4 Ways to Win Forever

Photo by Jose Sweet on Unsplash
“Winning is not a sometime thing; it’s an all the time thing. You don’t win once in a while; you don’t do things right once in a while; you do them right all the time. Winning is a habit. Unfortunately, so is losing. There is no room for second place. There is only one place in my game, and that’s first place.” — Vince Lombardi

I love the intense focus of the “we must win” mindset. But its meaning falls short for me. I question this mindset and approach to winning.

Winning for many comes in the form of accolades and rewards. These are pleasurable and exciting. But fleeting.

Winning speaks to our identities. We believe for us to be successful we must win.

We all want to win — and we should. However, having the sole purpose to win will not reveal our true self and inner greatness.

Shouldn’t that be the goal instead — living an authentic, fulfilling, and meaningful life in all that we do — win or lose? In fact, does it not increase our chances of winning? I think so.

Don’t trade in purpose and fulfillment for accolades and rewards. Instead learn to win forever through these 4 practices.

In his book, Win Forever, Pete Carroll shares his philosophy on how to not just win the game but how to win continuously.

This approach led to him winning 2 National Championships as head coach at USC and two Super Bowl Championships as head coach for the Seattle Seahawks.

“Winning Forever is not about the final score; it’s about competing and striving to be the best”, says Carroll. “If you are in this pursuit, then you’re already winning.”

There are subtle differences between having won and winning as a life philosophy.

Winning precedes the actual victory. It is a process. It is a journey of mastery. It is a mindset.

Winning is an internal pursuit of maximizing our potential and letting our inner greatness out.

If we want to win forever, then we must apply these four practices:

1. Let go of the extrinsic rewards. They squelch your true potential.

Achieving our full potential requires us to be authentic — which is living life on purpose in line with our values. Authenticity speaks to who we are and the internal drives that motivate us.

Edward Deci’s book Why We Do What We Do provides research highlighting how these internal drives trump external rewards when it comes to achieving our potential.

When incentives, status, and recognition enter the picture our ego takes control.

When ego has a hold on us we stop living from our values and rather begin performing for others. We have to prove to them that we are worthy. Now we scramble and strive from a place of fear — no longer believing in ourselves and our purpose.

Instead we believe, not in ourselves, but in the actual affirmation and recognition the other individuals and championships bring–or lack thereof.

Authenticity suggests that we are being true to ourselves. When the journey becomes replaced with extrinsic motivators we no longer act from the inside out. Instead, we feel the constant pressure and necessity of doing what we must to achieve the goal — even if it takes us further away from what we desire most.

“People are losing contact with their inner selves when they become controlled by monetary rewards,” says Deci.

While it takes money to live, it’s not what we really desire. If we are to win forever we must seek purpose, fulfillment, and meaning. We should never let external rewards over shadow inner purpose and values.

2. Stop competing with the sole purpose of winning

Having the sole purpose of winning is another area we must expose if we are to win forever.

Edward Deci and his colleague Johnmarshall Reeve conducted a second study to understand the effects of competition. More specifically, the team’s approach to winning and how it affected overall performance.

They organized two groups. One group was pressured to win “or else”. The second group was encouraged to do their best to win, but without the added pressure of winning.

What the study showed was that competition with the sole purpose of winning was detrimental to intrinsic motivation and peak performance. The team that focused on doing their best, without the added pressure of winning, statistically won more frequently.

There is much more to winning forever than simply winning the game.

“if winning is the only thing, then practice, discipline, conditioning, and character are nothing…over competitiveness, creates far more losers than winners” –George Leonard, Mastery

3. Choose the path of mastery over achievement.

Photo by huyen. on Unsplash

If winning is our goal then we have to move beyond mere achievement. We need to learn to enjoy the entire process. We need to take the path of mastery.

Mastery is a journey of ups, downs, and long plateaus. Once we learn to enjoy the plateaus as much as the upward climbs, we free ourselves to perform at our highest level.

We learn to practice for the sake of practice. We look upon every aspect of what we do with curiosity and wonder. We learn to enjoy the entire process.

George Leonard, in his book Mastery, shares his experience while learning the martial art of aikido. Here he shares the mistake many of us make on our journey to winning:

“The desire of most people today for quick, sure, and highly visible results is perhaps the deadliest enemy of mastery. It’s fine to have ambitious goals but the best way of reaching them is to cultivate modest expectations at every step along the way. When you’re climbing a mountain, in other words, be aware that the peak is ahead, but don’t keep looking up at it. Keep your eyes on the path. And when you reach the top of the mountain as the Zen saying goes, keep on climbing.”

4. Win the inner-battle.

The last thing that stands in our way is us and our fear of failure.

In his book, The Inner Game of Tennis, Timothy Gallwey shares profound lessons taken from the game of tennis:

“Getting it together mentally in tennis involves the learning of several internal skills: 1) learning how to get the clearest possible picture of your desired outcome; 2) learning how to trust yourself to perform at its best and learn from both successes and failures; and 3) learning to see “nonjudgmentally” — that is to see what is happening rather than merely noticing how well or how badly it is happening. This overcomes “trying too hard.””

We are our own worst enemies. Instead of trusting our inner greatness and letting faith and intuition lead the way, we push ourselves to “try harder”. Our ego must maintain its reputation and craves recognition from our fellow competitors.

When we quiet our ego, our fear loses its foothold and we are able to get back to playing at our best.

Gallwey says this of many tennis athletes he’s coached, “it is when competition is thus used as a means of creating a self-image relative to others that the worst in a person tends to come out; then the ordinary fears and frustrations become greatly exaggerated.” –The same could be said of extrinsic rewards.

We must reframe why we are playing in the first place. We want to have peak performance experiences and the only way to do this is to face worthy opponents and tough challenges:

“This attitude can make a lot of changes in the way you approach a tennis match. In the first place, instead of hoping your opponent is going to double-fault, you actually wish that he’ll get his first serve in. The desire for the ball to land inside the line helps you to achieve a better mental state for returning it. You tend to react faster and move better, and by doing so, you make it more challenging for your opponent. You tend to build confidence in your opponent as well as in yourself and this greatly aids your sense of anticipation. Then at the end you shake hands with your opponent, and regardless of who won you thank him for the fight he put up, and you mean it,” states Gallwey.


When we win the inner game first we increase our chances of winning the outer game. Learn to play at a higher level. While everyone else is playing for the trophy you’ll be out there playing–and winning–because it’s who you are.

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