as a positive goal and you will get much further and faster. Or, in the words of Michelle Obama, “When they go low, we go high.”

Lucy Schalkwijk is a women’s empowerment champion, a connector and a skills development enthusiast. She is passionate about connecting and empowering women in the workplace and writes about careers, networking, women’s empowerment, and leadership.

Want to join a tribe of successful women who have your back? Contact the Career Women’s Network Kigali: and +250783719431.

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