The search for contentment…

August 17, 2019

A recent post to the Jack’s Winning Words contained this quote – “We may pass violets looking for roses.  We may pass contentment looking for victory.”  (Bernard Williams)

Jack went on to call into question the popular sports-oriented saying “Winning is the only thing.”

As a society, I think that our obsession with winning and not allowing ourselves to be content with having made our best effort is contributing to the tensions and unrest that we see on the nightly news. It also is a major contributing factor to the current politicaldebaters divide, where compromise, which could lead to contentment, is considered failure. The two political parties have abandoned any search for a middle ground on most issues and seek only to win, to beat the other side. We saw that locally this past week were the scrum to choose a successor to the late L. Brooks Paterson turned nasty and completely partisan from the get-go.

I have from time to time called for the creation of a third party in the middle of the political spectrum  a party of compromise and reason. At least a new party would not disagreement2carry with it the baggage that the current parties have accumulated of late. It would also allow those who are uncomfortable with the extreme on both sides to fins anew home that perhaps with which they could become content. I suspect that quite a few who call themselves Republicans or Democrats would welcome a party with less strident positions on the issues and one which relied more on common sense than the political litmus tests that the current parties use on issues.

In life, as in politics, winning isn’t really everything. Giving it your best effort is more important. It’s not that you will be unhappy if you don’t win; but, rather, that you will be pecial olympics 2unhappy with yourself if you didn’t give it your best shot. If you made your best effort, but that fell short of winning, you can still feel good about yourself. In sports, even competitive athletes are often happy if they achieve a person best – they know that they did the best that they can for that event or race. Maybe you can look at the events in your life the same way. If you’ve achieved your person best, be happy, celebrate your achievement, use that experience to plan way to do better next time. Stop and smell the violets. Find contentment.

Have a great weekend of contentment!

The will to succeed…

February 2, 2015

“Winning isn’t everything, Charlie Brown.”  “That’s true, but losing isn’t anything.”  (Linus and Charlie philosophizing) – As seen on the blog Jack’s Winning Words.

I guess it’s no surprise to see quotes about winning and losing the day after the Super Bowl. I watched the first half of that game, but couldn’t stay up for the rest, which apparently turned out to be a very good game. But, in any game like that someone or some team will football helmetemerge the “winner” and the other side will be labeled the “loser.” That’s too bad, since both teams gave it their all and in the process provided some great entertainment for millions of people.

Jack went on to write in his blog – Vince Lombardi didn’t say, “Winning is the only thing!”  He said, “The will to win is the only thing.”  So much emphasis these days is placed on winning or losing in sports or just in the everyday events of life.  Today’s “Vince” might say, “The main thing is the will to succeed!” …and that can happen in winning and also in losing.

That is so true. I have written here before about the benefits of learning from your mistakes or losses in life. In fact, learning how to deal with losses and how to learn and get better from them is one of life’s most important lessons; which, unfortunately, many never learn. Certainly you don’t see the losers cheering and celebrating in their locker room with Champagne. Instead you quite often see bowed heads and tears. As a temporary display of disappointment that is understandable; however, it should not be allowed to descend into attitudes of failure. The effort it took to get to that big game by both teams was and is commendable and should be recognized by everyone, including the players who were not on the winning team. Both teams had and have the will to succeed and that makes everyone on both teams winners.

Do you have the will to win? In everyday life that “will” might manifest itsingle momself in the drive to get up and go to the gym every morning before work (or after work) or it might be the discipline to get that homework done before watching TV or playing a video game. Sometimes it’s just the will not to be beaten down by the trials that life hands you. When I think of the everyday winners that I’ve met or heard about, I think of the many single moms raising a family by themselves and wonder at their will to win, not for themselves so much as for their children.  I also think of the caregivers, especially those caring for a loved one who can no longer even recognize them, but who have the will to continue trying to make their lives safe, secure and as caregiver“normal” as can be. And then there are those who leave the safety and security of this country to travel to foreign lands to help the children there find a place to live and to learn. They have a will to win in the face of overwhelming odds that will carry them through the trials that they face

Most of us will never be on a team in the Super Bowl or chose to take on the challenges of a missionary caregiver; but many will have the opportunity to provide care and comfort to aging parents or perhaps take on the challenges involved in providing foster care for children in need. Some never get to go to foreign lands to help, but work tirelessly here to be able to send things that will help make life better for children there. Whatever the level caregiver handsof service to others that we take on, it is important to have that will to succeed. Sometimes that means taking the time to quietly ask for help in a moment of prayer. There could be no better coach for your team than the One who will answer those prayers. We’re all winners when we play on that team.

Have a great week ahead. Be successful. Help is just a prayer away.

Be determined, not stubborn…

July 1, 2014

“Stubbornness is also determination.  It’s simply a matter of changing won’t power to will power.”  (Peter McWilliams) from the Jack’s Winning Words blog. Jack went on to talk about stubbornness as a characteristic of the “terrible twos’” in children and in many of our current legislators locally and on the national scene.

