“The biggest objective is to get better. Winning is great—we all want to win—but winning takes care of itself if we keep improving.” —Dr. Craig Manning in The Fearless Mind

Everyone wants to win. That is why we play sports, right? That is why we struggle and work through the night on a project, right? Winning brings a sense of accomplishment with it—we did it. It becomes a measure of standing within our particular field or sport. But the problem with winning is that it temps us to think of winning as beating others; it steers our thoughts toward comparing ourselves with other people or organizations. When we start to think of ourselves, and our performance, as a comparison with others all we are doing is developing an ego-orientation; a mental orientation that is not conducive with winning.

Ego-orientation is rooted in a comparison with others, while task-orientation is rooted in a comparison between one’s own current abilities and their inherent potential. Task-orientation is a focus that is not on beating an opponent but rather improving performance. And the better we perform the more we will win.

Only with a task-orientation are we able to perform better in high-pressure situations, set better goals, persist longer, and work harder through the mundane moments. It is in those mundane moments when excellence is built. The little things matter and it is hard to continually focus on the little things when there is so many more exciting things calling for our attention. Excellence is mundane, therefore winning becomes an accumulation of mundanity. The small daily tasks we perform will influence our chances at winning during competition. But can we win only in a competition?

“Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.” —Vince Lombardi

If it is true that winning is the only thing that matters, we need to clearly understand what winning is.

Winning is most often considered an objective accomplishment—a purely statistical measurement. But consider what Kilian Jornet, the most dominating ultra-runner in history, says about winning:

“Winning isn’t about finishing in first place. It isn’t about beating the others. It is about overcoming yourself. Overcoming your body, your limitations, and your fears. Winning means surpassing yourself and turning your dreams into reality.” —Kilian Jornet in Run or Die

Winning appears also to be a subjective measurement of performance. How can you statistically overcome yourself? Or overcome you body, limitations, and fears? To win, to truly win, we have to look inside ourselves, into our potential, into our training, and into the interference holding us back.

Winning becomes more meaningful as we look at it as a comparison with ourself and our performance-competency, not as a comparison with others. Winning becomes paradoxical in the way that we tend to win more frequently when our focus is on ourselves and not on our opponent. Simply put, we are going to win more if we are focused on improving performance over beating others.

The act of winning is then rooted in our mentality, how we think about our potential and how we think in our training. Because we want to win there is no better advice we can receive than to become mentally strong—develop the right mindset, orientation, and skills—and to truly believe:

“All things being equal, the mentally tough will win every time” —Dr. Craig Manning



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