You either win or you lose. It seems like a pretty black and white concept. You can tie too, I guess, but that’s almost worse. No one is vying for a tie.
As a society we’ve started tying the values we associate with winning to the win; working hard, putting forth the effort, playing the hand you’ve been given to the best of your ability. We never know what anyone else is coming in with, what upper hand they may have or the different talents they’re equipped with. It doesn’t diminish the work that we’ve done – it’s just different work. But we’ve tied feeling good with winning instead of feeling good with trying our best.
This is where things get dangerous. When we stop focusing on the input and starting focusing on the outcome then the effort we have generated and the things we have done are rendered obsolete in the aftermath of a lose. We berate ourselves for not trying hard enough, not being good enough. We start telling ourselves that we are only worthy if we win. We forget.
I recently had a conversation in which the other person said that winning is greatness, and that’s “why winners get the ladies.” Again, winning has become about not the effort put forth but the rewards of it. My response was simple: it’s not the win, it’s the confidence. If “losers” were as comfortable with their state then they would “get the ladies” too. I realize this is a crass comparison, and there is a stigma around it that needs to be addressed too which is simple: Women Are Not Rewards. Done.
So why do we think that winning is the only thing worth value? Are we failing to learn from our losses? And from there, failing to improve? What does a win really say that’s more rewarding and beneficial? What do bragging rights or a trophy grant us? Is it really about winning or how hard you work?
This is something I struggle with. Going into something, I consciously know I have put my best effort forward. If someone else is better than me then I doubt my efforts – did I really try hard enough? Were there things I over looked? Why am I not as good as so-and-so at blahbloop?
These are some things that we’re doing that are making winning harmful:
- equating winning with success
- equating losing with failure
- equating our status with our effort
- taking complete responsibility for the outcome of win/lose situations
- losing pride without gaining knowledge
- focusing on why we lost but not how we can use that to improve to win
- putting all of our eggs in one basket i.e. not giving ourselves the room to prepare that we might not win (and that it’s okay) but that if we try our hardest and hope our hardest we have to win
- the idea in general that “we have to win”to be successful
What does it mean to win that we make it mean so much? Why do we pour so much effort into trying to win to be defeated in the face of a loss? Have we not be strengthened more by the work we’ve done than the work we are rewarded for? And what does it mean to lose that we’re afraid to take anything from it – namely lessons? Why are we more deserving of a win than anyone else?
How the win makes us feel and what it says about us is ultimately the end goal. That we are deserving, good enough, worked hard enough. But the weight of winning is weighing us down and the idea of it, or more of not achieving it, is having the opposite effect before the race even starts. Instead of winning we are losing our self-esteem.
We don’t need self doubt, we don’t need validation. We need discipline and we need effort and we need to stop caring about what rewards other people are going to bestow upon us more than we care about the work we’ve actually done. We need to make winning about the bar we’ve set; not about the one society, competition, or comparison has.