Competition — Why It’s Good and Why It’s Bad

We live in a competitive world. Business is competitive. Succeeding is often defined in terms of competition – doing better than everyone else. And this isn’t necessarily bad. Competition often goads us into working harder. It pushes us to do more and do better.

But an overemphasis on competition, on constantly making comparisons between ourselves and others to determine who is superior, can have deleterious effects as well, according to some psychologists.

Being “the best” is something that is taught to us from an early age. Did we score the most goals, or have the fastest time. To excel means doing better than everyone else. And for this we are rewarded.

But this mindset can affect not only our chance of success but our happiness as well. When we focus on how well we are doing in comparison to others, it takes our focus away from our own performance and what we need to do to perform well. For example, if you are scheduled to give a presentation, and the person who spoke before you gave an outstanding talk, thinking about how you will do compared to the other person will take your mind off of what you need to think about and do to give the best talk that you can. Your mind will not be wholly focused on the task at hand. So, it impairs your chance of being successful.

Thinking in terms of superiority also affects our happiness, according to some psychologists. That’s because when we constantly make comparisons between ourself and others, it is inevitable that sometimes we will come out on the short end of things. There will always be people doing better than us, just as there will always be people doing worse.

A constant emphasis on superiority diminishes happiness in another way – it makes us more materialistic, and people who are materialistic are generally not happy people. We become more materialistic out of the need for some way to compare ourselves to others. We need some kind of yardstick, something tangible, and things are the easiest way to do it – do we have more money, a bigger house, a nicer car.

So, there is a need to strike a balance. When making comparisons, it is best to do it from a long-term perspective. In the short-term, we need to put all comparisons aside and focus on our own performance.

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