Competition Sets the Standard

I consider myself a fairly competitive person. I grew up playing lots of different sports – basketball, baseball, soccer – and probably hated losing as much as I loved winning. I lost my fair share of games, but also won a bunch that, at the time, were very important to me.

My affection for competition spreads far beyond childhood sports. We compete throughout our lives – in school, in work, etc. I, especially, hate to lose in anything that I do – often too an irrational extent I will work “extra hard” to ensure I do not finish last, etc.

But, of course, it happens. I lose all the time. Sometimes, bigger losses than others. But nonetheless losses.

Something I have been thinking a lot about lately is how competition influences me. I think about how competition has played a role in my life (and others) and if it is a positive influence.

On one hand, I think of competition as a driver. I think of how, when I go running, I need someone faster than me to set my pace. The pace setter – depending on their speed – will help me soar to new records and beat my previous bests. This is actually really important and a big driverĀ  of my time.

But then…I have been thinking about the opposite end of this spectrum…

“My competition sets my standard.”

But what if my competition sucks?

If my competition is the pace setter, then the best that I will likely do is slightly better than them. But again I ask, what if there is nothing special about my competition.

What if they are setting a poor standard? Then what?

Choosing competition is really important because it sets a benchmark for yourself. The problem – and one that I have and continue to struggle with – is who do I make my competition?

If I aim low, sure I win, but I really lose long term. I do not really challenge myself and I do not really grow much.

If I aim high, but perhaps too high, then I feel depressed all the time.

And what does low and high even really mean?

For creative endeavors, is there even a high and low threshold?

What if the only competition that is sustainable and valuable is really myself? Improving my own standards over time versus constantly trying to beat out someone else.