Several years ago, the major league baseball organization ran a series of commercials encouraging the public to “catch the fever”. The symptoms included an irresistible urge to go out to the ballpark and root, root, root for the home team. Attendance spiked at ballparks across the country, so apparently the fever was contagious and widespread.
The MW fever is just as contagious, equally widespread, and far more damaging than baseball fever. It is so powerful that it can stunt the growth of individuals, business and service organizations, and even families. It probably has an almost unpronounceable scientific name, so let’s just call it by its common name: Must Win Fever.
This fever occurs most frequently in highly competitive people who believe that no victory is too insignificant. As a result, they turn everything into a contest and almost everyone into an adversary. Their definition of “win-win” comes down to “I win in the morning, and then I win again in the afternoon.”
If you recognize yourself or someone you care about as a Must Win Fever victim, there’s good news for you. Here are a few simple steps that you – or they – can take to begin bringing some balance back into life.
1. Take a page from George Washington’s book and redefine success and/or victory. Plagued by a series of stinging defeats by the British, he concluded that his primary objective was to keep the Continental Army alive long enough to achieve just one victory, and then he would have defeated the British army and won the Revolution. At Yorktown, he proved you could lose a lot of battles and still win the war.
2. Sit down and make a list of the battles you’re currently fighting. Now comes the hard part. Now rank them as “must win”, “would like to win”, “would be nice to win”, and “can afford to let someone else win this one”. For some of you, that last column probably sounds like heresy.
3. To decide what entry to make in that last column, ask yourself the following questions:
a. What do I really want?
b. What will happen if I don’t get it?
c. What won’t happen if I don’t get it?
d. What will happen if I do get it?
e. What won’t happen if I do get it?
4. Now that you’ve identified the tradeoffs, you can decide whether or not to gird up and go to war again.
Now this process may not do anything to quench your desire to win, but it can help you become more flexible in deciding which battles you choose. That would be proof of your flexibility. Remember, the world does not belong to the strongest. It belongs to the most flexible.