The phrase "choose your battles" conceptualises encounters as adversarial.

Any suggestions for less adversarial alternatives?

  • 3
    It would help to include some background as context. – Lawrence Oct 11 at 11:22
  • 2
    "Choose your battles" is to do with arguments and confrontations, i.e. not picking ones that "aren't worth it". What other encounters would you need a phrase like this for? – Freddie R Oct 11 at 11:55
  • The entire point of the idiom is to emphasize that the consequences are dire. It only applies to situations where you are risking your neck. – Phil Sweet Oct 11 at 19:16
  • Don’t make a big deal out of stuff that doesn’t matter. Or Only make a big deal out of the stuff that really matters. – Jim Oct 12 at 3:55
  • @Jim has it. The main idea is to admonish someone to think about it hard before engaging in a fight and then decide wisely. Consider the big picture - is the fight appropriate? It presumes wisdom first. One should weight both the cost effort and the outcome value before the decision is made. It could even be argued that assurance of a winning is not as important as the appropriateness of the battle, but choose wisely. – user22542 Oct 12 at 10:16

Distilling the central meanings from the "battles" idiom, the phrases "save your strength" or "don't waste your time" comes close without invoking confrontation or combat. They could even be used together.

Or, as an alternative, someone might "consider the cost" and ask themselves "Is it worth it?".

https://idioms.thefreedictionary.com/don%27t+waste+your+time

https://idioms.thefreedictionary.com/count+the+cost

https://idioms.thefreedictionary.com/worth+it

It occurred to me just a few days ago that “choose your battles” (or, alternatively, “pick your battles”) is basically an abbreviated form of The Serenity Prayer,

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.

They are not equivalent, of course.  The Serenity Prayer advises against entering into battles that you cannot win, while “choose your battles” more broadly discourages engaging in conflicts where the risk (or even the cost) is too high and/or the expected benefit is too low.

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