The True Value of Competition
Now that the Winter Olympics have passed, I find myself gearing up for the month-long World Cup in
After the 2004 Olympics, Michael Josephson wrote the following piece about competition. As spring reappears, and the various ball fields begin to fill, consider his words below as you participate, either as an active competitor or as a passive spectator, in a sporting event.
Winning the Silver or Losing the Gold?
During the 1996 Olympics, a popular Nike ad sent the message: "You don`t win the silver. You lose the gold." That’s consistent with the sentiment often attributed to Vince Lombardi -- "winning isn’t everything; it’s the only thing" -- that’s become a modern mantra for many people who compete in sports, business and politics.
Such pumped-up attitudes about the importance of victory may be effective in motivating some people to maximum effort, but there are serious harmful side effects.
Martina Navratilova, the great Czech-born
tennis player, observed that "the moment of victory is much too short to live for that and nothing else." U.S.
Those who choose to live in a self-created, cruel and unforgiving, all-or-nothing world rarely live balanced lives, and they place enormous strain on their relationships. It`s a world more often filled with anxiety and anguish than joy because, exceptional winning streaks aside, most of us lose more often than we win.
There`s nothing wrong with wanting to win, but if losing is treated as a mortal enemy, every loss produces demoralizing feelings of failure and inadequacy. What’s more, when our self-image depends on winning, we begin to think of victory not simply as something we want, but as something we need. This makes us vulnerable to those who whisper, “If you’re not cheating, you’re not trying hard enough.”
Happier and healthier people know that winning most certainly is not everything -- it’s not even the most important thing. Real joy and fulfillment can be found not only in accomplishments and efforts that fall short of winning, but in the striving, the passionate pursuit of victory, and in the competition and the quest itself.
Additional thoughts and information about competition,