For Christmas last year, my grandson gave me a unique gift. It’s called Storyworth and each week for 52 weeks my computer is sent one question about my life or my thoughts that I am to answer that week. Knowing a new question will appear the next week whether or not I answered the previous one has kept me on track and I’ve not missed any. At the end of the year it will be compiled into a book. I’m looking forward to the finished product in a few short weeks.
Last week’s question was about competition and this was my response:
‘Over the years I have formed a negative opinion toward competition, mainly because it has been overemphasized in our society—in marketing, politics, education, sports . . . etc.
The usual place where kids are introduced to competition is in sports. Fundamental to sport, teamwork and good sportsmanship were woven in so that life lessons could be gained - but it seems now that the competition itself has become the focus and winning is all-important—even in little league competition, fights break out (largely among parents). Even the Olympic games—a tradition that has gone on for thousands of years—has been tainted by a ‘winning at all costs attitude’ that promoted the use of enhancing drugs by many athletes. Winning was all-important, so if cheating was the way to win, that’s how it was done.
Competition and cooperation are opposite approaches as solutions to conflict. Each has validity but requires mediation and rules of engagement. Sports are designed for competition, which is not inherently bad, but when ethics are separated from engagement and ‘winning’ becomes the only objective, the competition is corrupted. In our world today, so often winning takes precedence above all else. When Trump was criticized for the unethical way he attacked his opponents he said with a grin, “But I won didn’t I?”
More and more we are becoming a polarized society with an attitude of ‘us’ and ‘them’. The polarizations divide everything into ‘win’ and ‘lose’ camps; you must be for or against . . . it is called a zero sum game: one person’s gain is at the cost of the other’s loss. We seem to be losing our ability to cooperate to seek solutions by compromise—the very way diplomacy keeps the peace. When there are intense disagreements, compromise is necessary. Each side must be prepared to do some yielding, the unwillingness to yield results in some form of war—at which point everyone loses.
So from my position as an observer of competition, I say I’m not a fan: competition has been overemphasized in our world and there is a need to work harder on learning to cooperate.’