Competition is not something purely relegated to sporting events or campaigns for public office. We are repeatedly faced with contests and competitions in virtually all aspects of our lives. We compete for job opportunities and career advancement. We contest for potential romantic partners and vie with any number of other factors for the attentions of our friends and loved ones. The one thing which holds the same in every contest is that some will succeed and others will not.
While the variety of specific strategies is as infinite as the variety of contests themselves our basic approach can fall into one of two categories. Are we aiming for ourselves win or are we aiming for the other person lose? It might seem like a minor distinction. In either event we win and the other person does not. We all would rather win than lose but where and how we focus our efforts and attention can profoundly change not only the nature of our outcomes but also our overall perception of the world around us.
Trying To Win Is Positive And Inclusive
Trying to win means putting yourself forward — if we are striving for ourselves to win then all our strategies and approaches will involve first and foremost putting ourselves forward as the most viable contender for the prize. Our energies focus on demonstrating what we have to offer, presenting ourselves in a positive manner, and connecting ourselves directly with the outcomes we are seeking.
Our thoughts are focused on our own capabilities enabling us to feel equipped to face the challenges we are confronted with.
The message this sends to others is that we believe in ourselves and offers them an image or ideology to potentially believe in as well. People are drawn to those who have confidence and belief because those are things we all crave ourselves. By putting ourselves forward we offer hope and possibility to others, even if indirectly. Seeing someone strive forward with confidence in themselves is inspiring. It makes ‘forward’ seem possible.
Trying to win demonstrates your strengths — presenting ourselves as the most viable candidate for the goal sets us to displaying and demonstrating our strengths and qualifications. It also focuses our thoughts and energies on perceiving, seeking, and developing our strengths. This keeps our thoughts aimed towards the positive aspects of ourselves and shapes our interactions with others to do the same.
As with the ‘which wolf do you feed’ paradigm by focusing on our strengths we build the habit of viewing ourselves as capable and worthy of success.
By dealing with others from the perspective of our strengths we project a clear image of the person we wish to be and the goals we wish to achieve. Those things may not be a match for everyone, truth is they won’t be. But by expressing them clearly and confidently we declare our identity and intentions making us much easier to understand and interact with. Presenting the specifics of who we are and what we are about from a position of determination makes it easier to view us as genuine and trustworthy.
Trying to win targets positive outcomes — by focusing on success all of the outcomes we envision and aim for are positive ones, the goal at the end of the path is achievement and all our efforts are viewed through the lens of gain and success. We will see what we look for. By framing our goals and targets in terms of winning end results are framed in positive, gaining terms.
Even if we are not the ones to win someone does win, the conclusion is a positive one. We just happen to be striving to achieve the gain for ourselves.
This shapes the tone of our interactions to deal in positive, gainful language and perceptions. We talk about what is possible and what there is to be gained on the other side of a goal or challenge. We don’t just focus on solutions but specifically on solutions which involve a positive gain. People are drawn to those who inspire hope and a big part of the capacity for doing that involves constantly aiming our energies at positive outcomes, which both makes them seem possible and expresses our belief in those possibilities.
Trying to win invites others to join you — if we are focused on positive outcomes, putting ourselves forward as the best candidate for success by expressing, illustrating, and demonstrating our strengths and capabilities we are also offering up an image or impression people can agree with. By striving to succeed based our merits we present ourselves and our capabilities as something others can understand and potentially relate to, something to emulate or aspire to, something they can get on board with.
Putting ourselves forward offers others a potential tribe to join if they like and connect with what we are presenting.
By being clear about ourselves and our intentions we make it easier for people to figure out whether or not we are a fit for their natures and intentions. If we declare where we are going, or where we wish to go, those who share similar desires and aspirations can join in on the journey towards an understood and mutual destination. Again, our designs will not always be a fit for everyone but it is a lot easier to figure that out from a positive declaration of who we are and what we stand for.
Trying To Make Others Lose Is Divisive And Derogatory
Trying to make others lose focuses away from yourself — focusing on how or why the other person should lose not only focuses other people’s attention away from us it focuses our thoughts in that direction as well. We end up spending all our goal related time and energies fixated on other people instead of ourselves. Other people end up looming larger in our thoughts than we do, leading not only to self-neglect but also to compounding feelings of unimportance and unworthiness.
The more we feel disqualified and insignificant the more desperate we become for any sense of power or control. Our inner world becomes one governed by fear.
If the only messages we offer are reasons why the other person should lose we present nothing of ourselves. People may agree with our assessment of the other person’s weaknesses but it does virtually nothing to form any genuine connection of bond with us beyond a shared dislike. We haven’t offered any clarity on who are or what are for, only what we are against and that is not the same thing. It takes an entire tapestry of ‘against’s to form a picture of what we are ‘for’ and the vast majority of people are not going to stick around marinating in negativity long enough to form that picture. Nor should they.
Trying to make others lose fixates on people’s faults — there are certainly times when it can be necessary to point out another person’s unfitness for a particular position or prize but if all we fixate on are the faults of others not only do we become dominated with thoughts about other people but those thoughts are only about their negative aspects. We see what we look for. By constantly searching for faults and weakness those become the only things we see in other people and the world around us.
