In our previous post, we explored Habit #3 in Sean Covey’s “Seven Habits of Highly Effective Teens,” a book that helps teens live their highest aspirations. (You can read about Habit #3 here.) This book is so life-changing, we send it to all full-time students upon enrolling! Today, we’re digging into Habit #4 in Covey’s book: “Think Win-Win.”
Habit #4: Think Win-Win
There are four different mentalities surrounding winning. The first we’ll look at is called Win-Lose. Have you ever caught yourself not wanting to share an idea with your peers because you’re afraid someone might steal and take credit for it? Or heard the story about the two boys being chased by a bear, when afterward, one said: “I realized I didn’t have to outrun the bear… I just had to outrun YOU.” This is a Win-Lose mentality. You only win when other people lose. “Win-Lose,” Covey explains, “is competitive. I call it the totem pole syndrome. ‘I don’t care how good I am as long as I’m a notch higher than you on the totem pole.’ Relationships, friendships, and loyalty are all secondary to winning the game, being the best, and having it your way.” And while competition may be a driving factor for most, creating a world where you only win when someone else loses is a sure-fire way to breed a life filled with negativity and paranoia, a life where you feel awful because you don’t have your friend’s designer jeans, or his flashy job.
Now, yes, it’s true society has created institutions where for one to win, others must lose, like sports, or business monopolies. However, Covey points out, that’s not how the important parts of life work: the relationships we hold with others, and with ourselves. “Think how silly it is to say: Who’s winning in your relationship, you or your friend?... In the end Win-Lose will usually backfire. You may end up on the top of the totem pole. But you’ll be there alone and without friends. ‘The trouble with the rat race,’ said actress Lily Tomlin, ‘is that even if you win, you’re still a rat.’”
If you’re abashedly realizing you approach areas of your life Win-Lose, don’t feel bad. Most teens are raised to think this way, with the mentality of “clawing your way to the top” to snatch the opportunities relegated for the best and few.
The second mentality some teens fall into is called Lose-Win. Most people who think Lose-Win have the feeling of being a doormat, but let themselves get stepped on in the name of being a peacemaker. “With a Lose-Win attitude you’ll find yourself setting low expectations and compromising your standards again and again,” Covey says. “Giving in to peer pressure is Lose-Win. Perhaps you don’t want to ditch school, but the group wants you to. So you give in. What happened? Well, you lost and they won. That’s called Lose-Win.” Naturally, sometimes it’s okay to concede to others. Like when your sister wants to watch her favorite movie, and you only kind of care about the TV show you’re watching. What’s dangerous is when you find yourself conceding the important stuff.
The third mentality is Lose-Lose, otherwise referred to by Covey as the downward spiral. Lose-Lose says: If I’m goin’ down, you’re comin’ with me! “Lose-Lose is usually what happens when two Win-Lose people get together,” Covey says. “If you want to win at all costs, and the other person wants to win at all costs, you’re both going to end up losing.” A Lose-Lose scenario might be a co-dependent possessive, jealous relationship, or being envious of your popular best friend, and then lashing out because if you can’t be as popular as your BFF Karen, you sure don’t want her to enjoy it!
Instead, Covey encourages teens to train themselves to adopt the fourth and final mentality: Win-Win. “Think Win-Win is an attitude toward life,” Covey says, “a mental frame of mind that says I can win, and so can you. It’s not me or you, it’s both of us. Think Win-Win is the foundation for getting along well with other people. It begins with the belief that we are all equal, that no one is inferior or superior to anyone else, and no one really needs to be.”
Covey shares a true story of a Win-Win scenario. Dawn plays basketball, and has a really great two-point shot. She begins getting recognized for it, and her friend, Pam, gets jealous. Pam begins keeping the ball away from Dawn, even when she’s open. Enraged, Dawn asks her father what to do. He tells her the next time she gets the ball, to pass it to Pam. Every time. Dawn scoffs, thinking that will never work. But at their next game, she hears her father from the stands: “Pass her the ball!” She does, and Pam sinks a shot, putting them ahead. Dawn keeps passing Pam the ball, and soon enough, Pam starts passing to Dawn. The team profits from their teamwork, Dawn scores more points than ever before, and the two get an article written about them in the local newspaper. This is an example of Win-Win.
“Win-Win is abundant. It is the belief that there’s plenty of success to go around. It’s not either you or me. It’s both of us. It’s not a matter of who gets the biggest piece of pie. There’s more than enough food for everyone. It’s an all-you-can-eat buffet.” - Sean Covey
But how do you stay Win-Win when your friend gets accepted to their first-choice college, and you don’t? Or when your buddy gets a new car, and all you can afford is a bike? How can you remain calm when you see the comment your girlfriend’s ex left on her instagram?
Covey calls this: Winning the Private Victory First. You can’t enjoy other people if you’re constantly allowing yourself to be threatened by them. By implementing the first three habits we’ve discussed and developing a strong sense of your essential self, your goals, and your values, confidence and security will edge out those insecure voices that turn good people clingy, jealous, or vindictive. “Personal security is the foundation for thinking Win-Win,” Covey says.
Another way to keep your attitude Win-Win is by avoiding what Covey calls “The Tumor Twins”: Competition and Comparing. “Competition is healthy when you compete against yourself, or when it challenges you to reach and stretch and become your best. Competition becomes dark when you tie your self-worth into winning or when you use it as a way to place yourself above another.” Comparing is just as dangerous as Competition. It’s like baking a cake and constantly opening the oven to see if your cake is rising like your neighbor’s. Keep doing that, and your cake won’t rise at all. Comparison also doesn’t take into account where people are in their journeys. Like Anne Lamott said: “Don’t compare your beginning with someone else’s middle.” “The only good comparison,” Covey maintains, “is comparing yourself against your own potential.”
The exciting thing about a Win-Win mentality is that it’s contagious. “If you’re big-hearted, committed to helping others succeed, and willing to share recognition, you’ll be a magnet for friends,” Covey professes. “Don’t you just love people who are interested in your success and want you to win? It makes you want to help them in return, doesn’t it?” A clear indicator of whether you’re thinking Win-Win is how you feel. Do your thoughts feel negative or clouded? You may be thinking Win-Lose. But feeling serene and uplifted is a great indicator you’re operating Win-Win.
Shifting your mentality isn’t easy, but here’s a few baby steps Covey suggests to practice living Win-Win: Pinpoint an area of your life where you struggle with comparisons. If you play sports, show sportsmanship or compliment an opposing player. Have a test? Form a study group and share your great ideas, knowing everyone will benefit. Play a game for fun, not caring if you win or lose. The next time a friend gets a win, be happy for them by keeping yourself (and those nasty tumor twins) out of it. And finally, look for a role-model who has a Win-Win attitude. Study what they do, and let that help guide you as you practice it yourself!
“What do we live for, if it is not to make life less difficult for each other?”- George Eliot, Author
Join us next time as we delve into Habit #5: “Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood.”
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