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How do we deal with competition?

Updated on September 25, 2014

When do you compete?

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“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?


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    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 3 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Agreed. Competition signifies needed growth and learning about the fairness in everything. It makes us become better adults from childhood.

    • midget38 profile image

      Michelle Liew 3 years ago from Singapore

      Competition should be about oneself growing, indeed. Wonderful, Brite Ideas.

    • Brite-Ideas profile image

      Barbara Tremblay Cipak 3 years ago from Toronto, Canada

      I'm not a fan of competition but of course it's everywhere - and as a former figure skater, I've competed in my youth - but I was a singles skater, and only competed with 'self'. A lot of people, including my own kids, aren't like that, they want to win - it's not that a person who isn't competitive in the true sense of the word doesn't want to win, it's just that we're coming at it from another perspective, 'mastering self' not beating another person.

    • midget38 profile image

      Michelle Liew 3 years ago from Singapore

      Sometimes, it does! Thanks, Paula!

    • Paula Atwell profile image

      Paula Atwell 3 years ago from Cleveland, OH

      I grew up in a competitive family, and we all have competitive natures to some degree. Not surprising that my brother, sister and I all ended up in sales to one degree or another. However, there is a point where it goes too far.

    • midget38 profile image

      Michelle Liew 3 years ago from Singapore

      Yes. Ultimately, as writers and artists, we create for ourselves. We each have our own special place, and it is how we make a mark. Funny how I came across two comments of this nature today!

    • profile image

      Cerulean Crayon 3 years ago

      I have recognized a couple things about myself, as an artist. A winner is only a winner for a short while, until the next winner takes his place. But an artist who creates without thought of what's in it for himself, other than the created piece and his created peace, has a lasting reward. When making a product from a pure idea, it is deviation to consider whether it will be popular to the marketplace. Being a "flash in the pan" comes close to the last thing I would want. Is this how the Impressionists felt?

    • midget38 profile image

      Michelle Liew 3 years ago from Singapore

      Yes, Rasma!

    • midget38 profile image

      Michelle Liew 3 years ago from Singapore

      True, Denise!

    • midget38 profile image

      Michelle Liew 3 years ago from Singapore

      True, it's an ideal. We just do the best we can!

    • midget38 profile image

      Michelle Liew 3 years ago from Singapore

      We have and will, Bill!

    • Gypsy Rose Lee profile image

      Gypsy Rose Lee 3 years ago from Riga, Latvia

      No one to compete against for me unless a contest comes up on the net. Fair competition is the best competition. Passing this on.

    • denise.w.anderson profile image

      Denise W Anderson 3 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota

      Comparing my writing to that of others on Hub Pages has been a good thing for me. It has driven me to want to be better and accomplish more. Without this friendly avenue of "competition" I would not be working toward other publishing goals. I think that competition is the basis of our capitalistic society. Without it, we would not have all that we do.

    • m abdullah javed profile image

      muhammad abdullah javed 3 years ago

      Hi Michelle, wonderful thought over an important aspect of activism, thanks for sharing. For ensuring fair competition i think we must have certain set objectives or goals without which the competitive spirit does not flourish. You have rightly mentioned the role and rules, but for that specific objectives are quite essential.

    • dashingscorpio profile image

      dashingscorpio 3 years ago

      Aside from meeting a list of requirements to enter into a contest there will always be people who have an advantage over others. Some people are naturally bigger, stronger, and faster than others. Rich people get better medical treatment and legal representation than poor people.

      Jobs are often given to those with an "inside track" through networking or connections. Everyone (prepares) differently for a goal and therefore some people will have discovered better or more effective ways to get results they want. Lastly some people are blessed to be born with more ambition and determination to rise to the top. You can't level that.

      Competition will never truly be "fair" because (life is not fair).

      It's survival of the fittest! (Smartest, Richest, or Best looking) :)

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Was I? Yes! Am I now? No! I like to think I have matured a bit. :)

    • midget38 profile image

      Michelle Liew 3 years ago from Singapore

      How can we make competition fair?