After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, American military planners explored various strategies to win the battle in the Pacific. These planners faced a vast ocean and hundreds of islands to recapture before final victory could be realized. They wrestled with what would be the best approach to obtain this goal. After looking at the options and the costs involved in retaking all the territory controlled by Japanese, the Americans decided to contest only certain islands and to hop over the non-critical ones. The rationale behind this policy was to allow the military to concentrate their limited manpower and equipment on the critical islands. This island hopping strategy paid-off with victory in the Pacific.

This same strategy can be employed by each of us in our battles of life. The mistake that most of us make is to assume that we have to fight each and every engagement that comes our way if we want to be the ultimate victor. Whether with our families, friends, and work, we wrongly attempt to fight all battles without reference to their importance to the overall picture.

We do not have limitless amounts of time, energy, or resources to engage in contesting every skirmish that might come our way. If we don't develop a long-range strategy, we will respond to every provocation. This will drain our resources of much needed energy to fight the truly important ones. Just because someone tries to engage us in combat, we do not have to rise to the challenge in it. We must be the one deciding whether we will fight or not. If ultimate victory is our goal, we need a strategy for winning-not one that will assure stalemate or even loss.

Here are several guidelines for engaging in battles:

1. Set a long-term goal. Contesting every island held by the Japanese during WWII was not the long-term goal of the Americans. The goal was to achieve victory over the Japanese. Be clear about what your goal is; it isn't fighting every battle.

For example, suppose your goal is a promotion at work. You won't have to fight every office battle to achieve it. If you don't have a clearly stated goal, you will run the risk of getting dragged into every workplace conflict. Perhaps, you will win all the office fights, but you could lose the promotion.

2. Decide which battles must be fought. Ask yourself if this particular skirmish will further your ultimate goal or is this just one more fight that others are interested in fighting. If it isn't necessary, don't go into battle.

In marriages, one can often rise to another's fight just because your mate throws down the gauntlet; don't get drawn into every hostile encounter. Even in the best of relationships, people will rub each other the wrong way from time to time. If you fight every time that you feel yours toes might have been stepped upon, you may win those battles. However, you may lose your goal of keeping the relationship together.

3. Finally, engage in the critical battles. Focus all your efforts and resources to those that further your goal. Since you haven't wasted all your energy on unimportant disputes, you will possess the strength to win the critical fights. In addition, your power-position will be enhanced beyond your actual strength because others will perceive that this battle is crucial to you since you aren't always up in arms.

Suppose that a critical issue at home or work is being contested. Not only will you be battle-ready for that particular problem, but also your entering this particular conflict signals family members or co-worker that this issue is truly important to you. They will look a second time at the question that is being contested because you chose to do battle over it. You will gain power and strength by selective engagement.

We can learn important lessons from history. The lesson of island hopping in the Pacific during WWII can be employed in the localized battles that all of us confront in life. This strategy worked well for us in the Pacific, and it can be used successfully in our disputes.