The law of gravity says for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. We have light, and in contrast, we have dark. We have good, and in contrast, we have bad. We have success, and we have failure. And, if we follow this same logic, we have #winning, and if we don’t #win, that must mean we lose, correct? Furthering this continuum, winning is associate with light, with good, with success, and losing is associated with dark, with bad, with failure.
I grew up being an athlete, where winning and losing were also dichotomous to each other. I danced on a highly competitive dance team, where, one year, we literally won everything. My long-term boyfriend was a college athlete, where winning and losing often dictated how we would spend our next week. And, now that I sit in the coaching position myself, I am seeing #winning and losing from a very different perspective.
Don’t get me wrong; winning is the best feeling in the world. I’ve been there many times myself, and there is nothing more satisfying than knowing your hard work, dedication, and endurance is being rewarded. One of my favorite memories was walking off the state competition floor to a standing ovation; I still get chills every time “Come Sail Away” comes on the radio. And, that time my long term boyfriend’s team won the conference championships? Hands down the most adrenaline pumping, nail biting, most fun game I have ever been to.
On the other side, losing certainly does suck. Losing brings up regret. As an athlete, you regret your choices; “I wish I would have run faster”, “Why didn’t I think to be in that zone when the ball was thrown?”, “We would have won had the kicker not missed that one field goal”. Losing brings up feelings of incompetency. As a coach, I’m always questioning whether or not I made the best decisions; “Should I have scheduled more practices?”, “Did I need to yell to motivate them more?”, “Was this music even the right choice to use?”
The problem is that we see #winning and losing as two distinct opposites: we either win, or we lose. We either feel good about ourselves and our accomplishments are rewarded, or we don’t. We deem someone a definite #winner, but in my opinion, there are always different varying degrees of #winning.
This becomes especially an issue is when winning and losing become part of our identities; we become winners and losers, versus it just being something that we do and don’t do.
We often determine #winning through single moments: a single game, a single performance, a single play–that we forget that moment is constructed of all the other moments we spent. We forget all the passes we caught at practice. We forget all the times we successfully landed our quad pirouettes. We forget the team mates we had to forgive, the trust we had to learn, the selflessness we must put forth. The game, the performance, the competition itself is just a way for us to put a finite end to our hard work, and by looking at ourselves as strictly #winners or losers, we are discrediting all of the months of work leading up to that one, solitary, singular moment.
My dance team most certainly did not take home a first place trophy this season, which, if we look at the previous logic, makes us “losers”, but in my eyes, they can certainly be considered #winners, because there are many other facets of winning we found success in. For example, we scored 20/20 on our choreography. We nailed our turn section that we’ve been working on for the last three seasons. As a team, we overcame many, many obstacles. We had girls afraid of performing on the state fear who tackled that fear. We had girls who overcame injuries and illnesses. We had girls who got tutors, stayed up working on homework, sacrificed social outings so their grades allowed them to perform. To me, those are all varying degrees that show a #winning team, that a trophy could never replace.
When looking at more traditional sports, perhaps it is not the turn section, but the successful play that you ran. We always blame the kicker in football for not making that field goal as the reason we didn’t win, but had the offense scored more points, or the defense prevented more points, it would not have come down to just the kicker. My flag football team most certainly has not won any games, but each time, we understand the rules better, we communicate more effectively, we run faster; that’s #winning. I am most certainly NOT the best softball player, but after getting clocked in the head one game, the next time I was able to hit the ball meant I overcome my fear, which is a skill that will translate to other fears I must conquer. Losing in the last minute of the league championships is certainly disappointing, but the fact that you got there, amongst many other people who will never be privy to that experience, is #winning.
I think part of the reason this can be so difficult for us to grasp is because, as humans, we are physical creatures. We like to see the visual, the physical, the tangible. By receiving a trophy, we are validating that we DID work hard and we WERE dedicated. By putting our names on a plaque, we are stamping that we DO have something “special”, we are unique, a stand out amongst the crowd. By receiving the title, we can print sweatshirts, buy rings so we can remind ourselves, and everyone else, of our “success”. And, the varying degrees of winning that don’t always come with this physical reminder are harder for us to see, but that doesn’t mean they don’t still exist.
Life is about the journey; the point is that we SET goals for ourselves, but whether or not we actually meet those goals can be irrelevant. It’s great that we set a goal to make it into finals a state, to motivate us to work harder, be better team mates, learn what it means to be on a team, but if we’ve learned those lessons, whether or not we make it into finals does not determine our season or our identities. We are not “#winners”, nor are we “losers”. We are people, on a journey, trying to figure out as much as we can about our purpose in on this Earth.