The Lance Armstrong revelations, aptly referred to as the “seven deadly sins” in David Walsh’s book, has highlighted the fact that a goal to ‘win at all costs’ is not always desirable. Napoleon Hill, one of the great writers on success, defined success as being “the attainment of your definite chief aim without violating the rights of other people”.
In sport, both professional and amateur, winning is often seen as the ultimate aim. Although there is much merit in the phrase ‘it’s not the winning but the taking part’, competitive sports teams obviously do not enter a game situation with the intention of losing.
Arguably, the important question is what is a winning goal for you. This is a question that all of us would benefit from asking ourselves. Satisfaction comes with winning a race or with hitting a time target but in some situations this is not a practical or even an achievable goal. It can be very easy to deceive ourselves into believing that nothing else matters and this can lead to dissatisfaction. By doing this, we can often discount the experiences that matter the most – for example, making a commitment, putting in the hard work and savouring the experience of testing yourself often in the company of friends.
A recent experience illustrates what I mean. Last summer, nine of us drove to France to take on one of the most gruelling Alpine stages of the 2012 Tour de France, the Etape du Tour. This is a ‘race’ against the clock where riders can be ‘swept up’ by the Broom Wagon if they fall outside the time constraints. One of our party’s goals was to achieve a Silver Medal, a very tough aim, and it was clear that nothing else would do. When he was ‘swept up’, (as was I and 3 others in our group), this could have ruined his whole experience. Instead, he adapted his goal and three of us decided to keep riding until the organisers forced us to get off our bikes! A camaraderie was formed in that experience that went beyond the constraints of the race and I think the three of us look back on that afternoon in the sweltering heat with pride and immense satisfaction.
Two definitions of winning are ‘To achieve or attain by effort and to make (one’s way) with effort’. Sport is a tremendous outlet for finding out more about ourselves and others. So set the right goal, one that matters to you, make the commitment and immerse yourself in the experience.