I’ve just had a fascinating conversation with a friend and colleague who has been exploring Maxie Maultsby's work on our strategies for engaging with our experience. He asked me the following – very challenging – questions:
- Where in my life am I playing to win?
- Where in my life am I playing not to lose?
While, at heart, we all want the same things out of life – love, adventure, happiness, being comfortable in our own skin, connection to others, contribution – to name but a few, our fears lead us to sub-optimal strategies for getting what we want.
Basically, we play not to lose – a game that is about avoiding potential loss, and that keeps us inside our comfort zone and repeating old patterns. If this game unconsciously dictates our strategies for engaging with life, we might feel safe, but the price could be high – we could sacrifice the excitement and fulfilment that could come from living boldly. Of course, there is nothing wrong per se with choosing this strategy – there might often be circumstances where it is best to play not to lose – for example, where we have financial decisions that impact our family if we ‘get it wrong’. The issue is that we are so often not conscious of our other choices…
These other choices involve playing to win. In this scenario, success is not guaranteed – but we are exposing ourselves more fully, seeking new experiences more openly, and perhaps discovering our potential more consciously. This game definitely takes us out of our comfort zone! Importantly, playing to win is not about beating others but about doing the best we can with what we have – with our inner and external resources. 'Success' in conventional terms is not guaranteed, but we really feel that we are fulfilling ourselves.
If we play to win, we will definitely encounter The Four Fatal Fears identified by Maultsby:
- Fear of failure
- Fear of rejection
- Fear of being wrong
- Fear of emotional discomfort
These fears relate to our basic human ‘needs’ to be successful, to be right, to be loved and to be safe in the company of others. After my conversation with my friend, I’ve had to ask myself if I am really going for what I want, and also what I would do if I were not afraid?
One of the dangers of this model is that we might end up thinking that we have to try harder, that we need to be tougher on ourselves, that we are solely responsible for the results we get in our lives. I don’t think this is necessarily so. I believe that things change when we begin to take personal responsibility for living the lives we love, but we also need one another to support and challenge us on our journeys.
From this perspective, growth and development is a dual action of both reaching in to ourselves and reaching out to others at the same time.