Back in prehistoric times when we were divided up into autonomous tribes we were often at ‘war’ with the tribe next door.
Usually over some argument about land or some other resource that we needed.
Back then things were different.
We were ‘hunter-gatherers’, we hadn’t developed even the first vestiges of ‘civilisation’ and when we found a food source or a nice bit of shelter somewhere, we needed to claim and hang on to it.
Because in truth we never knew where our next meal was coming from or even when we would find it.
So, we had to lay claim, as a matter of survival, to all that we discovered.
That meant we had to prevent our neighbours from getting a look in or even taking it away from us.
There was no ‘sharing’ then – and sometimes no sharing even within the tribe.
Back in the day – in order to survive – it was vital to ‘compete’ all the time, for everything.
If we hadn’t learnt to do that we wouldn’t be here now.
‘Competing’ is a basic instinct.
But now, in our civilised social society it’s not relevant any more and it’s certainly not useful except in a very limited number of circumstances.
The early civilisations recognised this innate need and introduced the idea of sport as a substitute for military competition around 3000 years ago.
Instead of competing with each other for some form of territorial or hierarchical gain, the idea of competing for a prize, a trophy, or just honour came about and continues to this day with more and more ‘sports’ being invented to satisfy this competitive urge.
Sport is a great concept, it’s an artificial construct which has very little to do any more with the military realities from which it was born.
After all, there really isn’t much point to have 22 people kicking a ball around a field, or 22 people driving very fast cars around a track, or 22 people throwing a ball at some sticks in the middle of a field and using another stick to stop the first sticks being knocked down.
Most sports do seem to involve some sort of ‘track’ or have something to do with getting balls to go somewhere specific.
But there is a point – it satisfies the competitive instinct, that of the players and that of the observers – two tribes – who support one team or another.
Now this would all be great if our obsession with sport did use up our competitive instinct.
But it doesn’t.
The instinct is so strong within us that we’ve extended it to pretty much everything else – totally unnecessarily and in my opinion to the detriment of our society and civilisation.
Is it really necessary for hospitals to compete with other hospitals or schools to compete with other schools?
Is it really necessary to post ‘league tables’ for pretty much everything to show who is winning the competition to be ‘best’?
And by what criteria are they ‘best’ anyway?
People interact with people, not league tables. We associate with who or what we resonate with. I really don’t care what or who is ‘top of the charts’, ‘top of the league’ or ‘best’ if I don’t resonate with them.
People are driven by all this to think that they are always in ‘competition’ with someone else and if the run a business that they are in competition with other businesses.
And then they try to work out the criteria by which they are competing, by which they are measuring this ‘competition’.
Well, in truth there aren’t any valid criteria.
Just because one company sells something at a cheaper price than another doesn’t mean it’s better, nor does it mean they are better if their product meets different standards.
People will buy what they want to buy from who they want to buy it. At the end of the day all those criteria don’t matter.
It’s all about rapport and resonance with one another and that has nothing to do with competition.
Worrying about ‘the competition’ is a waste of time and energy that diverts you and I from doing what we are doing and from being the best we can be – according to our criteria.
Only by doing that will we attract the people who we want to interact with and form relationships with them in any context that we choose.
Even some of the top sports people completely disregard other competitors so that they can focus their energy on their performance in the game.
But even when you and I do all that and do focus on doing our own thing there is still one more competitor.
The instinct is so strong that from time to time we turn it in upon ourselves. We start to compete with ourselves and this can go horribly wrong.
Measuring our performance at important tasks whether they be sales or driving a car is essential as it helps us get better and more efficient at what we do but we have to be on our guard.
When that self-measurement and self-examination becomes obsessive it can cause stress and anxiety as we drive ourselves to repeat a particular ‘win’ over and over again.
Sometimes we just need to stop.
We’ve achieved something great, we’ve achieved a goal or objective – do we really need to do it again?
There was shock and surprise in the F1 world when Nico Rosberg announced his retirement from the sport after winning the World Championship. He’d proved to himself he could do it – there was no need to do it again – it was time for something else.
When you get to the top of the mountain, stop. You don’t need to go back down and climb it again.
Climb another mountain, pick a new objective, find a new vision, start a new career.
There is no need to keep on competing with yourself once you’ve achieved what you wanted.
If you’ve proved yourself a good enough actor to receive an Oscar – do you really need another one?
We no longer need to compete for food and shelter and there are ways to divert out competitive instincts into something harmless.
Self-competition is harmful to your health and can be life threatening.
Be the best you can be – but don’t beat yourself up on the way.