7/23/2008

Are you playing to win or are you playing not to lose?

I've heard the term "play to win' on several occasions. It wasn't until I was introduced to the phrase "playing not to lose" that I truly understood what playing to win really meant.

One of the major differences between the two phrases lies in the attitude of the person. The attitude of someone playing to win varies greatly from the person playing not to lose. Playing to win requires the person to make offensive moves and take proactive, even risky, actions. Ever seen a physical fight between two people? Do you remember a fight when you could clearly identify the person who is clearly trying to win the fight? The one who's goal it is to win throws many more blows than the other individual. That person may even try some other tactics to win the fight like teasing or taunting to get in the head of the other person. Contrast those actions with that of the person playing not to lose. That person only has one objective, protect himself.

If protecting means curling up in a ball and refusing to throw any blows, then so be it. Not losing is that person's main objective. This type of reasoning is inherently flawed for one reason, the person playing not to lose ultimately ends up losing.

Let's put this type of behavior in perspective. Someone who chooses not to say anything during a staff meeting for fear of sounding stupid (playing not to lose), creates a persona that he/she does not have anything of value to add to the discussion (that person ends up losing). The person who obsessively warns her child of the dangers of taking risks(playing not to lose), ends up with an unstable adult child who is unable and unwilling to take care of himself (losing). The examples are endless. The main point I want you to absorb is the potential disaster that can occur when one takes action, or fails to take action, for fear of losing and not with the intent to win.

So how do you position yourself so that you are playing to win?

Plan-One major reason why we don't take calculated risk is because we haven't planned in advance. Lack of planning creates fear. Fear leads to discomfort. Discomfort breeds inaction. Inaction equals loss. When you think ahead, you can strategize some great moves you can make when the time is right. The person who prepars for the staff meeting can put together a list questions or talking points ahead of time. When she proactively shares her ideas with the team, she is playing to win.

Stretch-Once you've planned your offensive attack, you still have to contend with the fear that will creep up once you face your opposition. Playing to win means throwing blows even if you have punches coming at you. In fact, that is the worse time to double over in fear. If you do, you will have to work through the negative feelings which develop as a result of your lack of effort.

Your subconscious knows when you are playing not to lose instead of playing to win. I'm sure you can recount numerous occasions when you had feelings of guilt or regret for not giving your all or doing your best. It's a miserable feeling that takes a while to get over. On the other hand, have you ever given your all into some thing valuable to you that you didn't win? You may feel crummy right after the loss but as time passes, you relive the details in pride knowing that you gave everything you could. Hence, there are little to no regrets attached to the memory.

Another key point to remember is that every action you take translates into either you playing to win or you playing not to lose. If you pick out your clothes for tomorrow at the very last moment, you are playing not to lose. Just the fact that you decided to wear clothing keeps you from losing. But if you were to pick out your attire the night before, properly iron the clothes, polish your shoes, and coordinate your accessories, you are playing to win. You are saying to the world "I made a conscious effort to look fantastic. I am taking my appearance seriously, I am playing to win!"

I want you to carefully scrutinize your efforts, all of your efforts, from this day forward. Your main objective should always be to play to win. By winning I don't mean defeating the opponent, I mean playing the best game you can possibly play. Your goal should be to give maximum effort to everything you do. This is the mark of someone who plays to win.

I'll leave you with a thought.

"Winning isn't everything, but if you don't play to win, you get nothing."

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