— Conan the Barbarian
Okay, maybe this is taking competition a little too far.
Here’s a take from another angle:
“There are two kinds of people: Those who do the work and those who take the credit. Try to be in the first group because there is less competition there.”
Indira’s subtle dig notwithstanding, is competition necessarily a bad thing? Western culture thrives on it. Capitalism is based on it. Many childhood traumas and adolescent humiliations are the result of it. And yet, if we take competition completely out of the picture, what are we left with? It’s hard to say because, human nature is essentially competitive. Show me someone who says they aren’t competitive and already they’re competing with others who say they aren’t competitive either.
Rather than regale you with easily recognizable examples of the evils of competition, let’s look at two instances where competition is a good thing.
1) Secretly competing against someone you admire to push yourself up to another level.
We all need role models, or at least inspiration. It was commonly accepted that the mile could not be run in under four minutes. On May 6, 1954 Roger Bannister ran the mile in 3:59.4. Shortly after several others ran sub four minute miles.
Or lets put it on a simpler more personal level. Have you ever lost contact with a friend or relative for a while and then when you next saw them, you couldn’t believe how incredible they looked? Maybe they lost weight, gained muscle, or found the path to nirvana. That little competitive bug inside you set you off on a path to lose weight, gain muscle, and achieve nirvana too.
2) Competing against yourself for the challenge and joy of seeing what you are truly capable of doing.
We can certainly be inspired by great athletes, but after watching them we sometimes feel too intimidated or self-conscious to get out there and see what we can do. However, there is always somebody we have a good chance of beating… ourself.
I’m not talking about challenging your former 21 year old self to a hundred yard dash. I’m talking about setting an age appropriate bar for yourself and soaring over it.
On the treadmill? Add an extra five minutes or another level of incline. Taking a yoga class? Add a push up to the vinyasa or hold your one legged poses for two additional breaths. You know what you can do. Whatever your activity, bump it up and leave yourself in the dust. There are few things more satisfying than kicking your own butt and then looking in the mirror and saying, “In My Face!”
And of course, there’s that inner satisfaction of knowing that even though we are getting older… we are getting better.
To your health and happiness: