Heads I win, tails you lose…

Inspired by political events here in the United Kingdom, in Europe and of course in United States, I’m fascinated by appeal of the Zero Sum Game.

“The world’s a mess and I will fix it. That means I win and the bad guys lose. Period.”

This black and white thinking is troublesome, yet it seems to be appealing to all of us to some degree. Have a listen and tell me how the Zero Sum Game plays out in your life.

Last October I wrote about how to Ditch Black and White thinking—and the benefits of learning to think in the Grey Zones. Yet, as I listen to politicians here and in Europe I recognise that I too play out my own Zero Sum Game. I have to ask myself if as human beings we’re hardwired for ever to replicate the logic of the school playground?

The mantra of my Zero Sum Game goes something like this:

If my father or mother did bad things to me. Then

I deserved it so I must be bad. They dealt out the punishment for my badness so they must be good.

This thinking is about self preservation. I know that sounds perverse but this is a logical way for a small child to make sense of the world.

Good people do bad stuff to bad people. In other words you get what you deserve.

But bad behaviour isn’t a ball to pass from one person to another. Bad behaviour (even behaviour that is shocking and unspeakable) doesn’t mean that the perpetrator is incapable of remorse. It doesn’t mean that they are devoid of positive characteristics either. Like the so called “Illegals” in the US: if lists of their crimes are published on a weekly basis does that mean that these individuals must be portrayed as uni-dimensional?An illegal. A criminal. Certainly not a human being. Here in the UK some politicians and newspapers have a tendency towards this type of portrayal too.

Compassion is the enemy of the Zero Sum Game

I would like to suggest that Compassion is the enemy of the zero sum game. Personally this needs to starts with self-compassion. I have an ability to offer others endless Compassion, yet I can’t offer it to myself. Compassion is too much like the ball that I pass around. If I give it to you, I can’t have it for myself.

It’s time I held the ball for myself a while. There’s no need to flip a coin or to keep score. We will all be winners in my version of the game.

How does the Zero sum Game play out in your life?
What tips can you share to overcome this form of thinking?
Do you think we’re hard-wired to want to win all the time?

(PS The photo is of the Lincolnshire Wolds during Winter in the United Kingdom.)