It’s another new year and everyone who hopes to be anybody in the personal development world is writing about how to make the most of your new year’s resolutions and goal setting in general. I suppose I am no different, except I really do want to share something that will make a real difference in your life. Too many of us, as talk about resolutions and goal setting, we laugh and joke about how we set goals only to have them broken practically before they are set. Others, the ones who “really have it together”, talk about how they make it about a month before their resolutions and goals are a thing of the past.
I used to do the same thing. I would laugh and joke about how I would set a goal or make a resolution to get up earlier, read and study more, write more, be more productive, lose more weight, eat less, exercise more, love more, etc., only to have the resolution fade into a hazy smoke in my memory. I would laugh it off, until one day, somebody made me mad, really mad.
I was a salesman for a very large sales organization and our division president was speaking to us; trying to motivate us. And what he said really made me mad. He told a large group of very young salesmen and saleswomen that if we wanted to know how each of our lives would turn out in the end, to just look at the success of our personal sales performance right then and there. I really looked up to this man; he was a leader I really respected, even loved like my own father. But I could not have disagreed with him more at the time. Who was he to say that because my performance was less than stellar at the time and because my attitude was poor, I was going to have a similar life? Was my life going to be some kind of cosmic payback because I was having a bad moment then? I not only disagreed, but I got mad at him.
What I did not understand then, but have learned deeply in the 30 some years since, was just how right on he was. I have since reworded his ‘prophecy’ in a slightly different way, but it conveys the truth just as bluntly. Here it is: The way we do the little things in life is a reflection of how we do life in general. So if you want to see how your life is going to turn out, take a hard look at how you live in the smaller more invisible parts of your life.
Let’s look at it in another way. Get a piece of paper and draw a picture of a square with four quadrants inside. That’s like looking at a window with four square panes inside. Now write in the upper left quadrant with the following statement, “Playing to Win” and write in the upper right quadrant “Playing NOT to Lose”. Then in the lower left quadrant, write “Just Playing” and in the lower right quadrant write “Not Playing at All”.
Now let’s describe what each of these squares or quadrants represent, and as you read, take an honest, even fearless inventory of your own place among these quadrants. I am going to use the game of football as an allegory, but you can use any game or activity that you best relate to as we go over these categories.
Playing to Win – Picture a football game where one team is really playing to win. Odds are, their approach to playing the game is reflected in the score. It is one of those ‘odd’ games where the score is lopsided and the points are high. You know what I mean, the score looks more like a basketball score instead of a football score. As you watch the game, you notice that their key strategy is all about putting points on the scoreboard and so their offensive game is very strong. They may pass the ball a lot and when they are playing a running game, their running backs are aggressively picking up a lot of yardage on each play. Their uniforms are muddy and torn as a reflection of their hard work, determination and grit, no matter the odds and difficulties they are facing. They may look like they have been marching through a war zone. They are so battle torn, you can hardly see the numbers on their jerseys. The energy they bring onto the field is that no matter what happens, they are going to reach their goal.
Playing NOT to Lose – These games are played by the really strong defense. They are so committed to hold the line against the offense that they can create an almost impenetrable line that no one can get past. Unfortunately, they may or may not be able to put many points on the scoreboard because they are always on the defensive, yes, there may be the occasional intercepted pass or recovered fumble that they might run across the goal. But the essence of their game is to stop the offense, or recover the ball, and not take “unnecessary risks” so they can put their offensive team into the game. Defensive games, even strong ones don’t win ballgames; they just prevent games from being lost. They may be playing just as hard, or even harder than their opponent, their jerseys may be just as muddied and torn as their opponents”, but because their strategy is defensive, even a mediocre offense can win the game if they just score a little more than the defense can stop.
Just Playing – These jokers have the best uniforms. They talk a good game. They may even have impressive warm ups and pre-game shows. They prance around on and off the field like the prima donnas they are. There is always lot’s of theatrics in their game and drama in their lives. They are quick with an excuse when things don’t go right for them and they are quick to take the credit when they have a fleeting success. In the really tough games their uniforms rarely get dirty or torn, which is a symbolic reflection of how little effort, determination or risk they really don’t take. They laugh off their failures and don’t really engage in the game enough to learn the lessons it offers them.
Not Playing at All – These people are not even in the game. They are so adverse to taking risks, or even engaging in the game of life, they sit in the stands and yell at every call the referee makes because they can clearly see that “the ref” needs new glasses. They play “Monday morning quarterback” by analyzing and criticizing every play and move the players make, as though they are better than the coach, or savvier than the players themselves. They are so bereft of a life of their own, they can only participate by just completely identifying with their team, but without taking any risk of getting in the game themselves, so they paint their bodies in the team colors, wear funny colored wigs and carry on in a frenzied state when “their team” wins and grieve as though they lost a loved one when their team loses.
Now that you understand what the quadrants represent and how they relate to each other, the next step in this process is to take a hard look at yourself and place yourself in the quadrant that best reflects where you think you are in relation to how you show up in the game called life; your life. Are you playing to win? Playing not to lose? Just Playing? Or not playing at all? Once you put yourself in the quadrant you believe best reflects your approach your life, your success, take a hard look at what you do, or don’t do and how that shows up in the making and breaking of your New Year’s resolutions, your goals and dreams. Write down specifically what effects these behaviors and beliefs have in your life. If you are honest with yourself, you will begin to see the makings of a personal development plan that you can put in place this next year, if you are willing to really go to work on yourself. Just note that all your hopes and dreams depend on an honest assessment of what you need to work on in your life to move into the quadrant you really want to play in.
Now for those intrepid souls who really want to improve their life’s, successes and win the game, take this activity to ten of your friends and ask them to be honest with you as they place you in the quadrant they think you are playing in and ask them to be brutally honest by explaining why they put you there. This exercise will be very revealing and will provide you with insights and potential opportunities to sky-rocket your success.
This year is yours – go for it!
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