Today is Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Competing with progress

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At any time of the year, you can find it. On manicured fields or the hot asphalt in the summer. Inside stadiums, arenas and gyms in the cooler months. No matter the season, you can find competition taking place. And that's a good thing. Competition can be healthy and inspiring. Like anything else though, it can also have a dark side.

Let's say you sign your son or daughter up for an activity. You think it'll teach them the value of hard work. But what if your child isn't working as hard as the other kids on the field? What if they're not as competitive? Do you sit them down and have a talk about hard work? Do you send them to a trainer or tougher family member to instill some discipline? Hmmm.

Pushing our children to increase their competitive spirit can result in greatness as well as tragedy. I had a friend in my teenage years whose father was a tennis coach. His dad pushed him hard, relentlessly actually. He practiced for hours every day throughout high school, and it paid off. He came out of high school nationally ranked and earned himself a scholarship into college. But that's not all.

My friend also earned himself an attitude. He viewed tennis as a wimpy sport. He disliked it on his best days and hated it on his worst. He seemed to feel the same way about his father. To prove his toughness, he was quick to fight anyone who taunted him. It also led him to several hard drug habits. He drank on an almost nightly basis, which usually concluded with him running out of the apartment to fight somebody and the police showing up. He eventually quit the tennis team and dropped out of college. Not long after, he overdosed on cocaine (or heroin, I'm still not sure to this day) and died. I have my thoughts, but you be the judge of why his brief life played out this way.

To say competition increases the stakes would obviously be a gross understatement. It can take a friendly pickup game of basketball and turn it into a sweat-soaked foul fest in a matter of minutes. Alternatively, we sometimes give little thought to the humdrum games during the middle of a season; however, once a championship is on the line, people can quickly lose touch with their sense of humanity. Just do a YouTube search for "crazy soccer fans."

Let's revisit the kiddos. What if little Johnny or Jessica doesn't feel up to par with the other kids on the field of athletic achievement? They may prefer the academic or artistic areas of accomplishment. Maybe they prefer these areas because they are allowed to compete against themselves, not the expectations of their parents or peers.

Everything I've said in my brief time this week has been leading up to this: my third core value, that of pursuing progress, not perfection. One will fulfill us and lead to a journey of growth, development and happiness. The other leads to frustration, sabotage and surrender.

I believe a large part of keeping our focus on progress is to not obsess on competition with others, but to focus on the comparison of our own growth as it relates to time.

What I mean by that is simply comparing yourself to another person can quickly rob you of your joy and sense of success. However, keeping an eye on your personal progress, self-development and growth will lead you to seek out new means of improvement, new ways to be a better you, new paths to be a better person to all those you know and love.

As you go about your day, think about where you were last year. Are you better than the you of yesteryear? What about where you want to be next year? What can you do today to take that next step?

Competition has its place, and it can be beneficial, that much is clear. But we'd be wise to take care in our desires of comparison. To hear more about progress and perfection, head over to, click "Blogs" and click "Constant Improvement.' In it, I explain how you can use them to your benefit and suggest ways to move forward in your own life while also dropping comparison, the thief of joy.

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