Playing to win vs. playing not to lose

When you play to win, you are not afraid to lose.


The desired outcome is the same. Each is a strong motivator. Yet, the difference is great between the two.

When you play not to lose, you stick with what you know. You play to your strengths. You stick with what is proven and tested and has brought you success in the past. 

There is a level of excellence when you play not to lose because you try to play perfectly. You strive not to commit mistakes. You are careful and cautious and calculated with your every move.

When you play to win, you also play to your strengths. But, you are not afraid to try something new, to take risks, and to make mistakes. Because you understand that, sometimes, winning requires more than your best effort or your one hundred percent. Sometimes, you need to throw a curveball to win or take a risky and difficult shot.

When you play not to lose, You are motivated not by the rewards of winning, but the consequences of losing: the hurt, the self-inflicted shame, the regret, or the loss of the potential reward.

You play because of fear. That’s why you play with fear as well.

When you play to win, you are motivated by the possibilities, the opportunities, the excitement, and the rewards of winning.

When you play to win, you are not afraid to lose. You also do not play with fear. 

You are not afraid to take the shots. You are not afraid to deal with the consequences. 

During an interview for the ESPN magazine back in 2013, Stephen Curry said:

I'm not the guy who's afraid of failure. I like to take risks, take the big shot and all that.

Six years later, Curry is a two-time MVP and a three-time NBA champion. 

After he missed the potential game-winner and the opportunity to tie the series with the Toronto Raptors, Curry said:

The shot was one I take 10 out of 10 times. And we ran a play that was kind of, we got a decent look off of kind of a bobbled catch, and I could see the rim, so I shot it. I'll live with that. We always talk about that, myself and Klay, in terms of shots that we take, you live with it. I would shoot that shot every day of the week.

In the defining moments, you only think of the possibilities. Whatever the outcome is, you live with it. And you live without regrets.

Do you play to win or do you play simply not to lose?

P.S. How do I know all this? Because I play not to lose — whether in a basketball game or in this game of life. But, I’m trying to change that.

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