Playing to Win vs. Playing Not to Lose

Playing to Win

At some point in your life, you’ve had the experience of being truly excited about achieving a goal. You’ve been focused, actively looking for solutions, motivated every moment. As human beings, though, we drift in and out of that excitement. If you can recognize and become aware of your mindset, you’ll find that even just a few small adjustments can help you regain that enthusiasm and put you back on the fast track to achieving your goals. You have the power to choose.

Let’s look at four levels of mindset:

Not playing (0-49% effort) – This is when you deny that you even have a choice. People in this state deny ownership, so they’re not even able to fail. They justify and criticize and invalidate what others are doing. This mindset doesn’t produce results at all. People who aren’t playing tend to avoid any kind of action. They’re couch potatoes. Or they sit around with others who aren’t playing and vent about the government or corporations or the economy.

Just playing (50-69% effort) – People who are just playing recognize that they have a choice, but they avoid making it. They have a tendency to play a conservative wait-and-see game. They go for mediocrity — something is better than nothing. They also fight for your need to be right — so much so that sometimes they even forget what they’re fighting for. They have a tendency to be very reactive — “Don’t tell me what to do…I know what I’m doing!”  They also have a story around everything that happens in your life — they rationalize and justify everything.

Playing not to lose (70-89% effort) – This mindset produces results, but they’re not satisfying. Success is an obligation, not a choice. “I have to pay the bills.” “I committed to doing this and I’m a person of my word.” Even though you accomplish goals, you feel exhausted, tired, and even resentful about the goals, because you’re doing it for someone else, not from true personal choice. This is also a place of complacency — “At least I have a job.” “At least I have a relationship.” Things may be looking good to the outside world, but maybe not feeling so great on the inside.

Playing to win (90-100% effort) – This is true choice. You want to do this. You take personal responsibility for the choices you make and the subsequent results, good or bad. You’re proactive — always working on your attitude, actively seeking solutions. You support other people, not in judgment, but however they’re currently showing up. You move past the fear about new opportunities and instead find excitement in them.

As you look at various areas of your life, you’re probably operating in different mindsets in different areas of your life. The great news is that it may just take a few little adjustments to shift you upwards in mindset. For example, simply planning ahead and being proactive rather than reactive will help you remember that it’s your choice, not an obligation. Or looking for the opportunity in a given situation — for example, instead of complaining about the traffic, think about how you might make good use of the time.

Know that you have the blueprint for playing to win within you. You’ve done it before, in some area of your life at some point in time. You know what it feels like. Look at your life and where you’re playing to win already. Take that blueprint of how you think and act and apply it to your next goal.

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