I know many people who are eager to take credit for the contributions they make and I tend to seek out people who are quick to give others credit for the contributions they make. What I don’t see all that often is people giving themselves credit. I am not talking about participation trophies, and I am not inferring that we should encourage people to have a false sense of themselves. In the area of credit, as with many things, there is a big difference between taking and giving. There is also a significant difference between “taking it for ourselves” and “giving it to ourselves.”

Last weekend, I was at the Maryland State Long Course Swimming Championships. This was not an all-comers forum, but a venue limited to kids who met the time requirements to participate. There were some who just barely qualified and there were others who surpassed the minimum by a lot. And as with any competitive sporting event, the “losers” far outnumbered the “winners.” Then again, that all depends on how you define “winners” and “losers.”  I couldn’t help but notice one young boy talking with his mom after finishing his event. He was not upset, but he was clearly disappointed with the result. Not one to eavesdrop, I continued walking back to my seat, all the while thinking about what I had just witnessed and fully knowing there was a good chance I would be living a very similar conversation when my son was done swimming his events. Good thing I had thought about it because that is exactly what happened.

All too often, we think if winning as beating the other team (or individuals, depending on the sport), and I guess, in reality, that is the definition of winning, but it doesn’t necessarily capture success. We can be pleased with our preparation, we can be satisfied with our performance, and we can be content with the outcome whether we won or lost. My son did not win either of the events in which he participated. He was seeded well lower than the podium and he had no realistic chance of coming in first. He hoped to qualify for the finals, but he didn’t. He did, however, spend countless hours in the pool preparing for the opportunity to compete. In one instance, he won his heat. In both instances, he finished higher than his seed. In neither instance, did he “win.”  The neat thing is that I didn’t have to point out the silver lining of not “winning”…he had the maturity to bring it to mine.

He said, “Dad, I gotta give myself credit for doing as well as I did.” He wasn’t taking credit, and unlike many other times, I didn’t have to give it to him. He gave it to himself. He knew that he started this first year of swimming unable to swim all four strokes legally and he finished it at the state championships. He knew how much he had improved as a result of working so hard. He went on to tell me that he was not disappointed with the outcome this year, and that next year he has higher expectations for the result. Because he focused on the positive and because he acknowledged that he could only affect what happened in his pool lane, I have no doubt that he will be even more satisfied with next year.

  • When was the last time you gave yourself credit for a job well-done?
  • Do you agree that there is a difference between taking credit and giving it to yourself?
  • When was the last time you took time to focus on how far you have come instead of how far you have left to go?