Often when we hear the word conflict, we think about it in terms of an interaction with another human being. However, the individual that we are most often at odds with is ourselves. Because we tend to move quickly through these disagreements, we may not even notice them. For example,

  • Do you get up and go to the gym or do you hit the snooze button?

  • Do you take the unexpected “free time” from a meeting ending early to plot out a project or do you peruse social media?

  • Do you have the conversation with the employee who has just turned in a subpar work product or do you correct it yourself?

In each of these cases, the clash is between short-term satisfaction and long-term fulfillment. In the moment, it might be more comfortable to hit snooze, more enjoyable to see what others are up to on social media, and more expedient to make the changes to the document yourself. Where it becomes a conflict worth attending to is when these actions are incongruent with your values, vision and goals.

Let’s unpack each of these examples a bit more to see what I mean.

If your vision for yourself is to be healthy and, within that vision, you have a goal of getting in shape, then there is a real conflict between hitting snooze and going to the gym. Discounting extraordinary circumstances, such as being up throughout the night with an ailing family member, it’s important to understand why you’ve made this commitment to yourself to go to the gym. Perhaps this is a conflict between valuing pleasure (e.g. extra sleep) and achievement.

Let’s say that the project is a complex, high-profile project within the organization that stretches you a bit beyond your comfort zone. This project, done well, would position you for future opportunities within the organization, something you really want. Perhaps the struggle is less about wanting short-term stimulation and more about wanting to save face and avoid being humiliated if the project doesn’t go the way you hoped it would.

I’ve included this one because most individuals jump to the conclusion that, in this case, the conflict is with the person that did the subpar work. And, while there may well be truth to that, in order to see if that is true, you would have had to decide to have the conversation to begin with. That choice, to have the conversation, or do it yourself, is an internal conflict. The dilemma might be between avoiding upsetting this person and being reliable and trustworthy to give timely, constructive feedback.

By taking the time to explore how one or more of your internalized values may be interfering with your vision and goals, you can find a way forward that feels congruent for you.