Updated: Apr 28
I didn’t play any serious organized sports growing up so I’m not the type of person that takes wins and losses in professional sports or my son’s athletic endeavors too seriously. However, being a person that has reached a certain age, and experienced the highs and lows of life, I can identify with the old ABC Wide World of Sports introduction that includes the statement, “The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.” YouTube it if you’re too young to know what I’m talking about 😊. If you do remember it, you are my people!
What you do with victory or defeat is very important, particularly defeat. Do you throw in the towel, or do you get up to fight another day? There is far more value in most cases in getting up to fight than throwing in the towel. That’s because you miss out on what could have been if you give in to defeat.
While winning brings you accolades, good feelings and the desire to want more achievement, defeat provides very impactful benefits of a different kind that possess a deeper meaning. If you suffered a defeat, at least you were in the game. You were trying, giving it your all. It just wasn’t your time. You take the lessons from that defeat, and you examine them, pick them apart and start to formulate a new plan of attack. But next time, you are armed with experience and action. The “winning” of losing is in trying, learning, and growing.
What happens if you win all the time? I mean, truly win. Like you’re first in the race, hit the lottery, got into all the schools you applied for, got picked for all the teams your tried out for and landed your dream job on the first go round. That’s fantastic. However, it’s likely you missed out on some key skills that would make you a more well-rounded human.
Losing Keeps You Hungry and Humble
When you lose, it reminds you that somewhere, someone else is a little bit bigger, better, stronger and it's not the end of the world. It reminds us that we need to work harder in preparation for the next opportunity. When we win all the time, we can become complacent, resting on your past victories, and refusing to grow.
My son is experiencing this first-hand now at the ripe old age of 12. Once a very focused and productive member of his soccer team, the last year or so has been a bit bumpy.
The cream of the crop is starting to rise to the top. It’s a cut-throat youth soccer world out there! LOL It’s not all about speed anymore. It’s about knowledge of the game and skills to be able to make something happen. He sometimes struggles with why the magic doesn’t just happen anymore. My husband, ever the pragmatic coach, reminds my son that practice is necessary to achieve the results you want.
Is that message received well? Most of the time no. But he is beginning to see a little of that logic as well as internalizing the fact that you have to want it and work for it. It may not always be easy, but he likes to play so he is willing to put in the work where he is and knows there is work to be done. He will get where he needs to be and, in the meantime, losing is actually driving him to improve and grow. That’s a win.
Losing Gives Us Proper Perspective
While losing is not fun, in losing we are able to identify our vulnerabilities and weaknesses and work to improve them. It helps us learn from our mistakes. Was what we did the right thing to do? Should we do it again? Does it hurt you or someone else?
These are important questions to ask. Losing gives us the opportunity to examine why we are doing what we are doing. Are we after something for ourselves or are we actually trying to fulfill the wants of others.
If you have proper perspective on why you want something in the first place it can help you make decisions around whether you even pursue it at all. It also provides an actionable lesson for the next time you come up against a similar situation. The lessons learned and perspective gained can inform your response the next time around and lead to a better outcome. That’s a win.
Losing Teaches Us Acceptance
Does anyone like losing? Ah, no.
Should they be okay with it? Yes and no.
One of the greatest lessons in losing in acceptance. A game, a job, a loved one, a pet. It all hurts. No one wants it but we all need to experience it.
The lesson of acceptance is the hardest one because you are so emotionally, mentally, physically, and sometimes spiritually connected to the loss. It’s out of our control and we all crave control. We want to ensure that things go our way. But they won’t always. When that happens, either resistance or acceptance is the next step.
Resistance and acceptance both use a lot of energy, but only acceptance ultimately brings you peace. That’s a win that hurts but heals over time.
But What About Quitting?
Along with winning and losing, there is often the question of quitting. You can win by quitting as well because quitting is actually a healthy thing to do at times under the right circumstances.
Not quitting has been associated with higher levels of depression, stress, and emotional upset and can enforce the notion to “just suck it up” or “don’t rock the boat.”
Ultimately refusing to abandon an investment in a job, relationship, sport, or other path that’s not right for you can be costly personally or professionally. For every moment we double down on something that’s not working for us, we’re forgoing other potentially, valuable opportunities. As behavioral economics and psychology show us, the real waste is not in sacrificing our past by quitting a failing endeavor, it is in sacrificing our future by not pursuing something better.
However, don’t just quit to quit. Be mindful in your quitting. That’s right, be mindful in your quitting. There’s a right way to quit.
I read a post this week that described a scenario in which a child wanted to quit playing a sport. It had been a hard game and his team had lost. The child said he didn’t want to play anymore.
The advice given was to acknowledge the child’s request to quit but to have him think about it because quitting on a bad day or when circumstances were not optimal skew perspective and don't adequately prepare individuals to deal with adversity. Avoiding discomfort does more harm than good.
The child was asked to participate in the next team practice and decide after the practice whether he still wanted to quit. The child enjoyed the next practice and when asked if he still wanted to quit the team, the child responded no. When asked why, he said it was because he enjoyed playing the game. The parent then discussed that a decision to quit a sport or any other activity should not be decided based on the outcome of one event or one moment of disappointment or discomfort, but rather the whole of the experience. This helped the child not only learn about winning and losing through acceptance of the fact that you won’t always win, but he wanted to work harder, be a better teammate and it gave him perspective around why he was there in the first place; he wanted to play the game.
While this was geared toward sports, the scenario described could relate to almost any circumstance at any age. It could also be the classic “knee-jerk” reaction. Either way, take the time to fully examine all the variables before you quit. If in the end it’s the right thing to do because there is more value to letting it go than in holding on to it, go for it. But only after you have looked at it from all angles. There’s surely something else out there that deserves your time and effort if what you are currently doing doesn't work for you.
As I alluded to earlier in this message, I have experienced a few wins and most certainly a few losses in my life. They have been personal, professional, material, as well as the loss of loved ones and friends. Some still sting and some were actually blessings in disguise. I’ve taken away something from each and every one of them. As a result, I keep trying, learning, and growing. So, take the “L’s” and watch them eventually turn into wins.
Looking to rebound from a loss and make it your shining moment? Let’s talk about it.
Please share your thoughts, wins, and losses with others. Let’s win together!
Take care and be well,