Win it all?
There is a lot to be said about winning and depending on the title of the article you might think that winning is not important. Let me be clear and say that winning is important, for the right reasons. Sometimes victory is sought for selfish reasons by validating a person’s self-esteem. I’ve coached countless athletes over the years and remember that every time they’ve been injured their self-esteem has taken a hit. When they retired from the sport due to an injury or some other reason, it took a long time for them to regain their self-esteem. So if we only associate winning with our self-esteem, we are winning for the wrong reasons and that is why I say: winning is not everything, nor the only thing. What are your impressions of the victory? Do you relate it to your self-esteem?
Last weekend I attended my young nephew’s basketball final. It was his first season playing basketball and his team had the chance to advance to the final. I have attended most of his games throughout the season and have been impressed with the young boy’s team spirit. As with children playing sports, parents were more invested in the outcome. Unfortunately, they lost the final because the other team was stronger with significantly taller players, which as you know in basketball is a contributing factor. What was interesting was the conversation I had with my nephew when I got home after the game. To appease him after the loss, I offered some wisdom saying, “Someone has to lose.” The point I was trying to make is that we don’t win all the time and we can learn valuable lessons from losing. Remarkably, he responded with a well-known quote attributed to American football coach Vince Lombardi saying, “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.”
Some think that winning is everything and if we subscribe to this way of thinking, we are missing out on the growth that comes with loss. I don’t mean losing is something we are aiming for. I suggest that winning and losing serve a purpose if we are aware of what they add to our lives. For example, what have been your biggest lessons from losing? I’m not just talking about sport but other areas of life? I learned: humility, patience, tenacity and perseverance because of the loss. These are qualities that I would not have acquired if I had won. If we consider everything to be a winner, we see life through a narrow filter because the greatest victories in life can often come from failure. Some of you are familiar with the junior career of former Chicago Bulls basketball player Michael Jordan and how it shaped his destiny to be a winner. The point I want to convey is that losing can be a powerful motivator and a precursor to victory.
Winning can only take us so far
For my nephew, losing meant shame, humiliation and a blow to his self-esteem. And it makes sense that he thinks that way as a young boy, but as adults we have to teach kids the value of losing to sharpen their character’s saw, as author Stephen R wrote. . Covey in 7 habits of highly efficient people. Losing can help us develop our skills and passions so that we appreciate what is important to us. It helps us limit our focus and let go of anything that comes to our attention. Loss is crucial if we are open to the lessons it carries. If we associate loss with our self-esteem, we become addicted to winning and lose sight of our true motives. Can you see that while winning is important, we also need to be familiar with defeat to support our reason for winning.
Sometimes winning can disrupt our lives if we pursue it with bad intentions. There have been notable sports heroes over the years whose lives were derailed because they were winning all the time. Some have turned to: illegal drug use, reckless driving, public misconduct, and marital affairs to name a few. They believed themselves to be invincible and saw themselves only as winners and not as human beings capable of winning. I can list a dozen sports heroes whose lives were ruined because of the victory, but that is not the point of this article. Winning can only get us so far and unless we keep winning the only way is to go down. Losing gives us the gift of climbing the ladder of excellence while developing strength of character. It forces us to question our motivations and often we come back stronger than before.
With that in mind, I would like you to reflect on your relationship with victory. Consider one or two areas where you think it’s important to win. Is it through a current relationship? Your career? Sports or academics? Ask yourself: what do I hope to achieve by winning? Is it to improve my self-esteem? What will this do for my life in the long run? Who do I hope to become after winning? Try to understand why it is important to win. I assure you that once you understand your motivations, winning and losing can be part of the same ideal where losing is not a final destination. Losing gives us the wisdom to grow and expand, because winning can lead to complacency. When we understand our reason for winning, we accept to win more graciously, and losing doesn’t need to impact our self-esteem, but strengthen it.