words by nerissa

…observations, thoughts and questions

Archive for the tag “winning”

How not to be better than everyone else

Let’s face it, our culture is very competitive. While there is nothing wrong with competing on the sporting field (see my post on  The rules about winning), competition can get out of hand. You may think you are not a competitive person, but you probably compete without even knowing it.excellence

We all compete when applying for a job. We compete for a car-park at the shopping centre (especially leading up to Christmas!) Many of us try to ‘out-do’ each other when it comes to kids’ birthday parties, or which car we drive. Our kids are already competing with each other with regard to which electronic device they have, or how many ‘friends’ they have on Facebook. I’m certainly guilty of competing when it comes to Scrabble!

Competition according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary is defined as ‘the act or process of trying to get or win something (such as a prize or a higher level of success), that someone else is also trying to get or win’.

And while competition is fine at one level, it can very quickly get out of hand.

You see, while we are busy trying to be better than everyone else and ‘win the prize’, we lose the gist of what competition is really about — Excellence.

Our primary school has five over-riding values — Respect, Excellence, Confidence, Responsibility and Resilience. Five great values, if you ask me.

At the start of the year, all students discuss what each value means to them. They write them up and they become the values of the classroom. My son’s year level came up with the following statements to define Excellence:

Doing our best — aiming high!
Having a go and learning from your mistakes
Thinking – “I can do it”

My daughter’s grade 2 class came up with this:

Practicing and working hard at everything we do, to be the best we can be.

Awesome!

Nowhere does it say ‘being better than everyone else’.

The problem that arises when you try to be better than everyone else is that you forget about improving yourself. You’re too busy focussing on what everybody else is doing, and trying to do ‘better’ than they are, rather than spending time developing yourself. The focus on ‘doing your best and aiming high’ has been replaced with ‘getting the better of’ someone else.

When we compete, we often end up comparing someone else’s ‘outer’ (or our perception of them), to our ‘inner’. Which is sort of ridiculous. It’s like saying that bananas are better than swimming pools. But many people, especially kids, don’t get that. In their eyes, you are either a ‘winner’ or a ‘loser’.

Which leads to the emotional difference between competing, and striving for excellence.

Competing to win can set someone up for a fall. In most competitions there is only one winner. So where does that leave everyone else? If you only focus upon the outcome of winning, then your success is tied up in victory. If you are not victorious, you are not a success, in other words, you are a ‘loser’. You are not good enough. You need to ‘perform better, do better’. Blah blah blah.

Competing sets you up for jealousy. If you are so focused on the end result, it is easy to envy your competitor for their victory over you. And this green-eyed monster can make it very difficult to see where you can make improvements. Because where there is jealousy, there is also often blame — reasons why you didn’t win. “I was too tired, the referee made a bad call, someone pushed me over, it wasn’t fair”, etc. etc.

But striving for excellence is a whole new ball game. Striving for excellence leads to positive self-esteem, and finding value in yourself for your efforts, rather than in the end result. Striving for excellence enables you to set goals and feel good about achieving them, regardless of what everyone else is doing. Aiming for excellence empowers you to keep trying harder, to be a better version of yourself than you were before. Which leads to confidence. And confidence means you can keep striving for excellence in all you do, for you know there is never failure.

Keeping the focus on excellence also means that there is little room for jealousy. If you did the very best you could have in whatever circumstances, then how can you be jealous of someone else who did the same? I would even go so far to say that being your best self and focusing on being your own ‘excellent self’ opens you up to cheer on someone else for their efforts and achievements, something I wrote about earlier this year (Are you a dream-stealer or a dream-weaver?).

When we strive for excellence, we all win; because excellence can mean different things to different people. It can mean running 5km without walking. It can mean not eating chocolate for a week. It might mean practicing your handwriting. Perhaps it is joining a sporting team for the first time. Maybe even speaking in public without getting nervous or putting in your best effort in an exam.

