Its time to grow up

I just finished reading, “Play to win: choosing growth over fear in work and life,” by Larry and Hersch Wilson. Early into my reading of this book I had a few revelations.

The first very simply put was that a lot of my rage regarding social inequities comes from the fact that I feel entitled to self-actualization (i.e. coming the best version of myself who is able to find meaning and purpose in one’s life through one’s daily activities and contributions). However, because social inequities place some people above others based upon arbitrary issues such as race, gender, socioeconomic status, education, sexual orientation, etc., the ability to self-actualize is inherently different amongst different groups of people.

Specifically, those in the privileged position who through societal support have already obtained the level of comfort they need to take care of their physical and social needs of safety, love, and support, are mentally, emotionally, and energetically freed-up to focus on the higher aspects of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs – which include positive self-esteem and self-actualization.  And while I could go on and on as to why this isn’t “fair,”  to do so would overshadow the second take-away I had through this book.

The second thing I realized in reading this book was that I need to grow up emotionally if I want to thrive in life. A lot of my life, perhaps because of my social station in life, has been built upon survival, or in the words of the Wilson’s “Playing not to lose.” Many of the things I have done in life have attempts to adhere to the four fatal fears as they call them: the fear of rejection, the fear of making a mistake, the fear of being uncomfortable, and the fear of failure. Consequently, much of my life has been unconsciously spent avoiding any situations or relationships in which I might be wrong, uncomfortable, rejected, or not succeed. The result being that I have lost touch with my reality and often feel like I have settled for a life that I don’t want and fear walking away from.

To begin to counter these measures, I am working ask myself: How am I sacrificing personal growth and happiness for safety and familiarity? How am I consciously choosing to embrace situations that might result in embarrassment, failure, rejection, or being wrong? How can I begin to “play to win,” instead of “playing not to lose”? How can I return to a state of welcoming in growth opportunities, knowing that they wont always be “pretty”?

My question for you, the one I am working to answer for myself is, can you observe whether you are playing life as the means of not loosing (face, status, acceptance, respect) or are you playing life as the means of winning (growth, happiness, fulfillment, purpose)? If the latter, congratulations. If the former, can you willingly allow yourself to become a bit more comfortable with the uncomfortable? For as the Wilson’s (153) write:

“When we choose the path of playing not to lose, behind us lie all those other paths that point toward growth. We eliminate hosts of possibilities. By choosing to belong, to not make waves, we eliminate finding our voice. Our voice atrophies because it is not used. By choosing never to be wrong, we eliminate intellectual growth because it requires experimenting and risking being wrong. If we choose to be comfortable above all else, we eliminate those choices that require us to endure discomfort for higher causes, values, and meaning – and of course our courage and creativity atrophy.