I have a very different definition of success. I have always believed in the oft quoted “Shoot first, what you hit, call the target” philosophy. As a coach, I have guided many athletes to great success by my definition and as defined by other people as well. I have always believed that if we focus on success, rather than growth, we often lose the biggest benefits from trying to do anything at all. Here are 5 things that we tend to lose when all we focus on is success as defined in a traditional way.

Setting goals and success

Ancient Wisdom

You limit Discovery

When we follow the laser focus of working to achieve a specific goal we will often lose sight of the many opportunities along the way. I drove to Illinois yesterday and ended up stopping at a great roadside market. If I would have only been focused on my destination, I would have missed some of the best sweet corn I have ever had. Not to equate striving for our goals with shopping for produce, but it illustrates the odd and interesting things we can find on our path to success.

You limit your ability to Grow

If we are only focused on one outcome we lose the opportunity to learn as we go. We need to embrace our shortcomings, our failures, and mistakes. By doing so we learn to adapt and we learn to overcome future mistakes by developing resiliency. Striving for our goals is a long-term commitment; persistence, resiliency, quick thinking, and wisdom are natural byproducts of the process if we commit to the long term effort and stay open to the process.

You fall into Black & White Thinking

When we are solely focused on a successful outcome we are quick to label those errors, misjudgments and mistakes as failures. If we do not achieve our stated goal then everything else seems to be a failure. There is nothing more untrue. We cannot, in any effort, be so short-sited that we only see black and white. The world is made up of shades of gray and there is not only much to be learned in the gray areas, but there is a lot of happiness in them as well.

You will have a hard time finding Happiness

“Shoot for the moon, that way, even if you miss, you are among the stars.” We’ve heard this thousands of times and seen it on bumper stickers and tee-shirts. I apologize for bringing out this old chestnut, but there is a lot of value in it. The notion that our moonshot is only valuable if we reach the moon devalues our position in the stars. I have had athletes set goals to win national accolades and, some do and some don’t. Those that don’t have to often be reminded that they attained much more in the effort than they would have if their goals were limited only to regional or statewide success. It’s the process, as I mentioned above, that gives value to the result. If any of these athletes would have considered themselves as failures, then all the effort, all the work, would have been in vain.

You miss the opportunity to be Grateful

My mom used to say Don’t be sad about the rainy days, without them  you wouldn’t appreciate the sunny ones. There is so much wisdom in that statement. We need to embrace our struggles and the hard work we put in to be truly grateful for our results; whatever they may be. Also, persisting through hard times gives us opportunity to identify the people who stand by us. The ones who lend a shoulder in effort or a shoulder to cry on. It’s the process, the effort, that helps us see our true team mates and friends.  All of this is so worthy of acknowledgment. I believe that, though It’s hard sometimes, we need to really look for the things in life where we can express gratitude.

In our society, especially in sports, we are led to believe that we must “win”, that “there is no room for second place”, that we must “win at all costs” and so on. This thinking is outdated and detrimental.

I don’t think we need to celebrate losing, or glorify failure either, but I do think we need to be open to the possibilities and options we develop during our efforts. I never believed that every child should get a trophy and I do believe that there is something valuable in explaining to a child that 7th place is reflective of a single performance, of their effort, of their current situation, and of the effort of others. What could a child learn from that explanation of the results? Sometimes an athlete not winning can bring more in the long run than if they would have taken home the trophy. Agree?

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