If you truly want to rise to new levels, stop trying to ‘beat’ everyone else there. Focus on being your most excellent self, and you will be surprised at how quickly and effortlessly you will get there.

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The rules of winning

When it comes to sport and competing, my son has one of the best attitudes of anyone I know. Which is pretty remarkable since he is only 10 years old.sometimes you win

When it comes to performing on the sports field, most of his peers are interested in winning — aka coming first. Whether it is an individual sport or a team sport, many of them are concerned with the score at the end and where they came. If they are not on the podium, then many of them get upset.

I have seen kids weeping and berating themselves for not winning a match, or coming first in their race. I have heard parents tell them that they needed to work harder or do better. And I have seen the look on these kids’ faces when they truly believe they weren’t good enough, simply because they failed to meet expectations  —  often those of their parents.

My husband and I never wanted that for our kids. But in a world where you are encouraged to be ‘better than everyone else’, the message about winning and losing can be misinterpreted.

So once our kids were old enough to understand the basics, we explained the rules about winning.

Rule #1: It’s important to participate. After all, there is no way you can possibly ‘win’ if you are not even part of the game.

Rule #2: Enjoy the experience. Have fun while you are competing.

Rule #3: Always do your best. We have often told our kids that we would be more proud of them for doing their best and coming last, than not trying at all and coming first. They know that no matter what the outcome, they can be proud if they have done their best.

But one of the most important rule we discussed was Rule #4: You will never win all the time. Unless you learn to be a gracious ‘loser’ and to accept you didn’t come first without excuses, blame and self-berating, you will never be a good winner. Ever. By all means look at how you can make improvements, but never, ever put yourself down or allow others to do it for you. Ever.

They are our rules about winning. And our kids know that if they don’t abide by these rules, then they don’t get to play.

My son started playing after-school basketball when he was 6. He wasn’t very good. He wasn’t particularly tall and he wasn’t particularly gifted at the game. His first goal was a fluke and it took another 10 months before he got his next goal. Often, when I would tuck him into bed, long after the game had finished and he’d had his bath and dinner, he’d ask: “Did we win?” Obviously the score was not important to him.

As he has grown he has got better at the game. He is still not a gifted basketball player like some of his peers, but he works hard and listens to his coaches. And he plays reasonably well.

But most importantly, he loves the game and he loves challenging himself.

He has played in a few Grand Finals and only won one of them. And while he was disappointed in the result, he was not devastated, like some of his friends.

After the game I would ask him if he was disappointed. He would say, “Well, a bit. But it’s only a game and winning is not everything. At least we had a chance to play.” I would then ask him if he was happy about how he played the game. Always, the answer was “yes”. What a winner!

My son is quite sporty. But he doesn’t excel at anything in particular. He enjoys a range of different sports and does reasonably well with whatever he tries. He represents his school in District Athletics, District Cross Country and District Tennis. He plays inter-school sport and after-school basketball.

But the thing I am most proud of when it comes to his sporting prowess, is his winning attitude. He is always willing to be involved, always doing his best, always accepts the results, always quick to congratulate the opposition and always happy with the experience, no matter what the outcome. In my eyes, he is a true winner.

Winning is not always about coming first, or winning the prize and beating everyone else.

Winning can be:

  • Stepping out of your comfort zone to try new things
  • Participating in something even though you are nervous or worried to do so
  • Setting your own goals and working hard at them
  • Setting your own goals and achieving them
  • Giving everything a go, no matter how skilled you are at it
  • Shaking hands with the person who beat you and congratulating them on their win
  • Helping others reach their goals, while putting yours to the side
  • Competing with a smile on your face
  • Being someone or doing something that inspires others to be better people.

This week, I saw the video posted below. I have seen it before, but it truly is an awesome reminder of what sport (and winning) really should be about.

Take a moment to watch it. I guarantee, it will be the best thing you will see today.

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