It doesn’t matter whether you win or lose it's how you play the game. I don’t know who came up with that one but they were right. As a teen, I competed in several music competitions. After one such event, I came home empty handed and upset. I was told my instrument keys were noisy, my notes were flat and my embouchure was weak. My friends had all been successful and went home with their blue and red medals. It was a long bus ride back home.
As I sat in the seat, I pictured the perfect scene of sympathy upon my arrival at home. My mother would ask me how I did. I would tell her my tale of failure and she would hug and hold me and I would cry pitifully in her arms. In reality, I came home and my mother asked me how I did and when I told her in my rather sad and broken voice, her response was, “Oh well, go wash your hands, dinner will be ready in five minutes.” Ouch! Dismissal from my own mother! I walked away still feeling somewhat sorry for myself and then thought, “I wonder what’s for dinner?” I wished my mother had shown a bit more sympathy than she did. My mother was a very pragmatic woman. If you weren’t bleeding out, then a BAND-AID would suffice.
That was one of many events where I competed individually or in a group. I never verbalized how I felt after being successful or after having a failure. I just went on with the rest of my teen-life. Losing felt lousy and winning felt great. I stopped musical competition after high school ended. I did not compete again at a hobby until 25 years had passed. The way some people handled competition hadn’t changed much. The person that has the tantrum, the crier, the blamer and the victor are still present. But I had changed. I realized competition was not nearly as important to me as living a meaningful life and that my attitude can impact others as well as myself.
For most of us, if we lose at competition, our lives go on. We compete not to live or earn a sports contract but because we enjoy a sport so much, we’ve decided to test ourselves against a standard of measure. Losing isn’t fun, especially when you are so close to earning a title. I’m here to tell you, losing hurts more when you don’t have a plan to feel better about it. How does one go about feeling better about losing? I suppose I could say “practice” but that would mean you would have to lose a lot! The plan/formula looks a little like this: Congratulate yourself for coming out to play the game. Remember to focus on the fun you had getting ready for this competition and how fortunate you are that you are able to participate. Congratulate yourself for trying your best and remember everything you did right. Then congratulate the winners and celebrate their success. If this helps, go out for dinner or ice cream. Be the person that people can admire because of your gracious attitude.
In the end, being a gracious loser will make you a better winner. It will make you appreciate that moment when you make it and you are on the receiving end of congratulations and celebrations!