The Fight To Be Right


I get it: you're right. You know what needs to happen. You're opinion should be the only one that matters. You are sooo right, that the rest of us should just know it before you even speak...we would save time. Unfortunately, you're not happy. In all the moments of absolute certainty and winning people over (read: wearing people down) to your way of view, you just find happiness to be elusive.

Would You Rather Be Right or Happy?

I get it. Trust me. I'm right more than I am wrong...or so I think. It's how we all feel on some level or why would we bother to have opinions? But that just it: most of the time it is an opinion, not a fact. And our opinions are shaped by the filter of our experience and that is different for everyone. What I say and how you perceive it are very rarely the same thing. And even when it is a fact, is it really worth being right? What's the price tag you pay to be right? Is it too high for your taste? Then maybe you should consider a change.

Here's the raw truth: being right and being happy are not the same thing. They almost never are. "Win at any cost" is a stupid way to go through life. And yes, I'm right about that. You can be the most right person in the room, but if you are, I bet you're probably a lonely soul and you almost certainly aren't happy. So let me "Dr. Phil" you with another bit of pop psychology: How's that working for ya?

Happiness is about learning to be grateful for what you have and embracing it. It doesn't depend on anyone else. Just you. Being right does. For you to be right, someone else has to be wrong. And if you're reminding someone else how wrong they are, how do they feel? And do you like to be around people who don't make you feel good and are insufferable know-it-alls? Of course not. If you're battling to be right, you're spreading enmity and discord on a personal scale-and in a personal game of winners and losers, everyone loses.

I understand this because for many early years in my career (and personal life), I was almost solely concerned about being right--which I would never admit out loud. As an inconveniently sharp guy, I would sit in meetings and think "can't we just speed this up? It's so obvious what we need to do." And then after biting my tongue for as long as possible, I would blurt it all out in a rush--making one brilliantly unassailable point after another.

Or I would argue about every point along the way, steering the outcome to what I knew to be "right." But people didn't want to be around me. It was annoying. I would pick a battle every time and sometimes they just didn't want a fight. On everything. I was excluded from rooms and critical strategic meetings. I felt talked about. If this sounds familiar, the question is how do you change it?

Pick Your Battles vs Pick Your Battles

Here's the good news: sometimes its okay to be fight to be right...when its truly important to your happiness. There are moral and personal imperatives where being right is actually important to being happy. But 99% of the time, that's not the case. It just feels good to be right. It is short-lived and when it wears off, you're left dealing with how people feel, not who won or lost.

So to change this, you need to pick your battles. Ask yourself before you begin a fight to be right whether this is important to your personal happiness? If not, don't engage. You will need to practice. You need to learn to pick your battles. But I think this is an important business and personal lesson so I use this phrase two ways:

If you're one of those outspoken and opinionated folks, like myself, picking your battles means learning where not to engage. It doesn't mean I'm not going to offer my opinion, but for me, "pick your battles" means understanding whether something is a matter of principle or important to my professional or personal success and happiness. If not, I'll drop it. Or, to be fair, sometimes I'll engage if something is just plain strategically stupid, if there's an energy vampire or "serious leader" around and I'm in a surly mood and feel like spicing things up. But I'm not going to fight about the brand of soap. Or the color on the wall. Or your personal choices. Or the budget process. Or insert a hundred other daily decisions here. I'm not going to battle those fronts. I'm not going to "right fight". I'll just say my piece, and move on.

However, if you're a quiet observer, picking your battles means to actually pick them and battle. Watching from the sidelines as bad decisions are made almost certainly leaves you feeling resentful, cynical and jaded. Speaking up and learning to pick a battle before the point of overwhelming frustration is important--to your happiness. Just because you're quiet doesn't mean your voice and opinion are less valid-so please share them! Speak up and be willing to engage. Some of the best points I've ever heard in the room come from the person who is afraid to speak up. We need more of that. People want to hear from you, so please engage.

So I leave you with this: you have to make tough choices in life, and one of them is whether you want to be right, or be happy. If you choose to pick your battles instead of pick every battle, you'll almost certainly be happier. And in this, I know I'm 100% right.

Team Us.

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