Why the phrase it’s just a game is a weak mindset for hypercompetitive people

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Kevin Mangelschots

Today, I’m going to explain why “it’s just a game” is such a weak mindset, at least for hyper-competitive people. Because to the victor go the spoils.

Less competitive people will have less desire to win and, thus, are more likely to consider challenges or hobby’s as a game than people thriving on competitiveness.

Let me explain why competitive individuals think differently.

Why the sentence “it's just a game” is such a weak mindset for competitive people

Image of the sentence “you lost the game” written on multiple post-it notes.

The phrase “it’s just a game” is such a weak mindset for a competitive person because it indicates that you’ve already given up. That you’re not playing to win.

Someone who has a competitive mindset would never say such a thing. To them, it’s not just a game. It signifies that you’re fine with losing, which is a loser mentality. And you need a winner mentality to succeed in life.

When you accept losing and try to justify it as just a game, you fail to improve as a person.  It’s one thing to accept a loss, but if it doesn’t bother you in the slightest, then that means that you’re simply indifferent to the hobby or sport you’re playing. If that’s the case, then I’m afraid you will never improve at that thing you’re attempting to get good at.

Frequently asked questions (FAQ)

How personality trait agreeableness and competitiveness are related

Image of the big 5 personality traits: conscientiousness, extraversion, openness, agreeableness, and neuroticism, and the symptoms of them.

It is important to note that all people have different personalities. As such, some people will be more competitive and, as a result, care more about losing than those who are less or non-competitive and care less about losing.

We should take a moment to note that some people see competition as something bad and non-desirable. Yet, we are always in competition. First and foremost with ourselves, but also with other people as well, whether we like it or not. As such, competition isn’t bad, it is part of existing and improving as a human being, because there needs to be an incentive to improve.

The personality trait responsible for this difference in mindset is agreeableness.

Agreeableness is one of the traits of the Big Five Inventory or, in short, the BFI. The Big Five personality traits can be recognized by the acronym “OCEAN”.

Image of the acronym “OCEAN”, which represents the following big 5 personality traits: conscientiousness, extraversion, openness, agreeableness, and neuroticism.

OCEAN stands for:

  • Openness
  • Conscientiousness
  • Extraversion
  • Agreeableness
  • Neuroticism

As we can see, the first letters of the personality traits form the acronym “OCEAN”.

On to the personality trait agreeableness, then.

Agreeable people

People who score high in personality trait agreeableness are people who are empathic, noncompetitive, and dislike conflict.

Others often see them as warm, kind and loving individuals. In negotiations, they will always make sure the other person comes out on top or at the very least equal to them. They have a hard time being assertive and are typically self-effacing. This means that other people frequently steal their shine and moment of glory, especially in competitive environments.

Non-agreeable people

Picture of a man looking menacing in front of him with a laptop beside him.

People who score low in personality trait agreeableness on the other hand are people who are not all that empathic and are typically seen as cold, aloof and distanced.

They are highly competitive people who are driven to win and succeed. They don’t mind conflict and will make sure they come out on top in negotiations. Furthermore, they have no problem being assertive and will make sure nobody steals their accomplishments. Non-agreeable people regularly have an advantage in competitive environments.

As we can see from the descriptions above, people who score low in trait agreeableness are naturally more inclined to be competitive than people who score high in personality trait agreeableness.

Of course, multiple other things influence how competitive one is, other than a personality trait. Different components that help determine how competitive a person is are experiences, the way a person is raised, perfectionism (which can be described by personality trait neuroticism in the BFI), and the incentive to succeed.

For example, if someone’s life depends on succeeding, or if someone is self-employed, then the stakes are quite obviously higher than if one is playing a game of soccer in their free time as a hobby. No matter if they are competitive or not.

Why do some people say it’s just a game?

Image of two checkers with one standing up, and one lying down.

To rationalize their loss

“It’s just a game” is a phrase that’s typically used by people who’re trying to rationalize their loss or losses. It can be used in an attempt to prevent them from getting upset.

In contrast, caring too much isn’t always the best solution, either. Caring too much about winning and, thus, losing can hurt someone’s self-esteem and can make them upset.

They don’t care about that hobby or sport

The quote, “everything you do matters” written in black letters in a white notebook.

It’s fine to say if you don’t care about the game or sport you’re playing. But, don’t expect to get good at it if you’re indifferent about it. Because if it doesn’t matter to you if you win or lose, then what is the incentive to attempt it or to become better at it?

If you don’t care about something, then there is something to be said about choosing something else what you are passionate about. If that is the case, you would probably care more about improving and, as a result, become better at it. The negative thing about that would be that it would probably make you more upset and less indifferent if you lose.

Now, I know some people don’t particularly care about their hobby and care more about other things that are related to their hobby or sport. Like, for example, enjoying that hobby because they’re getting together with their friends, or because it allows them to get out of the house and for a change of scenery.

If that’s what you want to do, then that’s perfectly fine. But then you’ll have to accept that you don’t really care too much about the game itself, and more about the side stuff.

Final note

Image of the word, “conclusions” written on a black backboard with white chalk.

People who are non-competitive are much more likely to say that something is just a game, because it is to them. To hyper-competitive people, it’s not just a game. Because they play to win, no matter what the cost.

That’s not to say that taking everything too serious and being too perfectionistic is good, either. But, I would suggest that people attempt hobby’s and sports that they enjoy and want to improve at, rather than being indifferent to the game.

When you’re invested in something, it becomes much more enjoyable and easier to improve at.