In my book review of InSideOut Coaching by Joe Ehrmann, I talked about how he describes competition as a mutual quest for excellence, rather than a way to prove superiority. (Click HERE to read the book review).
As I have mentioned before I enjoy running. I have several loops close to our house that I like to run. One morning I was running the four and a half mile loop and when I was getting close to the halfway point I crossed paths with one of my neighbors who also runs pretty frequently.
I decided I was going to try to beat him back to the opposite corner of the loop before running the last quarter mile to our house.
I had been feeling pretty good and I started picking up the pace knowing that I was going to need to push it to beat him back to the spot.
As I neared the corner and saw him I realized that I was not going to beat him to that arbitrary point I had designated.
As I continued running hard and carried that momentum into the final leg of my run I thought about a couple things.
Do I even know if the distances where we first crossed to that arbitrary point were even? In other words, how do I know that I didn’t actually cover more ground than him in that amount of time?
Did the fact that my neighbor is older than me make me think I could do this simply because I was younger?
What if I had kept running at my normal pace and not picked it up but I had beat him to the arbitrary spot? Would I have been the winner? What if he had stopped for 2 minutes to tie his shoe and that is the reason I beat him there in this scenario?
Did I push myself to be the best I could be, to try to reach excellence, because of this “competition”?
Would I be a true competitor if I would have quit and started walking once I saw that I was not going to beat him?
I think this is a great story about what competition should be about. It is not about beating someone else. I have no control over how fast my neighbor was running, what his training regimen was, and I don’t even know if we had equal distances to run to that arbitrary spot!
But...my neighbor was giving his best and I was giving my best and this helped me improve my best because of our mutual quest for excellence.
Don’t focus on competing AGAINST your opponent. Comparing ourselves to others is a trap that often puts us on the rollercoaster of emotions. I agree with John Wooden who believed you could lose a game when you won on the scoreboard and you could win a game when you lost on the scoreboard.
Instead, focus on competing WITH your opponent to bring out your best self! If you can do this, you will experience what Kirby Ingles calls “forward relentless progress”.
And the results will take care of themselves.
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