At our recent Abraham-Hicks discussion group, we talked for a while about competition. Is it beneficial? Is it harmful? Does it foster an "us vs. them" mentality or is it simply all in good fun?
At the moment I would have to say that competition, in sports at least, is utterly counter-productive and should be immediately outlawed. But since our Orlando Magic basketball team just lost Games #1 and #2 of the NBA finals to the L.A. Lakers, I am perhaps momentarily viewing the issue with a jaundiced eye.
"Well, what about competition?" Mark asked me after our Abraham meeting. "Is it good or bad?"
Mark and Sports
Mark loves sports and participated in many in years past, so I knew he was preferring I say that competition is good. I knew he was somewhat unsettled by my recent admission that, although we attend the Orlando Magic home games, I'm not of the blind faith/loyal fan mentality these days. I love the games, but I go more for the overall experience than to rabidly root on our team. I enjoy seeing the athleticism presented by teams from around the country and by players on those teams who are increasingly from around the world. I go for the fun of being part of a large, happy crowd. I go because it's a night out with my feller. I go, OK, for the sausage dogs, popcorn, and Bud Lite.
But that's my personal preference. With regard to the overall issue of competition, I told Mark that I consider it to be neither good nor bad. It's all in how an individual views it. If a person competes basically for the fun of it and savors the wins while shrugging off the losses, competition is a fine thing for him/her. On the other hand, if a person competes out of a sense of trying to prove their worth through winning and then feeling horrible over a loss, well, it's like any other action taken from a sense of lack or unworthiness -- nothing good will ultimately come of it.
The same goes for spectators. If they can enjoy their team's wins and shrug off their losses, it's fine and dandy. But if they become stressed, upset, or vindictive when their team loses, maybe they should find another pastime. Or better yet, learn to see competition in a more relaxed way that emphasizes the fun of it and de-emphasizes the intensity.
Kids and Competition
One aspect of competition that was brought up in our meeting is that of young children competing. A woman said she is shocked to see how parents push their children to win in sports and berate them over mistakes. Yep, it happens. In fact, the out of control behavior of some parents at Little League games and such is legendary.
What can we do about such behavior? Well, let's model something different. We can be the change we want to see in the world, as Gandhi aptly put it. We can adopt more relaxed attitudes about all of life's ups and downs -- not just in the realm of competition but in the realm of work, living up to people's standards, living up to our own standards, and overall achievement. We can stress less and chill more. We can stop aiming to be perfect and start aiming to be perfectly happy.
Accomplishment in any area of life is good only insofar as it feels good to the accomplisher. Once it begins to elicit a feeling of much pressure, stress, boredom, or fatigue, well, it's not doing anyone any good.
Despite the messages we may have grown up with, we are not here to perform, unless performing feels wonderful. We're not here to live up to any sort of ideal, unless that process somehow feels fun and easy. We're not here to have a statue erected in our memory unless what we were doing to merit the statue was utterly fun in its own right.
We are here for the joyful adventure of this time and place, and that adventure is a combination of pursuits and pleasures unique to each individual.
What to Say to a Child?
What would I say to a child who has been doggedly pushed by a parent into doing a sport or other activity that they don't enjoy? I'd say to try to make the best of it for now. Make some friends of the other kids involved. Find some things to laugh about. Ignore criticism as best you can. Know that you need not adopt any attitudes displayed by adults if they don't seem right for you.
I would also say, "I'm sorry," for I once pushed one of my kids to do something they clearly didn't want to do. Basically, I cajoled the child to perform so that I could feel proud. The whole thing aptly blew up in my face.
I was one of the lucky ones. After that experience, I "got it." I realized the importance of allowing children to follow their own interests, and I ultimately went along with everything from obsessions with Nintendo games to singing lessons to rock-climbing to diving off cliffs.
We can't change the world and, when it comes right down to it, the world doesn't seem to want to be changed. But we can increasingly organize our lives around this cardinal rule: Nothing good comes from feeling emotionally bad, and nothing bad comes from feeling emotionally good. From that place and that place alone, we can now know how to address any issue that arises.
Now, who wants to play a game of Scrabble? I promise not to fling the board and tiles across the room if I lose.
Hopefully this child was happy being Picasso's model, or at least enjoyed the paella.