It’s that time of year again—college football begins, professional baseball is moving towards the end of the season, and children all over the country are ready to begin athletics through various school programs. We Americans like to win – yet competition has become a dirty word.
These days, we give trophies for participation, ribbons for effort and don’t want to upset children by picking winners and losers. But not everyone thinks competition is a bad thing. Remember when NFL linebacker James Harrison found out that his kids received trophies for doing nothing? He sent the trophies back to school with the message that trophies will be accepted when they are earned. Parents applauded. Why? Because they saw the value of healthy competition.
Competitive feelings are normal. We can feel competitive towards anyone: friends, coworkers, family members, etc. If we learn how to handle competitive feelings, we will benefit in life. Avoiding competition or handling it poorly can lead to feelings of jealousy, cynicism and entitlement.
Healthy competition has many benefits. It pushes us to do better and not be complacent. As a result, we often innovate and become creative. Think about how often a team works more creatively when they must compete for a contract or earn a bonus by being the best. Not only are they challenged to win, but they learn valuable team skills along the way.
Competition also provides us with feedback regarding our strengths and weaknesses. We can measure ourselves against others in a positive way. For example, when I had to compete in music contests, I could see where I was weak and needed improvement. This helped focus my practice schedule.
In addition, competition helps us deal with setbacks and failures. When we don’t win the race or fall short of the mark, we persevere until we achieve our goals. We see the finish line and keep going. Often, we are inspired by those who never give up and overcome obstacles to reach their goals.
The old saying is true – it’s not whether you win or lose, but how you play the game. When you do lose, be gracious. When you win, be humble. Honor God in all you do. Use what God has given you in your unique way, refusing to compare yourself to others. Instead, allow others to help sharpen your skills, motivate you and push you forward in this race of life.