That we live in a world characterized by one-upmanship and competition is painfully obvious to anyone who doesn't live in a cave. Other than shedding excess weight, as in the TV show "The Biggest Loser," where the biggest loser becomes the biggest winner, people rarely volunteer to lose.
The need and desire to win is baked into our DNA as our earliest ancestors, those who survived, did so because they overcame great obstacles and prevailed in the face of what often looked like certain defeat. The quest for survival required human beings to be smarter and quicker than the forces that could destroy them. Fortunately, we humans came fully equipped with the brainpower to think and invent our way to victory, thus insuring the survival of our species.
So it should come as no surprise that today, we are obsessed with winning, even when it may no longer be a question of physical survival. The quest for power, and the spoils that go with it, has replaced survival as the primary motivation for winning today. And the spoils have never been greater.
What Does It Mean To 'Win' In Today's World?
Winning, as defined in modern society, is about coming out on top, "taking out" one's opponents, defeating the competition. It's about proving superiority and enjoying the power that goes with it. This notion of winning requires that there be losers. In politics, business and on the athletic field, there are winners and there are losers.
Winning on the athletic field is one thing; taking illegal drugs to do so is another. Beating the competition in business is one thing; producing harmful products in order to cut costs and gain market share is another. Winning in politics is one thing; lying about one's qualifications or opponent's record to do so is another.
Yet because winning so often trumps integrity and ethics in the world today, the game of life is increasingly played with little or no regard for the impact on the greater good. If winning requires that you sell your soul, compromise your values or do harm to others, this can hardly qualify as a win. Something much more important has been lost in the process, and everybody ends up losing.
What if our most important endeavors in life, the ones that determine the direction of our country, dictate the quality of our relationships and define us as human beings, could be structured in such a way that everybody wins? Is that even possible? What is gained and what is lost in the process of creating win/win results in life?
A Cosmic Demonstration?
We need only look to a group of modern cave men to discover an extraordinary example of playing win/win. A few months back, the world witnessed the miraculous rescue of 33 miners, trapped for 69 days in a Chilean mine. As each one emerged from their rescue capsule alive and well, we cheered their return. We cheered for the men and their families, for the Chilean government for its flawless execution, for the Chilean people and this good news after a long series of tragedies affecting their country. And we cheered for ourselves, as members of the human family, for in the moment of their triumphant rescue, something in us was renewed.
We desperately needed to be reminded that it's possible for people to work together in cooperation and have everyone come out a winner. Watching those miners taking turns returning to the surface, waiting patiently underground after having been trapped in their earthly tomb for nearly 70 days, demonstrated the best traits of mankind.
I actually wondered at the time while watching the rescue operation on CNN, whether this was a great cosmic demonstration, a kind of visual aid, designed specifically for the benefit of humanity just so we could get the teaching about the power of cooperation.
Playing Win/Lose In Relationships
Yet winning and losing are endemic to life in the 21st century. For example, look at your most important relationships. Does someone have to lose in order for you to win? Who do you criticize, judge or make feel small so that you can feel good about yourself?
When the people you care about aren't winning, guess what? Neither are you! When your boss or co-workers aren't winning, neither are you. When your husband, wife, children and friends aren't winning, neither are you. In fact, if you were really smart, you'd make it your job to see that everyone around you is winning, being empowered and uplifted, alive to their highest possibilities. This is the kind of difference we can all make for others. Why do we make that so difficult?
Redefining What It Means To Win
The old paradigm of "I win, you lose" is no longer sustainable. It's not necessary that someone lose in order for someone else to win. You'll argue that athletics are an exception, yet note that in the Special Olympics, a different paradigm prevails and everyone is a winner.
In a world of upheaval and unprecedented change, in a world where the individual has little control, where uncertainty reigns and no one knows what tomorrow will bring, it will be the ways in which we collaborate with one another that will lift us out of survival, help to smooth out the rough edges and make life worth living. In the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, it's been people taking care of each other, making sure that even small amounts of uncontaminated water and food supplies are shared among family and neighbors, that has made the difference for those who've survived.
Another Cosmic Demonstration?
Are the Japanese giving us another lesson in how life works in the new paradigm? Given that we are moving from the age of greed, competition, fear and control to the age of love, cooperation and balance, it's not too far-fetched to think that the curriculum is being laid out in plain sight for anyone awake enough to decipher it.
Look at what happened in Egypt. Another perfect demonstration! How much more evidence do we need that the universe is trying to teach us how to make our way through this time of turbulence? It seems clear that we're being steered in the direction of discovering the benefits of collaboration and cooperation. We ignore these wake up calls at our own peril.
Here are some ideas for how to embody a consciousness of win/win:
- Set a new context: Shift your mindset from beating the other team to "everyone wins." How would that look in your world?
Resolve to help evolve the collective consciousness from fear, competition and greed to love, collaboration and balance. It really is up to each one of us to determine how this thing is going to work out. So let's get busy. We've got a lot of living left to do.
How does win/win live for you? How does it look in your relationships? Who needs to win in your life who hasn't been winning? How can you empower them?
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I'll be on spring break for the next two weeks. See you down the path where the road bends into May.