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Competition – How Much is Too Much?

Let me start out by stating that I am competitive, at times very competitive, so as I ask you to reflect on the title of this article, I am reflecting right along with you.

The emphasis on winning at times has become all consuming – be the fastest, smartest, win the game, get the highest grade, beat the competition. These in and of themselves are not necessarily bad intentions, however, if taken to an extreme can possibly impede long-term performance.

Recently I heard a story about a high school football player who was injured so badly in the early part of the game that he required 10 facial stitches – returning to the game in the fourth quarter to ensure victory for his team. Now while this example could be slightly out of context – there are many examples surrounding us that may suggest that an over-emphasis on winning, winning at all costs, has created unhealthy levels of competition.

At a recent girls softball game, a game was protested by one coach, alleging that the other team was using overage players. His team, as you might have guessed was not the team that won the protested game.

Let’s take a look at the root of the word competere, which literally means to participate. It wasn’t until more recently the meaning has taken on the focus of beating someone else.

And while I find winning more fun than losing, I am also learning that narrowly defining anything as fun solely based on the outcome can be very limiting and uninspiring for me.

For me,  a healthier approach involves broadening what win means. In sports it could include, not only winning the game, but also doing your best, being a supportive teammate, being genuinely happy for other’s success, including the opposition. Seeing that we are truly all connected.

In business, it could be aligning decisions with the values and mission of the organization; assessing the value proposition of anything beyond just dollars and cents; being a learning organization that truly encourages initiative and treats mistakes as growth and learning opportunities; and working collaboratively with all colleagues and being willing to give up control.

So think about both your paradigm and behavior regarding competition and winning, is it too much?

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