When winning becomes losing

“Winning is awesome.” This phrase neatly sums up how I see the attitude of our society. We live in a society that heavily values competition and this has greatly shaped our approach to life. We tend to believe that winning=success– as long as you seem to be winning more than everybody else, you will have an incredibly successful life. Believe it or not, this is actually a flawed form of thinking. In many cases, winning gets us the opposite of what we want. I recently read a book called What Got You Here Won’t Get You There by Marshall Goldsmith. The author provided an excellent example:

Let’s say that you want to go to restaurant X. Your spouse, partner, friend wants to go to restaurant Y. You have a heated debate about the choice. You point out the bad reviews Y has received. But you grudgingly yield and end up going to restaurant Y. The experience confirms your misgivings. The reservation is lost and you have to wait 30 minutes. The service is slow, the drinks weak, and the food tastes like ripe garbage. You have two options during this painful experience. Option A: Critique the restaurant and smugly point out to your partner, how wrong he or she was and how this debacle could have been avoided if only you had been listened to. Option B: Shut up and eat the food. Mentally write it off and enjoy the evening.

You can see why this is a good example. Many people choose Option A. You win the argument, but in exchange, we further ruin dinner as well as possibly wreck a relationship. The option to win comes with a huge price tag. The crazy part is, according to the author, 75% choose the measly prize of winning an argument over supporting a relationship. This is just one example of how winning can be bad for you. The problem with winning is it that it’s not about being successful, it’s about feeling successful. Your entire focus becomes about making yourself feel like a winner regardless of the consequences. This means you’re more likely blame, judge, claim credit you don’t deserve, be hyper-critical, sabotage anybody better than you (even if they are on the same team), and argue. Your ego starts to control your whole life.

So, if winning doesn’t equal success, what does? Personally, I think the answer is emotional fulfillment. It’s a very open-ended answer, but so is life. Winning is just one of many ways we can feel emotionally fulfilled. We also feel fulfilled when we get a hug from a loved one, when we laugh, when we enjoy a summer day, when we get to enjoy an adventure, when we make somebody smile, and when we experience love. The issue I tend to have with the “winning is awesome” attitude is we fail to recognize anything else that could be awesome. I frequently watch people so focused on winning that they miss out. They win the argument, but they miss out on enjoying dinner. So, here’s my challenge to you: try to stop yourself at least once today and ask yourself, “Am I doing this to win, or am I doing this to enjoy life and be fulfilled?” Each time you ask this question, you open up new possibilities. You’ll get more opportunities to find real fulfillment and you will be more successful in the long run.

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