“If the wind does not come, the long grass is motionless.” – Akan proverb
In all things, some people are better at them than others. Excelling in an activity or venture invigorates us with good feelings about ourselves. It makes us aware that we are good at something, which contributes to boosting our self-esteem. And the more we win the more our ‘can-do-attitude’ soars, which in turn motivates us to aspire and actually take steps to achieve even bigger goals. Aside from these personal triumphs, winning affords the individual many advantages from the wider society as they heap recognition upon him or her.
But like all things imperfect, winning has a negative side. It inhibits many of us from self-reflecting and prevents some others from self-improving. Many winners barricade themselves in zones so comfortable they do not become better individuals, and ultimately end up as losers in the long run. Life is such that those who develop the aptitude to look deep into themselves and find ways of addressing the adversities around us are the ones who eventually flourish. Interestingly, it is losing that empowers us to develop such abilities. But how do you learn from your losing if you never lose?
Too many of our activities, especially those for children and teams, are focused on encouraging participation and rewarding good effort. This is good, except that losing is a part of life. Thus, it is imperative that we learn to lose so that we can get up and try again after a failure or loss, just as we did when we tried anything as infants and toddlers. To fail at anything is not news. After all, we have structured our daily interactions on competitiveness whereby some win and others lose. As long as some are bound to lose we should be interested in the benefits of losing, since we are all going to lose somewhere down the line.
We need to embrace the fact that losing or failing in an activity or venture does not make you a loser. You only become a loser when you refuse to get up after the fall; when you are so huffed with disappointment your life becomes gloomy. Quite a number among us throw tantrums when we lose. Some even separate ourselves from the tribe just so we can sulk at our failing. This happens because we have given losing a bad name and hanged it. This attitude affects us negatively, since it prevents many of us from daring to be adventurous and taking bigger risks for fear we might lose; and in situations where we dare, we want to win no matter the cost.
Adversities are the potholes in life’s road. There are so many we all experience them, and we do so often in the different facets of our lives. An individual may excel in the workplace and fail miserably in his or her relationship. Some others may thrive in the schooling system and struggle at the workplace. Life does not guarantee us wins all the time. In fact, we are wired in such a manner that to bring out the best in ourselves we have to overcome hurdles; we have to learn to get up when we fall, till we can stand, walk and run. That is why losing is not bad in itself.
We have been cultured to instinctively shy away from losing and losers. That is why it is absolutely normal to want to win, to want to prevent ourselves from being labelled as losers. Realistically, it is alright to lose, and even to lose often. It prevents inflated egos and keeps our realities real. That is why we teach that when the right lessons are gleaned from our losses, we build our character. We learn to try, try, and try again until we know what to do in order not to make the same mistakes again. Proverbially, it shows us how to keep on keeping on when the going gets tough, and ultimately reveals to us that we are always stronger than we think we can ever be.
Learning to lose, and lose gracefully, is important. And it is an attitude that must be learned through practice and the emulation of those who have overcome great adversities. The hardest part of life is staying sane when you fall so mightily you are bruised all over. When you think you cannot go on, you should be able to look deep inside yourself for a renewable energy. That renewable energy can only be discovered with learning the lessons of our losses.
Kodwo Brumpon is a management consultant and a life coach who inspires individuals, groups and corporate bodies to think and feel that which is true, and helps them to positively respond to that which is beautiful while nudging them to let goodness govern their actions. Comments, suggestions and requests should be sent to him at [email protected]