Are You Playing To Win or To Avoid Losing?

Let me ask you a question. When you play a game, when you embark on a project, when you go to work, when you get up in the morning, when you sit down to write, when you make a presentation, when you have to do anything,

Are you playing to win or to avoid losing?

If you’re wondering what the difference is, when you play to win you’re focused on it. When you play to win, you back yourself to achieve, you back yourself to perform, you back yourself to get shit done

When you’re playing to avoid losing, on the other hand, well, you’re not really playing. You’re simply trying to avoid making mistakes. Your focus is on the negative outcome. As a result, you’re always on guard for fear of failure or embarrassment.

Psychologists call this the difference between a performance approach and a performance avoidance mindsetStudy after study has concluded that those with a performance approach mindset have a much easier time immersing themselves in the game and entering a flow-like state.

I’ve experienced both multiple times. 

When I didn’t really want to be at work – when I had to fly through the night or with a Captain I didn’t get along with, I fretted. Not only did this spoil the game, it affected my performance. Even if I did make it through unscathed, the feeling wasn’t one of confidence but relief.

The truth was, on those occasions, I wasn’t in it to win it. I was merely trying to avoid failure for fear of being found out.

Conversely, when I did show up to work with a willing attitude. When I backed myself to do well in a sim or pull off a landing in tricky conditions, it was rarely as bad a day at the office. Not only would I perform better and gain more confidence as a result, if I did make a mistake I was able to look at it objectively.

Instead of viewing them as confirmation that I wasn’t capable, I was able to take the lessons onboard. That same attitude then gave me the impetuous to get back on the horse and have another go.

The question is, how do we adopt such an attitude consistently? How do we take a performance approach to work and life every time we show up to play?

For Adopting a Winning Mindset

One technique that’s used by many top athletes is visualisation. Psychology Today notes that mental practices “enhance motivation, increase confidence and self-efficacy, improve motor performance, prime your brain for success, and increase states of flow.”

The idea is you mentally rehearse the performance ahead of time. Not only that, you visualise the future after you’ve achieved your goal. You picture it in vivid detail. Imagine the scene – the time and place, the people you’re with, how it feels, etc. The more detailed the meditation, the better. It helps to combine it with a positive affirmation. 

But before you do that, there’s an important question you should ask yourself. Especially if you find yourself repeatedly playing to avoid losing. That’s why you’re playing the game that you are, because the reason you’re playing – your why – has got to be bigger than winning.

Success alone isn’t enough. Winning isn’t enough. Why do you want more followers on Twitter, or Instagram, or WordPress? Why do you want to become a published author? Why do you want to get that promotion? Why do you want to be a captain, or a lawyer, or a doctor? 

What is the reason for playing the game that you are? 

It’s worth stating that no child plays to win. A child plays because it wants to play. That’s because playing is an expression of joy. Playing is an expression of freedom. Playing, in its purest form, is an expression of love. 

The reason for playing at anything is for the love of that thing. 

You play to play. Similarly, you write to write. You don’t write to become a published author or get thousands of followers. You don’t write to win. You write because you love the craft. You fly aeroplanes because getting airborne gives you a rush that few other things can.

One of the problems we have in today’s results-obsessed culture is that we forget those reasons for playing in the first place. That desire to win, to be successful, to say we have achieved this, that or what-the-fuck ever (by the way, no-one else cares except you) takes over. We end up thinking that winning is the point. 

This blinds us. 

If you’re not careful, ambition has a way of sucking the life out of everything in its wake. It has a way of sucking the fun out of play too. Which misses the point completely. 

Winston Churchill once said, “Success is going from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.” That’s the point right there. To keep your spirit, to keep your love for the game going no matter how many times you get knocked down. So you get back up, over and over again. 

If you play enough times in this life, you will win eventually. The most important thing is to make sure that you’re playing the game you want to play when you do. 

Otherwise, you really have lost.

***

You can find more of AP2’s writing here at: https://pointlessoverthinking.com

You can also find him on Medium at: https://anxiouspilot2.medium.com

Or on Twitter at: @AnxiousPilot

Tuesday’s Top Tip

Don’t try to get as much out of life as you possibly can.