I also saw another post on this topic some time ago that serves as a warning not to let things get out of hand which might apply mainly to our Congressional representatives –

Determination becomes obsession and then it becomes all that matters. – (Jeremy Irvine)

stubborn muleAre there things that you are stubborn about, maybe bordering upon obsession? I suppose there’s a fine line between stubbornness and determination. My suspicion is that in many people stubbornness may be misdirected determination to achieve something that maybe they should not be striving to achieve in the first place – maybe something that is above their current skill or knowledge level. Sometimes that can lead to injuries as we stubbornly push beyond our limits, perhaps driven by obsession.

Obsession seems to me to be stubbornness unchecked by rational thought. For example, people who obsess about other people become stalkers. There is no rationality to what stalkers do to try to be with the people that they are obsessed about. They just need professional help.

Determination on the other hand would seem to be a rational commitment to achieve a goal in the face of obvious or known obstacles. The determined student studies longer and harder than others toreaching for stars achieve academic excellence. The determined worker puts forth the extra effort required to get ahead. The determined suitor does not stalk; but, rather is patient, persistent and does the things that he/she knows the person of their desire will like.

There are things that determination or even stubbornness/obsession cannot achieve. I accept the fact that I cannot run a 4-minute mile, no matter how determined or stubborn about it I may become. The fact that I accept that limitation is not defeat; it is the rational acceptance of my personal physical limitations. Losing the ability to see where the limits are (or should be) is what moves one beyond stubborn and into obsession.

So, while it’s good to always try changing won’t power into will power as the Peter William quote for today says; that does not automatically change can’t into can. The Little Engine That Could in the children’s story made it to the top of the hill pulling his train by concentrating on the mantra “I think I can, I think I can”. Perhaps a better mantra might be “I think; therefore, I can”. Thinking before letting determination turn to stubbornness or all the way to obsession can save you a lot of time and effort woman catching starstriving for the wrong things in life.

Applying rationality to your life will allow you to sort out the things that you might achieve with determination from those that even stubbornness won’t allow you to accomplish. Wouldn’t you rather be happy celebrating life’s little victories rather than obsessing over life’s frustrations? Be determined to have a great day!

Three little words that may change your life… Quitters never win.

April 24, 2014

Sometimes the simplest little things can have big impact on our lives. In this series of posts I examine very short sentences (each just three words long) that can make a difference in your life. If you have a three word sentence that changed your life somehow, share it with me and I will share it with the world.

Today’s three little words are often used in sports settings or other competitive endeavors, supposedly to “encourage” someone to continue striving towards some goal. Often they work at cross-purposes, especially if he person who is hearing them has decided to stop trying to do whatever it was – they’ve already quit. Then they become a mocking negative reinforcement of being somehow a loser. After all – quitters never win.

I submit that there many cases to be made of quitters actually winning. If one gives up smoking after many years – quits – they are certainly a winner. If one quits drinking after realizing that they had become an alcoholic they have assuredly become a winner. If a woman abandons (quits) the abusive husband or relationship that she stayed with for far too long, she is well on her way to becoming a winner. If a young person quits experimenting with drugs, because he/she finally realizes the danger and the destructive influence that drugs have on their life; how could you call that anything other than winning? So there are many times when it isn’t true that quitters never win.

If we re-visit the testosterone-fueled world of competitive sports and looked in depth at what is now known about the medical aspects of competition, I suspect that we would find more than a few ex-athletes who wish they had listened to their bodies when they were playing and not to coaches yelling at them to “shake it off” and not to quit. They are hobbled now by blown-out knees or injured shoulders and backs or worse. There are many ex-winners in sports who didn’t quit after a concussion or two and who now face dementia or Alzheimer’s disease because the coach told them to put their helmet back on and get back in the game with the phrase – quitters never win.

For life in general this little phrase has become a favored phrase overbearing coaches and is of somewhat of a bully in itself, exhorting many who should never have tried something in the first place to go on until they ultimately fail. If they are trying to do something that they are ill equipped to do; they are destined to think of themselves as losers whether they quit or just fail.  Many times quitting is the best and most intelligent thing to do, before you push well beyond your limit and hurt yourself. Never let intelligence and common sense  get drowned out by the bully phrase – quitters never win.

Perhaps the base problem behind that destructive little phrase is the obsession that we have as humans (or maybe just some societies)  with the concept of winning. We see everything as a zero sum game – there must be a winner and conversely those who do not win are losers. I don’t see life that way; however,  I’m also not a fan of schools who focus so much on the students’ self-esteem that the shuffle underperforming students along through the grades, even if they can’t read or write. There need to be standards in schools and students need to meet them to be rewarded.  In general, I much prefer the model that is used in Special Olympics competitions that says everyone who competes is a winner because they tried their best. Try telling that to the high school football coach who’s busy yelling at his players that quitters never win.

Now, just so you don’t go away grumbling that I’m encouraging people to quit at whatever they try; that is not the case. You should try and try hard in whatever you decide to take on; but, you should also allow yourself to be ruled by common sense and intelligence rather than testosterone and a false sense of duty or guilt. Quitting before you hurt yourself is not bad; staying in the game even though you are injured is just dumb.  Quitting before you endanger yourself is better than finding yourself in a dangerous or life-threatening situation with no way out. Quitting bad habits or practices, even in the face of peer-pressure to continue is preferable to finding yourself in trouble with your parents, your school or the law. At the end of the day you’ll still be standing there, ready to try again or to try something different ; unlike some of your friends who may be on crutches or using a cane or who always seem to be confused, because they listened too long to the phrase quitters never win.