When to fight, when to accept?


I recently learned a powerful lesson from someone close to me who has a disease that they are choosing how to address.

They shared with me that they learned from their doctor that this was not something you “fight”, as to approach it from a “fight” mindset means that you are not giving your body permission and highest capability to heal. Instead, adopting a level of acceptance of “what is” can allow that healing to be strong, thus giving the highest chance for the body to be strong and so allow the medical team to take on the disease to the fullest extent.

Today some thoughts on when to fight and when to accept, whether when one has a disease, or in terms of learnings from martial arts, then around leading at times of crisis.

Disease and Dis-ease?

Listening to the wisdom of this inspirational person had a profound impact on me.

I regard them as being one of the strongest people I have ever met. They have gone through much in their life, using their strength and mental and physical resolve to defeat and surmount many powerful obstacles and win many battles.

Even the language in that last paragraph is “fighting talk” and that even the language we choose can have a powerful impact on us and others around us. We can even look at the word disease and look at it as “dis-ease”, or a state of not being at ease with how we are.

So, we talk a lot when talking about major diseases (notably cancer) as “fighting” the disease. However, what I learned from this wise person recently was around the need to not fight, but instead to accept so that the body can heal.

Around the question: “When to fight, when to accept?” this does not mean giving up, but what it does mean is knowing when to “fight” and when to accept what is and work with it rather than push against it.

As an example, when we are in “fight” mode, our physiology releases adrenaline, a hormone that basically shuts down any core body functions that are not essential to “fighting”. From this, over time, remaining in a “fight” mindset not only exhausts the mind but also exhausts and wears down the body.

In the case of this wise person, they are taking the advice of their doctor to not fight but to accept what is, to rest, to heal, to strengthen the body so that the doctor and their team can then help them with medical interventions better. A strong and healed body is a far more powerful vessel for medicine to work with than a weakened one.

Learnings from Martial Arts

I was talking through the story above with a friend and business owner recently. That individual is highly trained and aware around a variety of body awareness modalities, including multiple martial arts.

They were able to draw a parallel to how martial arts are a blend of fighting and allowing, of using one’s own energy against an opponent but also that by allowing and accepting that one’s opponent has their own energy coming to attack you, that you can then, with awareness, use that energy to add to your own strength.

As I wrote about yesterday, this becomes a “Both, And” choice of both fighting and accepting.

Leading at times of crisis 

Given so much of my working life has been devoted to leading and supporting leaders in business, government and other organisations, leading at times of crisis is a place ripe with learnings and where leaders can always look to learn from their own experience and those of others.

Over time I have developed a model called #OpenLeadership around certain leadership archetypes (and one of these days the book I have part-written will be completed and shared!). Some time ago I wrote: “PUSH and PULL, finding the right balance“.

In that article I shared a few stories to illustrate the points made in this opening to the piece:

“As leaders, sometimes we push ourselves hard. Work hard, be busy, lead by example etc. We often then push our people to think, decide, do, deliver.

In the #OpenLeadership model, I refer to this as #Warrior mode. It can work for a time yet ultimately depletes others.

Alternatively, we can seek others to feel the pull of our vision and ideas, to be attracted to an idea and bring their own energy, ideas, effort to make that vision a reality.

Life and leadership are not binary, not “either/or”. It is always a matter of balance between push and pull actions and push and pull energies of leadership.”

As you can see, themes recur for me again and again, so fight or accept, push or pull, both, and vs either, or are themes that relate to each other and come around for me in different ways repeatedly.

Today, then in learning around to fight or to accept, I’d simply note that an awareness piece for leaders at a time of crisis is that to remain all the time in “warrior” mode is not sustainable. It will leave the leader and the people in the business depleted, so time to recover, to heal the individual and the business is key if you are then to fully take on what you have to address.

Using the disease and acceptance analogy, if a business finds itself in crisis, first accept that current reality. Don’t waste time looking for reasons why it happened (unless they can be used to prevent it happening again in future), certainly, don’t waste time in assigning blame (which is certain to create more fear and sap energy).

Instead, be aware of the fight/accept balance and, where you can, accept the situation as it is, then you can take a breath, look to see where you, your people, the business can first heal and then grow from where you are.

Yes, I can imagine some hard-nosed business leaders reading this as “soft”, yet I challenge this strongly. Yes, I write and work with some esoteric themes, yet I’ve got three decades of experience founded very much on hard numbers and evidence. That experience shows me evidence again and again that failing to take time to accept what has happened and how the status quo may now be different, such a failing can and often is terminal to a business, as it can be to a patient who blindly fights on and refuses to accept, thus preventing healing the body.

There is a Latin phrase: “Salve Corpus Amante“, or Save the Lover’s Body. If we truly love someone, we accept them as they are, without judgement. We don’t ask them to change to fit us, we love them for who they are. Where a business is in crisis, I put it to you that a first stage in saving the business, saving that lover’s body, is to accept the truth of where the business is, then act from that position of awareness.

A last thought for now, given the timing of this post, is in the middle of the Brexit crisis in the UK. Looking at it through the lens of what I have written today, it occurs to me that a key reason for the total political stalemate in the UK is the inability of the politicians on all sides to recognise, at this time of crisis, that the status quo has changed since the referendum approaching three years ago. Hmm, another of the archetypes in the #OpenLeadership model is that of “Politician”, someone who is looking to save face, is focussed on themselves, not looking for real change. I do hope that the UK can see some of those elected to office raise themselves up, accept where things are (rather than fight), then shift their leadership archetype to “visionary” and see and lead to a new solution!

Also published on Medium.