Win the G.A.M.E.

When asking a majority of people before a contest what they want—whether it’s football or a spelling bee—they inevitably say, “I want to WIN.” I have yet to meet anyone who competes that doesn’t want to win. As Herman Edwards, the former coach of the New York Jets said, “you play to win the game.”

But actually winning isn’t easy, and it’s surely not automatic. What I’ve realized after 20+ years of experience as a business leader, a leadership training and development expert, a father, a husband, and a friend—is that actually winning in any area of our lives (health, relationships, free time, community involvement, career, etc.) is based on how well we play the G.A.M.E.

How Well Do You Play?

Too many people overlook the elements of the G.A.M.E. I think we all know intuitively that talent, dreams, and grit on their own don’t necessarily result in win streaks. While one aspect of the G.A.M.E. isn’t more important than the other—the harmony between the pieces is the difference between an 8-8 or 14-2 record.

Goals.

If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there. Goals are a path to results—clearly defined, written on paper, or typed in your mobile device—with a deadline for achievement and a plan to carry it out. Not getting the results you want in life? Go back and check your goals and your plan. You have to set clear deadlines and expectations for yourself in order to align the right amount of resources and effort toward your goals. For example, if I wanted to lose 20lbs, my goal wouldn’t just be, “Lose 20lbs.” It would be direct and specific, “I will lose 20lbs by the end of the year by cutting all sugar out of my diet and going for a 60-minute walk every morning before the kids get up.” This is a place to think about everything that’s working against you and what you need to line-up in order to stack the odds in your favor. Knowing and framing the landscape of what you have to work with, the resources you have available, and any constraints are essential to creating your goals. Always ask yourself: whose script are you on—yours, mine, or someone else’s from your past? I can tell you that I’d rather be on mine!

Attitude.

That being said; you can have the clearest, most well-written, beautifully articulate goals…that just collect dust on your desk. Your attitude will make a huge difference in what you do when you actually get somewhere. When you wake up the morning after setting your goals and want to silence your alarm—your attitude is what’s going to stop you. When you’re inundated by rejections from cold calling—your attitude is what’s going to encourage you to pick up the phone or send another email. Your attitude is the shift in your life that, no matter what challenge you are faced with, changes how you show up, how people respond to you, and creates a sense of urgency to achieve your goals. Paul Meyer, one of my early mentors in life dubbed this attitude as a burning desire to achieve.

Monitor.

Goals + attitude get you moving in the winning direction. Now you must monitor your performance. How are you doing? Are all the elements of your plan working? If not, tweak the plan. Maybe walking 60 minutes every morning and cutting out all sugar doesn’t work for you. Adjust the plan, go Paleo, do Weight Watchers, grab a friend. Whatever it takes to check the results and hit the goal. Remember it’s your script, you’re playing to win the G.A.M.E., and the first step to achieve starts by checking off an achievement. “Monitor and adjust” is a key ingredient to winning: change your golf swing, get a new coach, leverage a different offensive scheme, get a Master’s degree, relocate, change jobs—these are all proactive steps individuals, groups, teams have made to win.

Effort.

But all of this only if you put in the work. Nothing happens without effort and action. You can write your goals and fix your attitude my friend; but you will have nothing to monitor if you do not do your work! Taking that first step isn’t always easy. Sometimes, we talk ourselves out of our potential, “I don’t have the right experience,” or, “I’ve never done this before,” or, “What if I fail or they say no?” What if they do? I mean, what’s the worst thing that can happen if you apply for that job or ask to see a manager when you hand-deliver your resume—you don’t have the gig in the first place. You have nothing to lose! You have everything to gain. Call upon all that is great in you and just do something to advance your goals. Make them laugh, make them cry, get them to react in some kind of way. Worst case you will learn. But do something.

What’s Your G.A.M.E.?

Whether on or off the field, playing the G.A.M.E. will bring you that much closer to winning, regardless of what your objective might be. Finally, if you still find yourself struggling to get what you want out of life, check yourself: are you playing the G.A.M.E. or just watching?