By William Cottringer, Ph.D.
“Winning and success are what you get from doing what you do to get them.”
I have been an avid student of the psychology of winning/success for four decades now—learning all the knowledge and skills that bring about winning and success. The professional training and experiences I had during my own journey, led me from focusing on the negative psychology of pathology and failure to making a major paradigm shift via the positive psychology movement—studying winning and success to learn the common denominators that represent the ideal model for me and others to aspire towards in our success quest.
Today, we are experiencing the frightful information overload that Alvin Toffler warned us about in the early sixties, with his book Future Shock. If you do a Google search with the key words “success” and “winning” you will get over 250 million ‘hits.’ Winning and success are very hot topics. As the quote above says, they are what you get from what you do to get them. What could be more important in life than winning and being successful? In a sense, they are the very processes which define life for us.
I am about to release my latest book, Do What Matters Most: Lighten Your Load, which is really a comprehensive, collective summary of all that is known about the psychology of winning and success—what you get from doing all the things you must do to get them in becoming your fully self-actualized signature self.
The trouble is that I wrote the book with the deep intention of helping others get their arms around the chaos and complexity of all the information and knowledge we know about success research and simplify it for easier comprehension and application by the masses. Despite this noble intention, I ended up with over 500 pages of 150, 000 words and a Index of hundreds of both older and newer terms. My logical conclusion is that I am just adding to the overload and not being very successful in simplifying or lightening the load one bit. Hence the purpose of this article is to simplify the most important principles of winning that I have discovered, to see if they are as important as I think they are by exposing them to a critical audience.
Here are the most fundamental principles of winning and success that I learned from exploring the ten toughest tests that life throws at us and the most common solutions for passing these tests. For me, it doesn’t get any simpler than this. This is the island of simplicity I ended up finding from a life of swimming through ADHD chaos.
TEST 1: PLANNING YOU LIFE
“Living is a struggle against silence.” ~Carlos Fuentes
Winning and being successful in life requires us to live life from some sort of thoughtful plan. This plan doesn’t have to be anything elaborate or fancy though. It can be as simple as filling in a few blanks, such as coming up with reasonable answers to the five main questions we all have about anything we try to do:
• Why am I here?
• What am I supposed to be doing?
• How do I know if I am doing it right?
• What’s in it for me?
• Where do I go when I need help?
Not wondering enough about these questions was the one thing that a group of over 100 year old seniors regretted most in their long lives. The next thing on their regret list was not taking enough chances in living their answers.
TEST 2: GETTING THE RIGHT PERSPECTIVE
“Life is a shipwreck but we must not forget to sing in the lifeboats.” ~Voltaire.
Winning and being successful requires us to see past what we are looking at. The perspective we adopt often determines what we see. What matters most is leaning in the direction of having a positive attitude about life, during the easy and difficult times. It is easy to get discouraged and negative when things go sideways, but adversity is a real test of your character and your best response is to step up to the plate and hit a home run.
Having an optimistic viewpoint towards life makes most sense. Solid research about such an optimistic viewpoint towards life proves its value: Optimistic people live longer, are happier, make more money, have fewer physical complaints and stay married longer. Aren’t those the things that matter most? The other principle about having the right perspective is to be tentative. The truth of anything is evolving and embracing anything as absolute and permanent, other than the reality of the oneness of God, can turn into a disappointing loss.
TEST 3: TOPPLING THE TOWER OF BABEL
“Life is far too important of a thing than to talk about.” ~Oscar Wilde.
A challenge that runs through many of these other tests is learning how to communicate effectively through the current babble overload that creates so much miscommunication. I am sure you have noticed that we are way too wordy, that the volume and velocity of information is overwhelming and that good communication is a rare commodity. Since talking and writing are our main ways of dealing with each other, it does matter to fix our verbal and writing skills and push down the Tower of Babel. Keep it simple though: Talk once and listen twice, and think about what you want to say, say what you mean, say it clearly and simply, and then listen again with both ears.
TEST 4: BUILDING BETTER RELATIONSHIPS
“Among those whom I like or admire, I can find no common denominator, but among those whom I love, I can: all of them make me laugh.” ~W. H. Auden.
One of the most difficult life tests is how to have good relationships—especially dealing with differences and resolving conflicts. The relationship test puts our characters to a real showdown to see if we can walk our talk and be who we think we are, especially when we don’t feel like doing that.
Relationships are deteriorating today because we aren’t focusing on doing what matters most—doing the simple things that build good relationships like listening, accepting, giving, loving, including and being assertive when something offends your soul. The one thing that wastes the most time and doesn’t really matter is the futile effort to change someone else’s thinking and behavior because it annoys you. The real trick is to focus more on what is right than what is wrong (the best perspective), by developing your own virtues of understanding, patience, tolerance and tenacity.
