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How Do You "Lose" When You Win?


Let me begin by saying that there is nothing wrong with wanting to win. However, when coaches and players are fixated on just winning, they are doomed to experience the opposite effect.  These types of coaches and athletes are often referred to as outcome thinkers because they focus solely on results. Outcome thinkers truly believe that in order to be happy they “must win all of the time.” However, because winning all of the time is a logical impossibility, these coaches and athletes are continually disappointed and never truly satisfied with their efforts. 

So, instead of playing to win, outcome thinking coaches and athletes end up learning to fear failure because of the impossible expectations that they have placed on themselves. Outcome thinkers see winning as a “right” that belongs to them rather than a privilege that belongs to everyone and will do anything it takes to maintain this so-called right, including breaking the rules. That’s why we see coaches getting into physical altercations, players cheating to get that extra edge over their opponents, or athletes having temper tantrums when things don’t go their way.

Now, many coaches and players believe that the “winning-at-all-costs” mindset is the only approach that leads to success in sports, but nothing can be further from the truth. In fact, every athlete that I have encountered with this approach eventually suffers from burnout, stress, depression, anxiety and in some cases suicidal thoughts. Fortunately, there is an alternative in the form of the “winning-at-the-right-costs” approach or process thinking. This approach helps coaches and athletes convert negative core beliefs such as “I must always be the best” to positive core beliefs such as “I am doing my very best.” Process thinking helps coaches and athletes prepare themselves as best they can, perform at peak levels, develop tools to deal with life’s challenges, and extend their coaching and player careers.

It might be worth a change in ”thinking,” wouldn’t you agree?