Competing with Yourself

Something I’ve notice a lot in my kids is the need for competition. If I ever want to get the kids to pick up in a hurry, just tell the oldest one it’s a race. If I want want to get them out the door, I can just ask, “Who can be the first one to put on their shoes and stand by the door?” It’s probably mean, I know, but I have always found it interesting. The same drive that fuels business executives, elite athletes, and accomplished musician, the push to get better and thrive, has already taken hold in my children.

This last marathon I had a goal. It fueled my training. It motivated me when I didn’t necessarily want to knock out a training run or eat healthy, because I would have rather have opted for an easy paced run followed by ice cream. But as I reflect on the race itself, I began to ask myself why. Why would I set a goal for a marathon? For weight or health or blog readership or social media influence? Why set a goal at all?

I think that answer lies in a different place for all of us and I think it’s important to reflect on it because therein lies the way we will identify success. If I find motivation in beating others or winning awards, then I have to contend with the fact that in order to succeed, I need others to fail. If I compete with myself, then I get to choose what success is.

This, I think, is much healthier way of being. It allows us to determine and define success for ourselves. When we compete against ourselves, we are driven to become better versions of ourselves, not simply better possible versions of somebody else. If we compete only
for something we can hold and display, we have already lost our grip on what true success is. But if we decide that the best we can do is all we can do, and let that be the standard of success, then we have a chance to succeed each and every day.

It doesn’t take long to learn to compete, it’s true. My kids learned it very early, and I’m sure we all do. But learning to compete well, to compete against ourselves and decide for ourselves what success means, is something I think we all will struggle with for the rest of our lives.

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So go, be the best that you can be, but realize that if you are comparing yourself to others, you’ve already lost.

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