TEST 5: FINDING SUCCESS
“Motivation will almost always beat mere talent.” ~Norman R. Augustine
We don’t have to reinvent the wheel to win and be successful. Nor do we need to be hard-wired with fantastic genetic endowments such as huge brains, creative talents, athletic abilities and fantastic looks. There are plenty of clues left behind by people who have already traveled this success road. And the good clues are all behind three doors: Successful thinking, passionate determination and social skills.
Successful thinking is doing what matters most to help you get from where you are to where you want to be. Passionate determination is translating your dreams into goals and then into products, by doing what you like to do because it feels good to do it and keeping this all in sharp, intense focus. Social skills are simple too. They are being likeable, communicating well and doing the few things that matter most in building good relationships.
TEST 6: GROWING & IMPROVING
“Unless a man undertakes more than he can possibly do, he will never do all that he can.” ~Henry Drummond.
Life continually challenges us to learn, grow and improve and we all respond to this challenge much differently. I think what gives me more inner peace and self-satisfaction than anything else is when I feel confident I am making an honest effort to learn, grow and improve into my best self. I am most unhappy and uncomfortable when I resist growth opportunities.
One other thing I have learned the hard way is to work more on my strengths than worrying too much about my weaknesses. That is because it is my talents that matter most. All I have to do is avoid getting into precarious situations that exploit my weaknesses. And a lot of times silence and listening are the best forms of self-protection.
TEST 7: RECOCILING LIFE
“You can’t talk your way out of a situation you behaved your way into.” ~Stephen Covey.
We usually don’t learn about this particular test until we are well into our lives. And it is certainly one that tends to persist and reappear when we least expect it. Fortunately many great minds of our century got together to simplify the psychology of winning. Now this ‘Secret’ is out, thanks to Oprah, Larry King, The today Show and the success of the video and book marketing efforts.
In case you have not yet read the book, seen the video, or watched these shows, The Secret reveals a fundamental truth about how life works: Positive energy attracts positive realities and negative energy attracts negative realities (The basic Law of Karma or B.F. Skinner’s Behavior Modification Theory, restated and re-packaged).
It is all quite simple. You get what you ask for. What matters most about the secret is why most people have difficulty in tapping into its awesome power. If you are not getting what you want, consider how you may be asking for it in the wrong way or not doing the right things to get it. Truer answers come from your moral conscience, not psychological one—where all the tough choices need to be reconciled to win and succeed in life. But of course this takes the right perspective—moving from an either-or, win-lose mentality to a and-and one of win-win.
TEST 8: REPAIRING REALITIES
“When you argue with reality, you lose - but only 100% of the time.” ~Byron Katie.
All throughout life we are confronted with realities we don’t like and feel compelled to change. But this can be frustrating until we learn the lesson of our priority reversal habit—always starting out doing things bass-ackwards. Eventually we see the wisdom of fitting in first and then changing what we are fitting into, from inside out.
One other thing that matters most in repairing realities is to become sensitive to moments of opportunity vs. moments of danger before they come and go. We have positive and negative feelings to help us in this discrimination. Positive feelings tell us to move forward, while negative ones warn us to stop and rethink our approach to the situation. When you think about it this is as simple as it gets.
TEST 9: MANAGING TIME AND MONEY
“Time is money.” ~Benjamin Franklin.
These two things are life’s greatest challenges that result in the most failures. The solutions for both are quite simple. With time you switch from the conventional, rigid mechanical-sequential perception of the past-present-future, to a more fluid, psychological one (that defines the expandable now moment) and then stop doing what doesn’t matter and start doing what does matter most. With money, you can’t have more going out then coming in, you must honor the reverence of your job and give your best attention and effort to earn your pay at work, and follow the wisdom of giving more to get more. It is ironic that the toughest test has the simplest solutions.
TEST 10: LIFE’S FINAL EXAM: LIVING A GOOD LIFE
“Reading is a basic tool in the living of a good life” ~Mortimer J. Adler
It eventually becomes apparent that if you do your best to pass these other nine tests, you are living a good life. For me a good life is defined as using my gifts to be effective in helping others to win the game of life and be more successful in finding their inner peace and contentment from doing so. This often translates to doing the right thing in the right way for the right reasons, which often means sacrificing short term pains for long term gains. That is what matters to me most about living a good life. Maybe if we start by clearly defining what a good life is, as well as what winning and success mean, we might see we have more of these things than we imagine.
“It is not the things in life that bother us, but rather our opinions about those things.” ~Epictetus.
William Cottringer, Ph.D. is President of Puget Sound Security in Belleview, WA., along with being a Sport Psychologist, Business Success Coach, Photographer and Writer. He is author of several business and self-development books, including, You Can Have Your Cheese & Eat It Too (Executive Excellence), The Bow-Wow Secrets (Wisdom Tree), and Do What Matters Most and “P” Point Management (Atlantic Book Publishers). Bill can be reached for comments or questions at (425) 454-5011 or firstname.lastname@example.org