My entry for the Royal Common Wealth Essay Competition (It won the gold!)
‘What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.’ – Ralph Waldo Emerson.
The Oxford dictionary defines it as the ‘The activity or condition of striving to gain or win something by defeating or establishing superiority over others’.
But in today’s time, we have an entirely different outlook towards competition. The term ‘cut-throat competition’ aptly describes the present situation. We say that it is a big bad world—we made it so. We say that life is a race—but what exactly is the prize?
Since the very beginning of our lives, we have been taught to look out for competition and emerge right at the top. When we were toddlers, people took every opportunity to stuff us with educative facts and details so that we would be smarter than the others when we started school. This was our introduction to competition. When we started school, competition went up a notch and the mad scrambling for the top places in everything began. You had to be first in academics, first in sports, first in dramatics, first in everything that you ever set your eyes on—you had no choice.
When we complained, they told us that they were just training us for the future, when competition would be even more. But what is this competition? These days we just don’t compete to be first—we compete to push other people down. Healthy competition is an important part of our lives as it keeps us focused on our goals and prevents us from becoming complacent. But the moment we let this competition dominate our lives, it turns into unhealthy competition which is nothing short of an obsession. And that isn’t pleasant.
Some people compete for everything. From that insignificant half a mark in your test to the last cup of coffee at Starbucks. This is because as children we were pushed to be so competitive, that it almost becomes an ego-issue for the person if they don’t get their way.
As teenagers, we have to face different kinds of competition. Competition for status, competition to be popular, competition in academics etc. But sometimes you just have to stop and think—does this really matter? Once you pass out of school, is anybody really going to care about who you were in high school or what you wore?
Sometimes in life you tend to chase things that are really of no consequence. I quote Shakespeare, and he says that some things are ‘as two grains of wheat hid in two bushels of chaff; you shall seek all day ere you find them, and when you have them, they are not worth the search.’
His words describe the way of the world today. We compete for insignificant things without pausing to think if they matter, and you will compete day and night for it. But then once you do achieve it, you realize that they were not worth competing for. The term used for such cases is ‘hollow victory’.
Unhealthy competition is a deadly disease that will drain your mirth and suck the life out of you. It leads to depression, insomnia and many such unpleasant things.
Competitiveness is a double-edged sword—it’ll protect you, or it’ll cut you down. This trait is a seedling that should be cultivated carefully; nourished by love, watered with sensibility and with its roots firmly embedded in the soil of intelligence.
A few months back, I happened to read the bestselling book the Secret by Rhonda Byrne and I was really astonished by its whole ideology. The book explains that the whole universe operates on the ‘law of attraction’ which only has one principle—like attracts like. So according to this law of attraction, competition is actually very bad for your life because the more you focus on competition and the more you strive to defeat somebody, the fiercer the competition that you will attract into your life.
Its vicious circle where the more you compete, the tougher the competition gets. Instead of aiming to beat somebody at something, why not just aim to be the best? That’s much more positive and saves us a lot of stress, time and energy. How true is that?
Ricky Ponting is arguably one of cricket’s all time greats and is also one of the only three cricketers to have scored over 13,000 runs in test cricket and has over seventy centuries to his name in test cricket and ODIs.
Once when Ponting was asked the secret of his ability to score so brilliantly, he simply replied, “Every batsman surveys the field before going on strike and usually the fielders get imprinted on his mind. He can almost see every fielder in his mind’s eye. But in my head, I don’t see the fielders. I see only the gaps!”
My point here is that you will never succeed if you only view life as a colossal obstacle that has to be fought with and competed with for every day of your life. Focus instead, on the opportunities and not the competition. In many ways, life is like a game of cricket. You have one job—score runs. There will always be fielders to oppose you and there will be opposing captains that will try their hardest to stop you from achieving your target. But instead of focusing on the fielders—the obstacles and competition, focus on the gaps—the opportunities!
The only thing that really matters in this world is what lies inside us. Our fancy phones, the clothes we wear, the cars we drive—really don’t matter. What matters is what kind of a human being we really are. You can be first in everything—winning everything with flying colours and notorious for your competitive nature. But if on the inside, you are not a good person, if you don’t have the right values—then none of the other things really matter.
As long as we don’t get carried away, a little competition is good and healthy. But don’t let it dictate who you are and never let it reach such a stage where you are forced to compromise your beliefs and your ideals. Don’t be dismissive of the small joys and victories in life, as ultimately, it’s the small things that make the big things.
‘All things that are, are with more spirit chased than enjoy’d.’