I am sure I am not alone in saying that I have learned much more from my losses and the things that have hurt than I have the wins. Winning feels good, losing feels bad, and that’s OK, we don’t have to feel good about everything all the time. It’s OK to feel bad sometimes, and if our kids feel bad it gives us a chance to talk to them about where they place their identity, how they can shake off the bad things in life, and focus on the things that are controllable. When we create a world where losing is avoided we take away the moment of self-reflection and asking how we can get better.
We don’t need to feel like we have achieved something simply for taking part in something, and our kids don’t either. In a different sport, or Battle of the Bands, or a spelling bee they may become the most competitive person on the planet, but they may not need a trophy reminding them that they came last, and somehow still won something just for being there in an activity they don’t care about. If people care about awards and trophies they will take steps to improve performance, and when they do win a trophy it will be a result of hard work, not just turning up. There will be value in it.
Ultimately, participation awards devalue not only the winning experience and the satisfaction of achieving fruits for hard work, but they devalue losing. They take away the moment to commit to improvement. The remove the sting of defeat, the feeling we work harder to avoid next time. They create an environment where a reward is expected for everything, and for those who don’t want to compete they take away the joy of simply playing for fun.
As adults, how do we feel when we see someone we know we work harder than and they get promoted just because they have been there longer and have stuck around long enough to step up the ladder? It sucks. And to add insult to injury, they are replaced by someone else equally unworthy of the position, and now they earn the same as you. Would you feel inspired to keep working harder, or would you work to the other person’s standard? What’s the point in trying for either person? One person is getting burned out, while the other gets rewarded just for being there. Who does this help or inspire?
Here are the three takeaways for today:
1 – Winning and losing are important aspects in life. If we never lose we don’t appreciate winning. If we never win, we give up hope. They both need to be valued.
2 – Sometimes we just want to have fun, and so do our kids. We don’t need to be rewarded for doing something fun. Let it be what it is.
3 – People are inspired by achieving goals, by performing better, and by setting milestones. Not every step we take is a milestone, and if we reward every step forward, soon a reward becomes an expectation.
In the next article we will look at an important aspect of what we should be rewarding. Winning should never be the goal, winning is only a measuring stick for performance. If we focus on the performance, we will see the results improve.
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