Competition LO18187

Fred Nickols (
Mon, 25 May 1998 07:26:39

Replying to Roxanne Abbas in LO18163 --

In LO18139 Fred Nickols says:

>>In reflecting on this thread, I don't recall seeing any instances of
>>competition with one's self. In golf, for example, you compete with your
>>own past performance. The action is between you and the golf course, not
>>you and other players. Where you finish is a function of how well you
>>play, not your interactions with other players. Would this serve as an
>>instance of healthy competition?

In LO18163 Roxanne replies:

>Fred, I want to take us back to Webster's definition of competition as a
>contest between rivals. Although people frequently using the phrase
>"competing with myself", this is not a correct use of the word. In LO
>language we are seeking Personal Mastery. We are simply trying to build
>our skills or capabilities.

Okey-dokey, let's go to Websters. Competition is a noun, a name for the
act of competing. To compete is to strive (often together, not just in
opposition). Compete is an intransitive verb, it requires no object. It
is an act all its own. It traces to contend, which also means to strive,
often in opposition, and especially in debate as when points such as the
meaning of competition are being disputed. The other relevant root word
in this discussion is rivalry, which typically refers to one's opponent,
but just as easily refers to some other yardstick for comparison (as in
competing against one's own past performance).

It seems to me, Roxanne, that you are centered on a particular instance of
competition, a rivalry between two or more people for a prize of some
kind, in which case there is clearly a winner and one or more losers. I
agree with your general notion that this kind of competition can have very
destructive effects in organizations. I don't buy the notion that all
forms of competition are bad or destructive. (I'm too much of a
competitor to do that.)

>I think that the game of golf offers a useful example for our discussion.
>I play golf regularly because I enjoy the fresh air, the quiet natural
>beauty of the course, socializing with friends and the challenges of the
>sport. My goal in a round of golf is to enjoy the day. When I golf with
>people who are highly competitive, who either want to beat me or to beat
>their previous score on the course, my enjoyment of the game is
>diminished. Competitive golfers often become absorbed in their own game
>and become very unpleasant when it doesn't meet their expectations.

So what? You have your reasons and you take your pleasure; so do others.
That these differ doesn't surprise me.

>Sometimes I feel that highly competitive people have a psychological need
>to prove themselves, either to themselves or to others. If there is truth
>to this statement, I would say that entering competitions is perhaps the
>worse way for them to heal themselves. It may ease the pain in the short
>term, just as liquor satisfies the cravings of an alcoholic.

I think that some highly competitive people have a need to prove
themselves. I think almost all of them have a need to test themselves
from time to time, to stay in fine fettle as it were. I do not think that
all or even most highly competitive people are broken and trying to heal
themselves through competition. Nor, for that matter, do I share your
view that competition is necessarily a bad way and certainly not the worst
way for people who are broken to attempt healing themselves. Triumphing
in the right kind of competition can go a long way toward restoring a
sagging self image.

Lastly, a question for you: Do you realize/recognize that you are engaged
in a competition with many other list members regarding the meaning and
the value of competition?


Fred Nickols
The Distance Consulting Company

"The Internet offers the best graduate-level education
to be found anywhere."


Fred Nickols <>

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