Winning and losing means so many things to so many people. The terms winning and losing go beyond competitive games. I use the word “winning” to acknowledge or affirm actions or a set of circumstances that result in favorable outcomes. In my opinion, winning always has a positive connotation for the winner. Winners tend to want more wins. Winners often expect to have more wins. Winning can be contagious and infectious.
After spending most of my adult life as a coach’s wife, I think a lot about winning and losing from Halloween to New Year’s Day. I sit and watch players, teams, and coaches stuggle with the reality that the measure of their success is reduced to winning and losing. This truth in sports translates well to life outside of that bubble. Often we spend time trying to meet the standard of winning set by people who often have nothing invested in our work, our project, or our lives.
Winning means bragging rights for teams and their fans. Winning can also mean increased or stable ticket and T-shirt sales. On the contrary, losing means disappointment for the competitors that is compounded by the pressure of frustrating and disappointing people with financial or emotional investments in the competition. In life we have a similar challenge in getting distracted by ancillary things. Sometimes those other things that are not connected to our missions make us forget why we even did the thing at all. In the midst of winning or losing, we can get consumed in the emotion of the moment and miss valuable lessons.
In winning, we should learn humility, gratitude, and the blessing of building muscle memory for success. In losing, we waddle in pity, anger, guilt, or regret, and forget the blessing of the opportunity for resiliency, shared experiences that build camaraderie, and a chance for introspection and reflection. It is challenging in loss to believe that you are still winning. Similary, it is often difficult in winning to display humility or to embrace the cliche that “You can’t win them all.”
Today, I watched someone who I care about process out loud this very battle. I was honored to be granted permission to witness this developmental moment. The moment itself signaled maturity and passion for the overarching potential of sports to teach some of the lesson previously mentioned. Ultimately, whether we are in the context of a competitive game or in the game of life, there is something that we must remember: Be aware that we are winning every day that we receive the gift to have life because that gift affords us the capacity to learn from the wins and loses.
I hope that if you are feeling like you’ve lost or failed that you will find the guidance that lies within that experience. I often tell students about how I failed physics in college then took it again and made a D. I didn’t learn that I was a failure. I learned that I wouldn’t be a physicist or an electrical engineer. Thank goodness for everyone that I am not building brake systems or bridges. I found my path thankfully because of those detours. Those experiences also provide understanding and a point of reference for students who struggle with changing their major, or life not going just as they planned, or feeling like they will fail at everything because they receive a failing mark in one class. Your experiences are designed to teach you and hopefully you won’t focus on the disappointment too long and miss the chance to pay forward the lesson that can help someone else feel like they are winning at life.