This kind of thinking fucks you up. 

Like trying to be the best person you possibly can.

Don’t do that either.

Why?

Because both are impossible goals that you’ll never achieve. 

Also think about this.

When you get up and attack the day with as much gusto as you possible can. When you run around at a million miles an hour trying to do do do. 

Ask yourself, “How much of the day am I actually enjoying?”

I’m guessing not as much as the days in which you deliberately slow down and observe. The ones in which you look and appreciate – in which you laugh, play and let go a little (or a lot).

Here’s something else you haven’t thought of. 

In your pursuit to be endlessly productive – to make up for your feelings of being unworthy, you haven’t allowed yourself any time to rest

And no I’m talking about sleep (at least not exclusively). What I’m really talking about has to do with activities that make you feel recharged.

This can be many things – exercise or having a long bath. Meditating or going for a mindful walk in nature. Reading a book or having for a w***. It’s different for everyone! Even staring out the window for 5 minutes can do wonders. 

So what’s today’s top tip you ask?

Simple.

Slow down and take lots of mini breaks throughout your day. I mean lots. Every time you feel stressed or scattered.  Look up from your screens and take a break. Start with several slow deep breathes. Then go chat with a co-worker or grab a cuppa. And if you’re really struggling, move away from your office and go for a walk outside or hit the gym.

Really.

Not only will this bring you a greater sense of well being, it will give you much greater mental clarity. This in turn will actually make you more productive, not less. It will also mean you actually enjoy being productive. 

If it helps, don’t think of rest as a reward to be had at the end of a busy day. Think of it as a tool you can use throughout the day to keep you focused, motivated and ready to rock the fucking world. 

Previous Top Tip

Motivational Mondays – 07/09/20

Hello fine readers and welcome back to my Motivational Mondays Post – The only weekly newsletter to give you a lollipop after forcing you to visit the dentist.

Following a 3:2:1 approach, it contains 3 exceptional thoughts from me (ha), 2 admittedly better quotes from others, and 1 thing I’ve been reading or listening to this week that has helped me grow!

As always I’ve finished with 1 something silly to lighten your Monday blues… 

Love to all X


3 x Thoughts From Me:

Courage is acting from a place of love, doing what you know to be right, not in the absence of fear, but because of it.

Understand that while you might love the smell of your own shit, it’s exactly that – shit! The same applies to your thoughts. This is why you must analyse, challenge and deconstruct your beliefs continuously. Just how what you feed yourself determines how much your shit stinks, what you feed your brain determines how good your thinking is. Trust me, your shit can always smell nicer.  (How’s that for an inspirational quote?!!)

There is such a thing as post traumatic growth. Many who have gone through some kind of trauma don’t regret it happened because they believe it has made them stronger. That’s certainly my experience. However this isn’t true in all cases. Often it’s a choice. You can either make up your mind to take responsibility for something that’s not your fault or not. If you play the victim you become the victim. Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger if that’s your attitude, otherwise it will make you weaker.


2 x Quotes From Others:

Hope is a good breakfast, but it is a bad supper.” – Francis Bacon.

“Vision is the bottleneck of talent. Most talent is wasted because people do not clearly know what they want. It’s not a lack of effort, but a lack of direction. There are many capable people in the world, but relatively few that focus on what matters.” – James Clear


1 x Thing That Helped Me Grow

This interesting Intelligence Squared podcast episode with historian Rutger Bregman talking to author and journalist Helen Lewis on Human Kindness in a Frightened World

MY PERSONAL NOTES AND QUOTES:

  • Humankind. A Hopeful History 
  • Religion isn’t about what is true. It’s about something else
  • Nocebo effect. Doctor start talking about possible negative side effects and then you feel them. 
  • What we assume of others people – what we believe of them – is what we get out of them. 
  • If you assume most people are selfish. You will end up with a society that brings out the worst. In its systems and institutions. Racism works this way. I believe we can turn it around. By believing in the best of human nature we can reflect that in our society and politics as well. I want to create a placebo effect for our society not a nocebo effect. 
  • Homo puppy Humans have evolved to be friendly. New fascinating study to come out of biology. Self domestication. We did it to ourselves. What happened? Survival of the friendliest. Turns out the friendliest of us did the best. Had the most kids etc. Had an interesting effect on our biology. We have became more puppy like in appearance. Hence I came up with the term, Homo puppy. 
  • Social psychology- many studies are now being debunked. Idea that normal kind humans put into evil situations will very quickly become savages. Turns out experiments were set up to prove the theory. 50 years later we are learning many of these famous studies simply aren’t accurate. 
  • Interesting how no one asks about a theory for human kindness? People are more interested in explaining the holocaust. People always want a simple explanation. There isn’t one. It was part of a long historical evolution that convinced millions that what they were doing was good. 
  • People were basically brainwashed. That was what was believed. Most people do not do horrible things because they enjoy it. They actually have to overcome strong instincts that go the other way. They simply believe they are right. They are the hero’s in their own stories. It’s very rare that bad guys actually think they are bad. The point is that ideologies take over. Becomes a twisted divine mission.
  • Often friendliness gets in the way of progress. We don’t stand up to racists and bullies etc when we should. 
  • Strange paradoxical situation where left wing parties aren’t having a good time at the moment but left wing radical ideas are. Why? Theory. When you have a radical idea, to move it into mainstream political action eventually you have to compromise. Often on the left you have something called the “narcissism of little details.” The problem with the left is its unwillingness to compromise. It’s not useful if you want to build a broader movement for more people to get behind.
  • On the left it feels likes a competition – who is the most pure – the most correct. Whereas on the right its simply I’d like to be in charge please.
  • What I hope to come out of this crisis is the question – do I want to live somewhere like Germany or NZ or somewhere with a very aggressive capitalist system like America with patchy welfare? It’s hard to look around at the moment and not see what good governance does for you.
  • The answer to cynicism is realism.
  • If you write about the story but don’t include the metta analysis then I think you have failed as a writer.
  • Summary of my book is most people are nice but power corrupts. A lot of powerful psychology backing up this claim – research by Dr. Dacher Keltner who wrote the power paradox shows that people prefer to have nice leaders – but often these nice people become corrupted by power. Powerful people become disconnected. The parts of the brain responsible for empathy stops lighting up.
  • How is it possible we have this survival of the shameless situation? Where people who definitely wouldn’t have survived during the age of hunter gathers can become our leaders. What has gone wrong with our modern political systems? The super viruses of a shame culture. Where being shamed is so prevalent it becomes a super power to be completely shameless.
  • We’re the only animals in the world to blush – to involuntarily give away our feelings. Why? Probably a mechanism designed to establish trust. Maybe political reporters should ask our leaders the question – when was the last time you blushed?
  • Pessimism or optimism? I don’t like either of them – I believe they are both forms of laziness. Biggest danger with optimism is complacency. ‘It will be ok so I don’t need to worry about changing anything myself.’ Biggest danger with pessimism is apathy. ‘The world is doomed so it doesn’t matter either way. Might as well drive my SUV etc.’ Realism is to say we can save the planet but it’s going to mean making radical changes from all of us.


1 x Silly Thing To Make You Smile:

I’m struggling for a good story this week so thought I’d leave you with this old Gary Larson Far Side Comic Strip. This is one of my faves…


Till next time…

Have a Happy Monday Everybody!

P.S. Don’t forget to exercise your silly muscle this week!

One bonus questions for you all of you to think about:

Are negative emotions the problem or our intolerance of them?

(Thank you all so much for reading. If you have any suggestions, thoughts or ideas about this weeks post I’d love to hear from you in the comments section below.)


PREVIOUS MONDAY POSTS:

Motivational Mondays – 31/08/20

Motivational Mondays – 24/08/20

Motivational Mondays – 17/08/20

Motivational Mondays – 10/08/20

Motivational Mondays – 03/08/20