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How do we deal with competition?
When do you compete?
“Take someone who doesn't keep score, who's not looking to be richer, or afraid of losing, who has not the slightest interest even in his own personality: he's free.” - Rumi
Afghan poet and Islamic Jurist Rumi made a valid point when he stated that not being bogged down by the needs of competition frees us from stresses and burdens.
But was he completely spot on?
In truth, he was probably not. Competition, though having personal and professional benefits, also comes with a slew of drawbacks.
How do we know if we are being too competitive? How can human beings balance the scales?
A. Where Competition Takes Place
Competition first takes place at home. As soon as a child gets another sibling, there is competition for food, toys and most importantly, attention. Hence, the apt term, “sibling rivalry.”
As we grow, we face competition in school, with parents and teachers applying pressure, however rough or gentle, on us to achieve our best. A familiar conversation on the bus is between two ladies who compare the examination results of their children.
Naturally, businesses compete fervently for the attention of buyers. A striking example of this is the ever-growing rivalry between soft drink giants Coke and Pepsi. One outstanding commercial shows how a Pepsi stand is over-run by its Coke rivals.
Of course, politicians and governments compete, albeit in an unstated way, to decide which country is the best is this or that arena. We always hear that XXX has the best airport, airline or university.
B. Why Do We Need Competition?
Competition is here to stay, and in many cases, we cannot do without it.
It helps us become more productive. If we know that someone is competing with us for resources. we become more conscious of the need to do our best to secure them. To secure their jobs, most employees are as productive as possible.
In the long run, it improves results.
To speak of the workplace, team-based competitions force employees to cooperate. No one wants to drag his group members down with his incompetence.
We also need competition to stay motivated. The survival of the fittest philosophy always keeps a person moving on.
Competition is the push we need to compete tasks. The more conscious we are that people are competing with us, the faster and more efficiently we will try to complete them.
Stopping sibling rivalry
C. What happens when we are too competitive?
I must confess to not being a great fan of competition. Being smaller-sized, I tended to lose out physically in sports.
Indeed, it is possible to have too much competition. It causes us to lose focus on the needs of others. We keep taking without realising that others have needs. People compete for that last seat on the bus, not seeing the elderly lady who needs the seat more than they do.
Competition breeds unfairness. Not properly monitored, it causes people to resort to less appropriate means to achieve their ends.
It is sometimes not inclusive. I remember being left out of many basketball games, even though I relished the sport. Just as competition breeds cooperation, it just as likely causes people not to bond.
Besides, the stress of competition becomes unhealthy when people become too obsessed with it.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of competition?
Competition makes us productive.
We lose focus on the needs of others.
It forces us to cooperate.
We may become unfair.
It improves results.
Competition is sometimes not inclusive.
It keeps us motivated.
People may not cooperate.
How do we ensure fair competition?
- Check biases
- Assign roles
- State rules fairly
- Ensure equality
- Value everyone
- Remember that it is not personal.
- Do not compete over the trivial
- Let it not get the best of us.
D. Making sure that competition is fair.
The key, of course, is to make competition as fair as possible. From authorities to ourselves, this needs all hands on deck.
To install fairness, let us put biases aside. State all rules of competition fairly and make completely sure that everyone competes on an equal footing.
When competing in groups, authority figures must assign roles. Make sure that everyone knows that they are valued. Reward everyone for their effort, whether they are in a winning position or not.
This is probably the hardest hurdle to overcome with competition, but we should never harbor resentment or take it personally, as it is not motivating.
Never compete over petty matters lest it gets out of hand, and above all, do not let it get the best of us.
Balance the scales of competition to make it productive, enjoyable, and most of all, fair for all of us.
What about you? How do you feel about competition?