Dealing with a major change? Handling criticism? Up against a roadblock? Need to make an important decision? Whatever challenge you’re dealing with, this powerful question can help you find your way forward.
This question, posed by Christine Porath in her Mastering Civility: A Manifesto for the Workplace, re-frames difficulties in an insightful and impactful way.
The question: Am I going to fight for my past or my future?
This question gives us a choice between two ways to direct our energy in response to a challenge. How will you respond?
Fighting for the Past
Every choice and situation in our past, whether painful or positive, brought us to the point we are now and made us the people we are today. We must understand and accept our past and not downplay its importance.
However, fighting for the past (especially when we’re stressed) tends to show up as resistance to change, defensiveness, and self-justification. Holding a grudge. Maintaining a chip on our shoulder. Keeping score. Sound familiar?
These kinds of behaviors will not help us reach our goals or successfully navigate the challenge we’re facing. At best, fighting for the past maintains the status quo and, at worst, it keeps us in a defensive perspective that blocks us from better things.
Fighting for the Future
When we decide to spend our energy toward making ourselves better for the future rather than fight for the past, we free ourselves to deal with the challenge as an opportunity. This keeps us flexible and adaptable rather than rigid and limited in our response to difficulties.
Imagine viewing feedback or a decision point as an opportunity to fight for a better “next time”. Focusing on the future keeps us grounded in reality, thinking about today with an eye on making tomorrow better. Today’s choices become a way to set our future self up for success when we’re up against a new challenge.
Staying in the Fight
Ultimately, it’s about choosing how to spend our energy. The best thing we can do for ourselves is stay in the fight for our future. No one else can fight for us, but everyone can benefit when we are adaptable and alert to the opportunities in the midst of struggle.
This truly is a fight – against complacency, resistance to change, rigid attitudes, self doubt, apathy, and the many other attitudes that rob us of the motivation to fight for our future. To deal effectively with the challenge we face we must re-frame it and find the opportunity to do better next time.
When we fight for our future, we win a victory not just for ourselves but also for those we interact with. By taking a positive stance (instead of defensive) and looking toward improvement (rather than blame) in the face of challenges, we demonstrate leadership and compassion which lead to better relationships and results at work.
How have you been handling your latest challenge? Have you noticed a tendency to fight for the past or the future? How will you commit to fighting for your future as you handle a difficult situation?
Danielle Metzinger is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.