And in those rare moments we spare any thoughts for ourselves our faults and weaknesses will be all we fixate on.
Fixating on faults and weaknesses, primarily those in other people, makes us virtually impossible to view as safe or trustworthy. If all we ever do is attack then the people we interact with have no reason to expect we will ever do anything else with, or about, them. It can be intoxicating and falsely empowering to join in on the dog-piling and trolling but if attacking weaknesses is the only message or shared ideology then it is all too easy for that to wind up aimed at us as well. As the saying goes, those who gossip with you will gossip about you.
Trying to make others lose targets negative outcomes — if our goal is to ensure someone else loses we make the definition of success a negative. Whether ensuring someone else’s loss or trying to prevent our own failure becomes the primary currency, failure becomes the metric of success. Even if we achieve our goal not only are we achieving a negative but we are also, in truth, giving the attention and credit for that achievement to other people. We won because they lost which not only does nothing to endorse our own capabilities the eyes of others, or ourselves, but it actually undercuts us by implying if the other person hadn’t lost we likely would have.
Even winning ends up being about losing.
Troubleshooting is an essential part of problem solving but if loss becomes our only metric and currency we become a force of fear and anxiety. We assume the doom and become trapped in a desperate cycle of merely avoiding or misdirecting the inevitable crushing impact. This makes us difficult to trust given the possibility we will try to shift that impact to someone around us and shared wallowing is not as bond forming as it might seem. It invariably turns almost instantly into a contest to see who views the situation in general, or their personal situation specifically, as the most intensely doomed. Not for the betterment of the group or goal but rather to justify and reinforce the feelings of hopelessness.
Trying to make others lose is divisive — if we spend all our time and energy fixated on why others should lose we are in essence spending all our time villainizing. By casting all others as enemies, or potential enemies, we isolate ourselves surrounded in a mote of fear and distrust. It may feel like strength, we may even try to broadcast it as such, but perpetually disqualifying and pulling others down speaks far more of insecurity and fear than of strength. Even if we truly believe in our own capabilities if our interactions are always about the weaknesses in others we are never doing anything to demonstrate or develop our strengths.
The only strengths which count are the ones we use, and we only use them if we make them are our focus.
Pointing out the faults and weaknesses of our opponents is certainly something other people can join in on but they are not truly joining us, they are simply agreeing with our assessment. In order to genuinely connect with us there has to be something of us being presented for them to join. Those joining in on the activity of attacking are just as likely to attack us should an appealing opportunity present itself, something all the more likely if all conversations and interactions are focused on the negatives. Fostering an environment of attack and loss makes it impossible to hope or relax. There can be no genuine unity of we all constantly have our knives out, even if under the auspices of self-defense.
We can see this paradigm glaringly at work in all the political machinery currently dominating our news media. Campaigns fixated on why others should lose wind up telling us precious little about the candidate themselves, save that they’re not horrible like the other person. This kind of tactic has always been around, traditionally viewed as the last refuge for those who lack genuine substance of their own. This approach has gained such pervasive ground in recent decades due in large part to the ever increasing ambient stress and anxieties in our society. People are exhausted, frustrated, anxious, and uncertain about their futures and the sad truth is it is easier to lash out at a presented enemy than to build hope inside ourselves.
But if we allow success to become defined as ensuring our perceived enemies loose then even success ceases to be a positive. If all we ever think about is someone losing everything becomes about loss rather than gain, there ceases to be place for anyone to truly win. Striving for victory operates from a source of hope, striving not to lose operates from a source of fear.
It’s important to note, also, that our methods and ethics do matter. All contests have parameters, metrics of comparison, and requirements for success. Subverting or outright disregarding those parameters is cheating and cheating is not winning. It is stealing, period. By cheating you are not participating in the contest but are simply taking the prize for yourself without legitimately being involved in the process. Trying to win aims us at positive potential results, wanting to win ‘by whatever means necessary’ is simply greed serving its own interests.
The ability to cheat effectively may be a skill but it isn’t a strength as it does nothing to exercise, demonstrate, or develop our personal merits. Quite the opposite as it starts from the implied premise that our merits would not be sufficient to succeed if we participated legitimately, no matter how much we might spin it as ‘working smarter not harder’. It also destroys people’s ability to trust us as it what it does demonstrate is our willingness to ignore and default any conventions or agreements we have entered in to if it suites our interests. Anyone believing ‘they will cheat everyone else but not me’ is setting themselves up for disappointment and betrayal.
And if the prize ‘wasn’t worth all the work’ then our fraudulent pursuit of it isn’t based in any genuine need or goal but is simply our greed grasping for a new toy to play with.
We cannot and will not win every contest we are faced with and there will definitely be times and circumstances when the tables are stacked very much to our disadvantage but if possibility of winning is our goal, our currency, and our focus then our efforts will draw from and instill a sense of hope. Our thoughts and energies will target and be drawn to the positive and possible. Trying to win starts us from an all-important truth, we are worthy and deserving which we are.
So aim for the genuine win, you never know who might decide to join you.