Cleere’s Corner: How to Win Any Competition


By Dr. Michelle Cleere

The concept of winning is good and bad. When it’s tied to your level of self-worth, just the outcome, and acceptance by others, it’s not good. When it’s tied to deliberate practice, growth, and improvement, it’s good.  We all want to win. Otherwise why do it? The problem with just focusing on “the big win”, you only feel good about yourself when you win. And when you lose, you feel like you are letting everyone else down, you get into a negative spiral, and you set yourself up for failure.

In order to set yourself up for success, you can’t think about winning, you must stay focused on those things that get you to winning.

Step #1 – ensure a level of acceptance

You can want to win. It’s OK to want that. You also must accept that there are people better than you and that you aren’t always going to win. You can work and train hard physically and mentally and you still may not win. 100% of clients struggle with this – “If I am not going to win, then why work so hard”? If you can accept that you will win some and lose some but have a better chance of winning some if you work hard, then you are on the right track. I believe that winning comes from grit and grit comes from working hard but it still doesn’t mean that you’ll win them all.  

Step #2 – always do your best

As I alluded to above when clients are not performing at their best, they start to doubt why they are working so hard. For most clients, it doesn’t seem worth it. “Why do I want to give everything out there if I know I am not going to win?” Here’s how I respond to this – until it’s all said and done, how can you possibly know that you are not going to win? In the moment you felt like you were going to lose, what could you have done? What should you have done? Client – I could have continued to ride my best.

There are moments when your brain tells you that you are going to lose – stop, give up. Why? How do you know? Is that a fact? Your brain is telling you this out of fear and self-preservation. You can learn to play from a place of curiosity, excitement, and growth. I may not be winning in this moment, but if I continue to do my best and ride hard, I will learn something or at least this will be an exciting competition. 

Step #3 – set yourself for up for success

You can always be a winner if you think about winning differently. Set yourself up for success versus failure. Yes, you can have outcome goals but make sure they are realistic and don’t put all your focus on them. Why? The only way to reach them is to be present in the process and know the right things to focus on that get you to that win.

  • Develop your own mission statement. Figure out your why. Why do you do it? Why do you love it? Why are you driven to be good at it?
  • Figure out what is going to help you feel successful (besides winning). If I walk away from this race having done these one or two things, I will feel successful. For each race, set 1-2 realistic things you want to work on and let that be your focus. Maybe 1 that’s physical and 1 that’s mental. ?
  • Be present. Stay present and focused on the process. Each moment that you can stay present leads you to the final moment and with better potential of reaching the outcome you desire. You CANNOT be present 24/7 but you can learn to be more present, realize when you’ve strayed off from where you need to be, and bring your focus back.
  • Self-worth comes from having a well-rounded life. Human beings are made up of many dimensions. It’s what helps us learn, grow, adapt, figure out what and who we are, etc. Being one dimensional means that you derive everything you need and develop a sense of who you are from that one thing. You aren’t a complete person if you are only focused on one thing all the time. You can’t get everything you need from it.

How do you win any race? It’s not by winning EVERY race. Instead, you need to experience different moments and challenges, and develop ways to understand racing. Set yourself up for success – celebrate what you did well, what felt good, what you learned, and you will feel like you’ve won even when you haven’t. 


Dr. Michelle

Elite Performance Expert

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