Competition, founded upon the conflicting interests of individuals, is in reality, far less productive of wealth and enterprise than co-operation, involving though it does the constant apparent sacrifice of the individual to the common interests.-Robert Hugh Benson
I used to buy into the idea of just how vital competition is, but I’ve seen enough people turn it into a destructive thing that I no longer see as so important. Healthy competition can help us to grow and become stronger and even better people. Still, it seems that in our society today, we put far too much emphasis on competition and far too little on cooperation. We see this, especially in the political world, where everything is competition with the “other party,” and almost no energy is dedicated to cooperating with others to serve the public more effectively.
I like competition when I’m running. It helps me to run faster, and the thought of upcoming competitions helps me to push harder when I’m training. Once the competition is over, though, I honestly don’t care how I did when compared to other people–I did my best within my current circumstances, and that’s fine. I’ve coached far too many athletes, though, who allow their self-worth to be tied up in how they fare in competitive circumstances, and that’s genuinely a destructive way of looking at the competition. I always remind myself that the people I’m competing against have been working hard to get better at what they do, so they deserve whatever results they get.
Running is different from the workplace, business, or politics. In these fields, competition is about customers and profits and “power”–simply getting the money from those customers, winning an election, or passing a bill. Rarely these days do we see people in these fields cooperating together to achieve something extraordinary, which is one reason why our world of today is awash in mediocrity. We even teach students to compete with each other to be valedictorians and get into specific colleges rather than teaching them to cooperate to become much better at all that they’re learning.
When we cooperate, there’s almost no limit to our possibilities when we dedicate our minds and abilities to working together with others. In competition, there always have to be losers. When we cooperate, we can ensure that there are no losers, just other people who share in the success.
Questions to consider:
Why are competition and the idea of “beating” others so important?
What are some of the benefits of cooperation?
How might we help ourselves to learn to cooperate rather than compete?
For further thought:
There is competition, but it is used in a good way. It is optimistic about wanting to go first, provided the intention is to pave the way for others, make their path easier, help them, or show the way. Competition is harmful when we wish to defeat others, to bring them down, to lift ourselves up.-The Dalai Lama