Have you ever asked yourself this question? ‘Do I play to win or do I play to not lose?’
At first these probably sound like the same thing, right? If you’re winning you’re also not losing. But really they’re completely different things – they’re completely different mindsets.
When you’re playing to win, you’re focused on what could go right. And when you’re playing to not lose, you’re focused on what could go wrong.
We all think we’re playing to win, but we’re not. We’re certainly trying. We study hard. We work hard. We try to be healthy, productive, positive and ‘good’ with our money.
But there’s something in the back of our heads telling us that maybe we shouldn’t shine too brightly.
The fear of shining too brightly
Shining brightly is scary. You get attention and when you get attention there will be more people who will notice if you fail.
There’s something telling us we shouldn’t stand out from the crowd. We shouldn’t do anything too unconventional and we certainly shouldn’t try anything that’s failed for someone else.
How do you know if you’re playing to win?
I think if you ask yourself this question honestly you’ll come up with the right answer (i.e. a defensive ‘What?! Of course I play to win! Why the hell else would I be doing it?’ isn’t a legit answer). You will know if you’re playing to win and you will know if you’re not.
How to know if you’re playing big
When you’re playing to win you dream big, you don’t let anything hold you back and you let the risk of failure drive you closer to your goal instead of using it as an excuse to stop trying.
You don’t care about what others will whisper behind your back – you’re going to win. You can see it in your mind’s eye and you can feel it in your gut. It’s going to happen; it’s just a matter of when.
This is the mindset I want. This is the mindset I currently have:
I’m playing to not lose. I’m being conservative. I’m not taking risks. I’m not putting myself out there. If I hear a story about how something didn’t work out for others I use that as evidence that it won’t work for me. I don’t do this consciously – I always try to see the bright side and how things might be different for me. But really, when I’m honest with myself, I’m holding myself back.
I’m scared of shining too brightly. I’m scared of success.
I know this sounds crazy, isn’t success what we all want?! Isn’t it what we’re always talking about getting? Why the hell would I be scare of it?
The answer? My mindset.
Why I’m not playing big
If you’re successful it means you tried to get there and if you truly tried to get there it means you risked failing. And that, to me, is scary.
When you play to win you’re risking failure, but you’ve still got all the upside.
When you’re playing to not lose, you’re not risking failure. It’s not a risk because it is going to happen. It’s going to happen by default because you’ve never even given yourself the chance to succeed.
We play to not lose with the best intentions.
We want to feel secure, we want to feel comfortable, we want to be liked by others. It’s uncomfortable playing to win – you call yourself and your abilities into question. It’s so much easier for our egos if we never test ourselves, if we never have any evidence of a time when we tried but didn’t succeed.
How I’m changing my mindset
So I’m changing my mindset. I’m questioning the way I think. I truly believe if you want to change your mindset, you have to know why you are the way you are in the first place. To do it, here’s what you need to ask yourself:
What are your thoughts about success? What kind of people do you believe will become successful? What kind of people do you believe will not? Where did you learn this from?
For example, one belief I have (and one that I am fighting) is that you can’t have a successful career and great relationships. Relationships are one of the most important things in my life and I don’t want to sacrifice them for a career. At least, that’s what I’ve been telling myself (on a pretty subconscious level) and I think it’s also what’s been sabotaging me when it comes to getting my internship applications in on time. But that’s a story for another time.
I’m in an either/or mindset when both are possible (btw just to be clear, I’m not saying they’re easy I’m just saying they’re possible). I can have amazing relationships and an amazing career and telling myself anything else is just rationalising myself back into my comfort zone.
This is just one of the many, many limiting beliefs that I’m starting to identify – I have so many, and maybe you do too.
How to start playing big today
Maybe you want to live overseas or to move another city. But immediately, you begin to think about how you won’t know anyone, it will be hard to find your feet and you don’t want to come home embarrassed that it didn’t work out – so you don’t go.
Maybe want to apply for your dream job. But immediately, your mind jumps to the fact you might not get it and all of those other people out there who are ‘better than you’ – so you don’t even apply, you don’t even give yourself the chance.
We tell ourselves so many stories about what’s possible and they’re all made up. So I’m trying to make something up that will help propel me forward, instead of holding me back.
What do you think?
So are you playing to win or playing to not lose? And what would you’re ‘playing to win’ look like?
Don’t forget that comments are always welcome and appreciated – I’d LOVE to hear what you have to say!