Are you angry about the fast and furious changes in the real estate industry? Are you resigned to never being able to keep up with technology? If so, you may have fallen into playing the win-lose game. There’s no better time than right now to break away.

Several years ago I attended a conference where Benjamin Zander, the conductor of the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra, gave an extraordinary opening keynote speech that raised a variety of issues relevant to the real estate industry today.

According to Zander, most people are caught up in what he calls the "up-down spiral." Another term for this is the win-lose game. To determine if you’re playing this costly game in your business, take the brief quiz below.

1. When you go on a listing presentation, is one of your key selling points that either you or your company is No. 1 in your area?

2. When you make a mistake, do you blame someone else for it?

3. Do you constantly go over your shortcomings?

4. Do you engage in constant self-talk that says, "I should do more prospecting," "I must get this listing," or "I really need to sell this house"?

5. Is hitting your production goals the primary focus of your business?

6. Is one of your goals to "defeat the other competitors in your market"?

7. Do you define yourself in terms of what you do rather than who you are? (That is, when someone asks you about who you are, is your first answer: "I work for XYZ Realty"?)

8. Do you view selling as getting something for yourself (i.e., a commission) and beating out someone else (either the seller or another agent)?

If you answered "yes" to two or more of these questions, you’re caught in the up-down spiral.

According to Zander, downward spirals are everywhere — whether you "win" or "lose," you’re still caught in the spiral. The spiral limits our options and, in most cases, traps us in losing. The focus is on survival, domination, control and goals.

In the spiral, there’s no possibility for expansion — there’s only "win-lose," "succeed-fail." The "language of the spiral" uses words such as, "You should," "You must," "You need."

How can you break away from the downward spiral of the "win-lose" game? Zander suggests that you shift to focusing on "possibilities." Here are three strategies that can help you step out of the "win-lose" game into the realm of possibility.

1. "How fascinating!"
When we’re afraid to try something new because we might fail or look foolish, this creates a fear-based "downward spiral." Mistakes often make us feel like losers. In contrast, when Zander or one of his students makes a mistake, his approach is to shout, "How fascinating!"

Now you may not be ready to shout out "How fascinating!" the next time you lose a listing or have a transaction fall apart, but rather than becoming angry or berating yourself for doing poorly, what would it be like if you approached the situation by asking yourself about other possibilities besides losing?

For example, if you "lose" a listing after working hard on it for six months, instead of being angry or resigned to the situation ask, "What new possibilities are open to me now that this listing is no longer occupying my time? How could I locate a more motivated, realistic seller?"

2. The secret of life and business
According to Zander, the secret of life and business is that "it’s all invented." What constitutes being a winner or loser is like baseball or football — it’s a game someone made up. Consequently, there’s no requirement that you play "win-lose." Instead, you can make up your own game where there are no winners or losers.

For example, rather than looking at how much money you earned or focusing on production goals, shift to focusing on the contributions you made to others. When you approach the business from the realm of possibilities, the types of contributions you can make are limitless.

Specifically, did you help someone set a realistic price on their home, even though you did not get the listing? Did you provide someone with excellent service that they may not have received elsewhere? Did you bring a smile to someone who was in an unhappy situation? To master the practice of possibility, constantly focus on all the unique ways you can contribute to others.

3. Don’t take yourself so seriously
According to Zander, the most important key in creating possibility is to avoid taking yourself so seriously. When you have to be right, you’re invested in "win-lose." Zander says that when he encounters someone who has to be the one who is right, he apologizes (i.e., he lets go of his needs to be right.")

The next time you’re feeling like you have to be "right," take note of the fact that you’re probably caught in the downward spiral of win-lose. Then determine how you can create new possibilities other than win-lose.

When it comes to your business or your life, you have three choices: resignation, anger and possibility. You’re the only one who can make the choice of how you will live; will it be in the shadow of resignation, bitterness or anger, or will you explore the wonderful realm of possibility?

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