Jim Loehr is a “performance psychologist” who has worked with numerous world-class performers in sports, business, medicine, the military and other fields. Two of his earlier books – The Power of Full Engagement and The Power of Story—influenced me a lot and I have just finished reading his latest, The Only Way to Win. Loehr draws on numerous research studies and his work with Olympic athletes and Fortune 100 executives, among others, to show that winning gold medals, fame, championships and money does not bring lasting happiness. Most people might not be surprised by this—maybe including many who are striving for medals in London this week.
What does bring lasting happiness? The answer includes having positive relationships, connection to others, spiritual commitment and meaning, marriage, a lasting sense of gratitude, optimism, generosity, inner hope, control and extroversion. To experience ongoing happiness not all of these need to be present. Neither is there anything innately wrong with pursuing gold medals, championships or other trappings of success.
Nevertheless, too often we teach our kids, employees, students and ourselves that finishing first, making a big impact, or beating out the competition are the only ways to win in life. For this many sacrifice their health, families, relationships and even their lives. Loehr’s book describes prominent people (and others who are unknowns) who fall into this cycle: sacrifice everything in the pursuit of winning, experience the achievement, but then feel dissatisfaction and emptiness. The result is a new push for achievement and the cycle repeats itself. Can you think of people who live this kind of life?
The subtitle of The Only Way to Win summarizes the author’s major message and recommendation that “Building Character Drives Higher Achievement and Greater Fulfillment in Business and Life.” Winning competitions and winning at life both come to those who have learned “moral character strengths” including integrity, trust, compassion, kindness, gratitude and persistence. Loehr’s book shows how coaches, parents, teachers and leaders can help others avoid building their lives on the values imposed by the culture but that ultimately do lifelong harm.
We’ll have more on this next week but please leave a comment this week.