On Winning and Playing The Game

This morning I received this email and thought it a paradox worth pondering on . . .

I am trying to assist my son in understanding a couple of distinctions, which seem to be a bit paradoxical.

I would like him to not focus so much on “outcomes” of games, situations, etc. and enjoy the ‘game’ itself..

On the other hand, trying to teach him to turn ‘not so fun’ tasks or situations (cleaning room, chores, etc.) into games to make them fun, but then these turn into ‘outcome’ games (winning, finishing first, etc..)

Is there a ‘simple’ way to demonstrate the two distinctions without this paradox?

Here’s my reply:

Your paradox got me thinking . . . and I realised that this is exactly the same thing that I am experimenting with, albeit in a different form.

Why can’t your son/you/we focus on the outcome of the game – winning, as well, if that’s important – AND enjoy the process? It’s not an either/or but a both/and.

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with winning itself. It only becomes a problem if that’s the only thing you’re focussed on or you NEED to win in order to feel good about the game/yourself.

How about talking to your son about this paradox and asking him to help YOU learn about it. He may well “get” it faster than you as his ideas are likely to be less entrenched than yours. Set up games together where you play and explore and there are no right or wrong answers. Have a competition to see who can clean up their rooms first and then talk about what it felt like, what still puzzles you. How you could do it differently next time.

It always frustrated me how my son’s infant school had this non-competitive sports day thing. It just doesn’t reflect real life. I was always banging on about letting them compete and have the experience of winning or losing and then help them with the feelings that result. That would be so much more useful than trying to wipe out the idea of competition in the adult world they will find themselves in. Not even adult, as soon as he got to age 7 and he went to junior school, winning was back on the agenda again anyway.

So, what am I trying to say here . . .

It’s not the outcome itself that’s the important thing but how we feel about the outcome. And our thoughts dictate how we feel.
And, as George says enjoying the process is what it’s really all about. But it’s not an either/or.

What a wonderful opportunity to introduce your son to the idea of both/and and for you to learn this stuff together.

Oh yeah . . . and if winning matters it’s better to fess up and play with that than to pretend it doesn’t. It’s the difference between storming out of the room pretending you’re frustrated with the stupid game and winning £3 in a bet you really lost. I know. I was that winner.