top of page

How to Master your win-lose thinking.

During my career as a chartered psychologist, I have found in my work with world champion athletes that being selfless was more effective in sustaining high-level performances. My conclusion is that the pursuit of winning for one’s self significantly increases our likelihood that we become selfish as we seek to protect or boost our self-esteem and avoid fear through winning. This is outlined in my book Detox Your Ego, which focuses on helping people understand their ego (a sense of self importance) and how to remove it from their lives through a seven-step detox process. After discussing in last week’s article about coping with stress and adversity that surrounds us, it’s time to see how we can become more effective performers by looking at what we tell ourselves. In order to do this, I have designed what I call the Leadership withoutEGO model® which proposes three stages to our ego. In this issue we are going to be discussing the first stage, our ‘Inner Ego’. The ‘Inner Ego’ refers to what goes on below the surface, our thinking, when we are doing something important – unseen by others. It consists of the first three characteristics on the Leadership withoutEGO® Model: Listen, Smile and Time. If you take time to look at these three areas, you will cultivate a greater resilience and ability to cope with stress and adversity through exploring exactly what you tell yourself under pressure.

BELIEVE IN MASTERY Initially I want you to take a closer look at your expectations when doing something important in life. The fist step is to ask yourself the following question: “Do you listen to whether you are focused on winning for yourself or winning for others?” ‘Listen’ is the first characteristic of ego and it will show you how winning or losing negatively impacts your emotional world. Understanding what you tell yourself when it comes to winning and losing (win-lose thinking) is key to understanding your ego response. When asked the above question you can choose either a ‘win-lose’ or ‘mastery’ mind-set. If you choose ‘I’m a winner’ or ‘I’m a loser’ expectations in your life, you are picking an ego reaction. You are paying attention to fear in your life, characterised by the statement: ‘l always want to win for myself.’ Such a reaction means you are in fact triggering ego as you are only focussed on how your performance benefits you. I have come to discover that focusing on winning for yourself means you will in fact limit your freedom, happiness and success. However, if you are immersed in the mastery of your skills, you are choosing a selfless response, as you understand how the delivery of your skills supports your team or community. By telling yourself ‘I always want to be the best I can be for the benefit of others,’ you will be significantly more able to operate freely under pressure.

LOVE YOUR ERRORS Secondly, I want you to reflect on how you react to making errors. The second step is to ask yourself the following question: Do you smile at your errors? You are now presented with another choice. You could either choose a ‘hate errors’ or ‘accept errors’ mindset. Do you focus on errors as negatives or appreciate what you could learn from making mistakes in your life? If you choose to dislike your errors in life, you are choosing an ego reaction, characterised by the statement: ‘l hate making mistakes.’ As a result you are ignoring great learning in your life. A hatred for errors means you will limit your freedom, happiness and success. However, if you are open to generating learning from your errors, you are choosing a selfless response as you begin to find a way to be even more helpful to your community. ‘I am fully open and alert to learning from my mistakes,’ is an attitude that will prove invaluable in order to improve your performance under pressure. BE OPEN, ESPECIALLY TO WHAT YOU AVOID The final step to dealing with your ‘Inner Ego’ is to look at what we avoid in life. I want you to ask yourself the following question: Do you consider what you avoid? If you are closed to taking time to discover what you avoid in your life, you are choosing an ego reaction. If you currently say to yourself ‘I’ve got no time to look at what I avoid,’ you are in fact avoiding some uncomfortable truths in your life and being closed means you will limit your freedom, happiness and success in life. However, if you took the approach ‘I am open to all things; even though it is difficult and uncomfortable to talk about, I’m prepared to take the time,’ you would be choosing a without ego reaction. As a result you are headed in the right direction to being free of your ego and happy in life. Being an open vessel to difficult things or situations in your life is key to operating without ego. If, however, your immediate reaction is no, then you are operating on ego. Here you will attempt to pursue winning for yourself. This is dangerous and must change. Taking time to see what you ‘avoid’ is the third characteristic of ego and it shows how emotional pain is hidden in life.

This final step enables you to explore your initial data arising from Step One and Step Two. For example, do you want to win at any cost? Or, do you find it difficult to accept losing? Taking time to see what your data really says is key to reducing your ego response. By doing this you can begin to understand how self-centered you are. You can also begin to think about how others can benefit from your approach to winning. You will see how avoidance is an ego response. If you aim to develop a softness towards avoidance so that you can understand it and self-correct it, you will become more resilient to stress and anxiety.


bottom of page