Today’s Solutions: October 26, 2021

The key to achieving this rebirth, to improving our relationships, our neighborhoods, our towns and cities, and even to tackling the many crises facing the world, lies in reframing the core belief that underpins every aspect of our society: “I win, you lose.”
Lynne McTaggart | May/June 2012 Issue
I know firsthand about a falling-down world. My father, the bright youngest child of working-class Irish parents, was more an inventor than a straightforward engineer. At the end of World War II, he designed a revolutionary kind of heating system for all the homes being built for returning vets. To fund the startup, he found two partners willing to invest. They would handle the sales and finance, while he would focus on the designs and shop floor.
Dad’s business rapidly took off. He and my mother had moved from Yonkers and the Bronx in New York to the pretty suburban town of Ridgewood, New Jersey. Year after year, they enjoyed the fruits of increasing prosperity: a speedboat, a second car, a second home. But by 1970, one partner had died and Dad’s remaining partner was growing ill. The company began to founder badly.
After the remaining partner died and my father took over, he discovered the reason: two sets of accounting books, the official one for my father, and another revealing the truth about the other two partners’ financial dealings. Before the business got bought for a song, the hefty life insurance on his partners was still in place. One partner’s widow landed a ­million dollars, while my father, by then in his mid-50s, had to find work among his company’s rivals. When I returned home from college one summer, the second car and house were gone, and the house in Ridgewood he and my mother had built from scratch was up for sale.
Dad never stopped believing that he could do it all over again. On a trip to Florida, he saw another problem that needed a solution—the damage done to small pleasure boats kept in the water. My parents moved to Florida, where my father set to work designing an ingenious boatlift that would scoop vessels up and out of the water with little more than a push of a button.
During a particularly stifling summer day, while he was welding a prototype, he fainted. The welding rod in his hand fell onto his face, killing him instantly. Unlike his former partner, he died without life insurance. The new policy he had meant to sign that evening was sitting on the chest of drawers in his bedroom.
The trajectory of my family’s life was defined by unfairness—by “I win, you lose.” Like too many other people who buy into our current set of rules, my father’s dream turned into a nightmare. It’s a nightmare that happens every day, with no rescue for anyone who happens to get pushed off the wagon train. My experience has convinced me that fixing the many problems that beset us requires nothing less than ripping up our rulebook and starting afresh, based on something other than every man for himself.
The key to achieving this rebirth, to improving our relationships, our neighborhoods, our towns and cities, and even to tackling the many crises facing the world, lies in reframing the core belief that underpins every aspect of our society: “I win, you lose.”
This mistaken belief—that winning equals winning over someone else—is the greatest cancer of our time, accounting for every single one of the crises we face in the West. Other than on the sports field, the competitive mindset is probably the greatest impediment to progress. The latest research shows that students, employees, managers, business owners, couples and neighbors are happier, healthier and far more productive when they work together in collaborative ways.
Schools that use cooperative learning, where “A” students work side-by-side with “C” students, produce better results than do those schools that group children by ability and have them compete for grades or constantly strive to improve their personal bests. Collaborative solutions at work consistently outperform those in which companies rate individual performances against one another.
As a success coach hired by Microsoft, the bestselling author and Chicken Soup franchise founder Jack Canfield observed that Microsoft’s practice of creating small competitive “silos” competing against each other internally, rewarded or punished for their individual successes or failures, created a climate of fear that hampered innovation and caused Microsoft to lose ground.
This company policy stood in stark contrast to the corporate climate at ­Google, one of its major competitors, where individuals were encouraged to work as a team, were offered the time and space for collective ­brainstorming and were rewarded for the entire group’s ­effort. By removing a culture of ­naked-claw competition, Google not only created happier employees but also began to produce better results than its rival.
The change of emphasis in our relationships and our society from “me” to “we” will not erode individual rights, ability, achievement, freedom of expression or ownership in any way. Nor will it require that we relinquish our hard-earned cash or possessions, repudiate our economic system or overturn our ­democratic way of life. The only thing we will give up is the need to strive for individual achievement at another person’s expense. That mindset is flagrantly anti-individual and undemocratic. Somebody’s individual rights always get trampled in “I win, you lose” scenarios.
Most of the research on self-talk, the inner monologues people use to psych themselves up before their performances, has focused on internal affirmations and pep talks that revolve around “I” to build personal confidence, so a group of researchers at Michigan State University decided to test what happens to individual performance when participants concentrate their self-talk on the group’s performance as a whole. They randomly assigned 80 individuals in a dart-throwing contest to one of three groups: The first group used self-talk statements that focused on each individual’s ability and performance; the second used internal conversation that emphasized the group’s capabilities and performance; and the third, the controls, simply maintained neutral thoughts.
When the Michigan researchers tallied the results, both personal confidence and performance were highest in those focusing on group affirmations. Those using group-oriented self talk displayed more confidence in the team but also performed better as individuals. This study has enormous implications for every aspect of our lives because it shows that focusing on the group’s efforts naturally raises everyone’s game. Just thinking “we” helps “I” do better.
If we are to prosper, individually and collectively, each of us must wipe clean our mental hard drives of the sense of scarcity, lack, competition and extreme individualism with which we are programmed. To do this, we have to challenge the assumptions and thought processes on which those concepts and assumptions are based. A good starting place is to replace the model of “We do best for society by looking out for No. 1” with the idea that our most productive response in any situation is to choose what is best not simply for ourselves but for the rest of the group.
Adopting this new paradigm in your dealings with others will encourage you to overcome your internal “I win, you lose” programming and become a spiritual change agent at home and at work.
– This is an edited excerpt from Lynne ­McTaggart’s forthcoming paperback release of The Bond: How to Fix Your ­Falling-Down World (Free Press, 2012), with a new section of practices and exercises designed to help readers enjoy more cooperative relationships and become ­powerful local and global agents of ­change. ­

OdeNow presents Lynne McTaggart
On June 14, Lynne McTaggart, author of the bestsellers The Field, The Intention Experiment and The Bond, will lead a special event that offers a radical new blueprint for fixing your falling-down world. Based on the discoveries revealed in her new book, The Bond: How to Fix Your Falling-Down World, McTaggart will offer practical tools to help you heal both your world—your relationships, your workplace, your neighborhood and community—and the world at large. These tools will help transform the way you see and feel. You will find out how to move past competition as a way of life. You’ll learn simple practices to help you to enjoy close relationships, a connected workplace, a united neighborhood. You’ll learn everyday acts that will transform you into a spiritual activist, setting off a chain reaction of giving and cooperative behavior around you.

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