Guest blog from Andrea Adler and Sheila Lewis, authors of Spanda Cards for the Entrepreneurial Spirit: Bridging Ancient Wisdom and Business Acumen
Conventional competition can thrust you into a chronic loop of vigilance and fatigue—an endless up and down cycle of performance.
We can choose to either compete with ourselves or with someone else. If you want to do your personal best, notice if your desire is rooted in a need to be greater than another person or your greatest self. We often overlook competing with our selves as a means of self-improvement.
Check inside to see if your impulse to compete involves comparison with others. Take a higher road—to compete with yourself first. This act of compassion counteracts unhealthier forms of competition and is all too rare. A marathon runner describes how she shifted her outlook before and during a race:
I was preparing for a hard race for several weeks and the day finally arrived…Excitement was in the air and my nerves started getting to me. Next thing I knew, the horn blared, and everyone was off, except me. I just froze. All my training was being put to the test. My mind said, Get going.My body could not lift even one foot…for what seemed like an eternity. And the racers were getting further away. I felt a small push on my back and heard someone say, “Go. You can do this, and it will be worth it in the end. What do you have to lose?”…and I took off. I was able to overcome obstacles in the middle of the race, propel forward and finish the race…I won first place. I was as shocked as the crowd, and realized, if there is a barrier, I can break through it and end up on top!
In a frozen moment, this runner was able to surrender. She transcended ordinary competition. With a gentle nudge from a stranger, her inner resources kicked in and she ran her best race ever.
We’re not suggesting you avoid all competition and never look at the success of others in your field. We have much to gain by mingling with and emulating the best. Competition has its place on the running field and in business, as do qualities that sharpen your competitive edge without knocking someone else down.
“But what about…?” you might ask. You hold the most collegial of intentions for the good of the whole. You’ve done your best and freely share what you know. “Will it pay off,” you wonder, “or am I being naïve?”
A young lawyer landed a job at a prestigious firm, but was frustrated by the backstabbing in his environment. He avoided the constant, toxic striving that permeated the office, and concentrated instead on learning from a respected mentor. He worked as hard as he could on each grueling case, often seeking his mentor’s counsel. His confidence and skill as a lawyer grew. Eventually, the mentor decided to leave this firm and start her own, smaller practice. She took the young lawyer with her. Despite an initial pay cut, he happily thrived.
In this story, the lawyer competed with himself and was fair in his approach to competition. He “won” the race he was running—he improved with integrity.
So how do you recognize when the act of competition isn’t working and you’re doing more harm than good? What can you do about it? Contemplate questions like these deeply and honestly. This quote from the Tao Te Ching inspires a fresh look at getting to know the competition:
Wise leaders embody
the virtue of non-competition.
Not that they don’t love to compete,
but they do it in the spirit of play.
In this they are like a child
and in harmony with the Tao.
For further contemplation, consider Spanda card 4:
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