Some of us aim to be the best in the world at what we do (while others just hope). Being the best in the world is a great goal to have as it will act as a motivation to get up everyday and do what we do best. However, most often it tend to focus on comparing ourselves to others around us and winning against them and as we get better at it we aim higher. The key measure of this process is winning and that can only be the valid measure which everyone can understand.
For most of us, being the best in the world is a long way away. The best way to reach there is to learn as much as possible as soon as possible. So clearly, it should only be learning, which one should focus at, at least at the beginning. However from day one, we start focusing on winning and not learning because it is easy for us to assume that we are learning (at our best pace?) as long as we are winning.
Well, irrespective of with whom you are competing, this is a wrong assumption to make. Competition involves two people and your winning on a given day could be due to a number of reason – be it your great show on the day, opponents being weaker or they just have an off day. So in the latter two cases it could be that you win the competition dispite being very average. Also, your chances of playing an average game increases with the focus on winning as you take fewer risks, play safer and also pay a bigger price in the process – learn so much less.
If you agree to the above, then the next natural question is "what do we do"? – Well, Aim to be the best of yourself. How different is it in practice? – Well, this approach can only be explained better with a game as an example, and I have tennis as mine.
Aiming to be the best of yourself changes the focus back to learning. You explore your strengths and weaknesses and see what needs to be done to maximise your potential. However there is a challenge – How do we do this when competing with others? Well, The key is to focus only on the next moment in the game and completely ignore about winning. To maximise learning, you have to ignore winning the match, ignore winning the set, ignore winning the game. Focus completely on the next serve you are going to do, next shot you are going to hit and more importantly focus on what you learnt from it and build on it for your next shot.
Keeping your focus just on the next shot has several advantages. One, it makes it simple for the mind and hence maximise learnings from each point. Not focusing on the stage of the game, set or match will help you take the right risk for the point, not less or more. This approach is easier said than done as you might loose more matches, score lines might read more badly than the game and how much you learned in the process cannot be reflected in the score lines. However, if you keep your focus on learning, modify your approach as and when needed, take the right risks, you will learn sooner and you will start winning more consistently and handsomely. With time, you will be the best in the world.
Though it could be that being the best in the world is a long way away, what next after that? Well, being the best in the world is a destination but being the best of yourself is a journey, a journey which might go beyond the destination we all are after.
So stop thinking of winning, focus on learning, Ignore the destination and start your journey now, the right way.