Everywhere I look, people are busy trying to prove themselves better than someone else. We are taught from a very early age to be competitive and measure our success by how well we compare to others. Part of it is human nature but part of it is all the institutions in our society that teach us to be competitive from day one. I remember as a kid, I used to be really bad at sports. During sports week, I had to participate in a race with other kids and came in last. That shameful feeling of coming in last made such an impression on me that even to this day I cannot forget that painful memory. Why was I being forced to run alongside other kids with all the parents cheering for clear winners and losers in that race? In class, we would be ranked as well but I didn’t mind it as much because I would usually end up on the top. I guess whether you like competition or not depends a lot on where you end up in the race. At the end of the day, competition is essential to our progress and happiness and it’s not really an option to nor should you try to avoid it.
What you can do instead is to change your frame of reference and compete with a better opponent i.e. your own self. Each of us is born and raised with different abilities, resources and circumstances in life and in my view it is pointless to compete with others who may have a very different baseline and goals in life. You can certainly gain inspiration from others and wish to be as successful as them but never use them as the yard stick for your own measure of success. This simple mind shift can be incredibly liberating and powerful because all of a sudden you don’t have anything to prove to anyone except yourself. Instead of feeling jealous of others accomplishments, you celebrate them and instead of wasting precious energy thinking about ways to sabotage others, you focus on improving yourself and helping others with their own progress. What’s more fun is that you are intimately familiar with the shortcomings of your new opponent – yourself – and have complete control over the competitive game. One of the best quotes I have heard is that in life as in business “if you are not getting better every day, then you are getting worse”. If you wake up every morning and say this to yourself and make just one small effort to be your better self that day as compared to yesterday, you will soon be more successful and content than most people around you.