Consider a time you played or watched a game where the team was not playing to win, but instead playing not to lose. In the spirit of the recent World Cup, we can consider soccer for the analogy. When the attention shifts to “not losing” rather than winning, the team generally stops taking risks and does not move forward. They maintain an extreme focus on defense rather than take shots or score goals. Even when concentrating on defense, the opposing team may still score and end up winning. In that case, not only does the complacent team lose by foregoing offense, but the fans and players are also left with a boring and likely low quality game. In the event the “not losing” ploy does result in a win, the game itself certainly did not reignite the passion for the sport that sparked the initial interest. Games like this one are generally not the reason people pursue sports.
Similarly, people often engage in life defensively as to minimize losses rather than move forward toward gains or even enjoy the moment as it occurs. When playing or watching games like the one mentioned above, the spectators and players can find themselves bored or even unfulfilled. In the end, it may appear to have been a successful game for the winners. In reality, though, if you are interested in enjoying the sport, you can eventually become disappointed if every game seeks to fight the loss rather than seek the win.
In life, when we focus too much on defense our moves are to minimize the impact of failure. Generally, we take fewer risks, experience less growth, and leave our value-based lives on the sidelines. It can be easy to feel stuck or believe that change is impossible. Furthermore, living as though losing is inevitable can create the expectation of failure. The “not losing” approach can lead to a life that is about damage control, reacting to others, and putting life off for another day. You may find that you are simply “getting through” the day, which then turns into “getting through” the week…year…and eventually you have “gotten through” your life.
Of course, some defense is important as any athlete can tell you that offense is nothing without a good defense. The game analogy has other limitations because the purpose of life is not necessarily to “win” either. It is often when we move away from the win/lose perspective and shift toward the simple desire of wanting to have a good game that we remember our passion for the sport -- and similiarly, our passion for life. In fact, the desire for a well-played game can also improve performance. The athlete not only plays to win, but also plays because he/she values the sport for what it is.
If you relate in any way to the above analogy, ponder the following questions:
If you moved away from the fear of “losing” and lived a life based on your values, what would your life look like? What do you “wish you could” do? What’s standing in your way? What part of that “wish” could you fulfill right now in the presence of said obstacles? If there is a trade-off to living a value-based life, in what way would it be worth it?