Tilting At Windmills

In Cervantes’sDon Quixote, the namesake character sees several wind- mills off in the distance and—confusing them for giants—believes that fortune has given him an opportunity to rid the world of several hulking beasts. He tries to fight them but falls off his horse. This is the source of the phrasetilting at windmills, which means inventing enemies to fight where they don’t exist.

Some people are driven to fight battles even where there are none to fight. They are perpetually championing a cause or complaining that someone is wronging them. They are tilting at windmills. It’s a waste of energy.

It’s not only these extreme cases that we must be cautious of. It’s easy to slip into the same trap on an everyday basis. For example, stewing about the person you don’t get along and who you just know is work- ing against you behind your back. Or obsessing about the client who never likes your idea and you just know is trying to get you taken off the account. You may be tilting at windmills. You are imagining giants where there are none. Save your valuable spark for the true battles that you must fight to deliver your work and serve your stakeholders.

Don’t invent enemies to fight. It’s a waste of valuable energy.


Are there any illusory battles you get pulled into? Are you tilt- ing at windmills?

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