Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Are you an effective loser?

Whether you like it or not, everyone loses.

You win some, and you lose some. Even if during these recessionary times it feels like there is more losing than winning.
But it's how you handle your loss that determines if you are going to be a long-term winner.

In our competitive culture, losing often means you are "below average," "mediocre," or "not good enough." We are taught at a young age that being on the losing side is not the place we want to be. Oftentimes when we lose, we just want to pack it up and give in.

And so, we carry around negative judgments about losing, when in fact losing is an essential part of winning.

Leaders and long-term winners not only understand that losing is part of the process; they learn to embrace the loss and use it as a stepping stone for something bigger.

I have had a lot of losses in my life, but I haven't allowed these losses to turn me into a loser because I have learned how to become an effective loser.

However, it wasn't always that way.

When I first got divorced at 29, I felt that I was a loser at love and relationships. After all, most 29 year old women were not only married, they were starting families and seemed perfectly content in their lives. I just thought that I was too independent, too ambitious, too stubborn, and too outspoken to fit into the traditional role of "wife."

I concluded that I was flawed, because I didn't fit the mold. I started to believe that this loss would be a permanent way-of-life. I began to identify with the loss and for 11 years, I had several relationships that supported my belief that I was unfit for marriage or any kind of serious long-term relationship. It wasn't until I started to shift this belief when at 40 I realized I wanted to start a family of my own. I knew I had to make some changes in how I thought about myself.

This is when I started to understand that we all have the power to turn our losses around into long-term successes. Here are the things that helped me become an effective loser at that time of my life:

1. Don't buy into the belief that losing means you are a loser.
2. Don't give up and quit. Keep moving.
3. Be kind to yourself.
4. Don't compare yourself to others.
5. Reaffirm and revalidate your differences as assets, not liabilities.
6. Create your own definition of success.

What that meant for me personally was that I was going to have a non-traditional relationship where I wouldn't be put into the box I couldn't fit into. I would need to build a new mold for me. And so I did. And my loss became my success.

When you become an effective loser you resist the urge to shut down and retreat, instead you keep going. You are driven less by the external comparisons and more by your internal compass. You are grounded and accepting of your uniqueness and where you are at a given point in time. You are forgiving and kind to yourself, not blaming or intolerant of your foibles or stumbles. You find new strength to forge forward.

You see our "get rich quick," "take this pill and get thin," or "become famous overnight" competitive culture doesn't support this approach. It says to us that when you lose, you aren't good enough, even if it is your own personal best. It fuels disillusionment and a culture which says "do it great (and the ideal defines what great is) or don't do it at all."

So unfortunately, many choose to do nothing at all.

That's right; many don't decide to start their own businesses because they feel they won't be successful enough. Others don't try to follow their passion in their work because they believe it's impractical or frivolous. Many won't give love a second try. While others just throw in the towel at the first glimpse of failure.

During these times of loss, leaders who are effective losers are the ones that will prevail. They know how to be kind to themselves, providing encouraging words to themselves and others. They trot along, despite the odds against them, making good headway compared to those that have shut down and quit. They find their own road.

So during these tough times, when you lose and you are down, get up, dust yourself off and encourage yourself to recommit to do your personal best. Keep moving. Don't compare yourself to others. Reaffirm and revalidate your differences as assets, not liabilities. And by all means, create your own definition of success.

After all, isn't it time to re-write your own script for success that graciously allows for some stumbles along the way?


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