Clearly, I have never been involved in such a high stakes game of anything. I have, however, had plenty of experience in winning and losing and I’ve come to learn that a win is not always sweet, nor is it always a win. And a loss is not always a bad thing, nor is it always a loss. One of the ideas I’ve solidified over time is my actual definition of a win.
In a game like basketball, wins are easy to spot. Careful structures have been put into place to record the progress of the game. Common rules are followed by all players, from the little ones using lowered hoops to the ‘big guys’; the guys and girls on the college teams and those in the NBA and WNBA. Time clocks measure not only the length of quarters but also things like time allowed to inbound the ball, time to make a shot and timeouts for strategizing. By the time the buzzer sounds, there is a clear winner.
In all sport we say, a win is a win. And it is. It does not matter whether we win by a single point or if one competitor completely dominates the other. A win is a win. This is because the score is the metric used to determine the win. It is clear, it is clean and the rules apply to all competitors.
Winning in life is not so clear.
Some people have the idea that winning means getting what they are aiming for. This could be a new job; they won a competition and were awarded the job. It could be an argument; they won the argument meaning the other person conceded. Getting your way when choosing a restaurant could be a win. It can feel like winning when the traffic is light and we arrive at our destination on time. Winning can mean waking up to sunshine on a day we hoped to get out for a walk.
For me, none of these is a clear win. I have ‘won’ arguments and felt like a loser. I know people who have ‘won’ the competition for a job and have accepted the job, only to discover it isn’t at all what they hoped for. In statistics records, these would be recorded as wins. I simply disagree. To be clear, I like to win, and I need to win. Every day. So, I’ve redefined what it means to win.
In my world, this is the key: a win cannot involve having to depend on someone else’s action or behaviour. For instance, when I was raising kids, I would not have declared a win if my children remembered to make their beds. I certainly would enjoy the fact the beds were made. But this, for me, is not a win. In this particular situation, a win might be that my response was one I could be proud of whether the beds were made or not. The win, in this case, is all in my hands. I can lay my head down and sleep well at night with this kind of win under my belt.
In my teaching career, a win was not that the students were well behaved or that they all performed well on a given assessment. A win was that I modeled the behaviours I expected of them, I showed them dignity, I provided a safe place for them to learn, and I prepared them for success to the best of my ability. Their behaviour and their results were in their hands; my win was in my own.
When I was doing a lot of running and competing, a win did not always look like a medal around my neck. Sometimes it looked like a ‘good-for-me’ time. Sometimes it looked like an ‘I finished’. Others couldn’t tell if a win was a win for me because it rarely involved beating anyone else; the win was all in my goal-setting.
Last week I submitted a huge proposal for a contract I hope to land. I spent over twenty hours getting it ready. I did my research, I had several people look it over and I believe I represented myself with complete honesty in terms of who I am and what I can deliver. I may or may not get the contract. I’m ok with that. I already won by submitting my best work.
I set myself up for wins every single day. My wins come in the form of things I accomplish that I just want off my list and in things that are bigger and more important to me. Wins also come in the form of making and keeping commitments and connections with people I value. A simple phone call can be a win. My best wins are ones where I make myself proud by making sure my best self shows up to represent me no matter who I am with and no matter what I am doing.
No one else can define a win for us, nor can we define wins for others. Nor should we try to. And yet, winning is still important. Each win gives us a deposit in our confidence and self-esteem account. The secret is to understand that the tiny score on the basketball scoreboard, displayed after each of our ‘games’ isn’t the one that matters. The one that matters is the big one; the great huge invisible scoreboard in our lives that no one can see or understand except ourselves. We know it is there, and we clearly understand when we are winning. This week I encourage you to look for places to win.
My inquiry for you this week is, ‘Is this a win?’
Elizabeth provides leadership and personal coaching for individuals and teams. She creates and facilitates custom workshops for corporate, public and private groups. Contact Elizabeth to help you learn how set yourself up for the win.