Sunday, April 17, 2011

Not All About Winning

About a week ago Daniel, Sarah and I were playing one of her favorite board games.

We typically spend a little time playing the game as Sarah's interest and attention span are short to play it in its entirety. I suspect this is typical behavior for a three-year old. However, when playing last week, something different happened that raised my brows in concern.

Daniel just so happened to be in the lead while we were playing and Sarah decided that she was done at that moment of realization that she might not win. It appeared that she only wanted to play to win.

Now, a step back to childhood, and likely something you heard from your parents too while growing up.

"It's not about winning, but how you play the game."

I heard that phrase much as a kid growing up not just from my parents but from the adults around me guiding, coaching, and teaching me.

We all want to be good at the things we do, and sometimes even be great. There is nothing wrong with wanting to excel at something. However, we can't be great at something without practice. Therefore, wise words from Dale Carnegie, "Practice Makes Permanent."

Thinking back to when I was learning the clarinet early on in High School, so badly I wanted to be really good at it. It turns out that the reason I didn't excel well at it was that I wasn't as passionate about it as I hoped I was and; therefore, did not dedicate the needed time to practice to be good, or even great. Separately, after years of lessons from early childhood dancing tap, ballet, jazz and point, it was in High School that I found my true passion for the craft. I realized that I didn't need to be the best as a dancer, or to be really good at all dance styles, but instead to work hard, love what I was doing, and try as best as I could to advance at this creative outlet. It was then that I found a place of solace, passion, joy and enthusiasm to learn, grow and excel.

Now, back to the matter at hand. In the moment Sarah said she didn't want to play anymore because she only wanted to win I was rather disappointed and tried explaining to her the many lessons, and beliefs, I learned over the years.

Even trying to explain to Sarah how much fun Daniel and I were having without focusing on winning she would not hear of it.

It turns out that Daniel did not win game, as one card set him back on the game board. One card made all the difference. I was even surprised to win the game, after Sarah backed out.

We tried hard to communicate that the process of playing is what's the most fun part.

While this information likely fell on deaf ears with Sarah then I was pleasantly surprised today to hear her say, as they were playing the very same game she boycotted a short time ago that, "It's not just about winning."

Hearing this from Sarah today made me smile. While there will be many more lessons along the way to help encourage and inspire her and to motivate her to find what she enjoys, even if winning is not the result, I look forward to the journey that lies ahead.

Don't get me wrong, I want Sarah to feel the encouragement and support to try hard and to win. However, the goal to just win sometimes takes away the fun of having a good time. So, while we fully intend to teach Sarah as best as we are able to, guide her to grow and excel and desire to want great things for herself, the goal is not to win but to be happy with the process and know that sometimes winning is not everything. And, working hard to achieve what's important to us and doing it with passion and fun is really the best part.


  1. Great blog post Caren :) I didn't know you were a fellow clarinet player (I tried to play too and didn't do too well). You're teaching Sarah some really valuable lessons!


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