The expression, “tilting at windmills” refers, as you probably know, to fighting imaginary enemies, and is taken from Don Quixote’s misconstrued view of windmills in the distance to be larger-than-life enemies:
“Just then they came in sight of thirty or forty windmills that rise from that plain. And no sooner did Don Quixote see them that he said to his squire, “Fortune is guiding our affairs better than we ourselves could have wished. Do you see over yonder, friend Sancho, thirty or forty hulking giants? I intend to do battle with them and slay them. With their spoils we shall begin to be rich for this is a righteous war and the removal of so foul a brood from off the face of the earth is a service God will bless.”
“What giants?” asked Sancho Panza.
“Those you see over there,” replied his master, “with their long arms. Some of them have arms well nigh two leagues in length.”
“Take care, sir,” cried Sancho. “Those over there are not giants but windmills. Those things that seem to be their arms are sails which, when they are whirled around by the wind, turn the millstone.””
—Part 1, Chapter VIII. Of the valorous Don Quixote’s success in the dreadful and never before imagined Adventure of the Windmills, with other events worthy of happy record.
Lately, as work obligations have reached a feverish pitch (no complaining…just saying), I am fighting imaginary enemies, much like our friend, Don Quixote. The deadlines, the social obligations pushed to the back burner, the clients with last minute requests, the employees with the same: all represent fictional enemies in a sense, to me. I can find myself, if I’m not careful, fighting those imaginary battles against them…
…and then I realize, that the enemy is within.
My touchstones of family and friends, community involvement and making time for enjoying nature, are so important to maintaining my equilibrium between personal and professional, that when life gets demanding and I forget one side of the equation, I can easily be tilting at various windmills.
In truth, maintaining that delicate balance between work and play is more important as I get older. I don’t think its just me. I think that we all realize that the faster life gets the more important it is to occasionally slow down.
Without slowing down and appreciating the things that truly bring us pleasure and peace, we run the risk of mistaking the enemy within for a threat from without.
Do you agree? How do you keep from tilting at windmills in your personal life?
Of course, if you’re tilting professionally, let us help you. Check out our Spring Showcase for some ideas on how to keep the windmills at bay.
Boxer Advisors, LLC, is a full-service consulting, training and coaching firm with more than 50 professional consultants, facilitators, and coaches and carefully selected partners providing services to Federal agencies and Fortune 1000 companies since 1996.