Competitiveness – Why It’s an Unwanted Virtue

Competitiveness is enshrined as a virtuous feature of society. It is a virtue that we must all develop and practice from early in life, we are told. It is perhaps a part of our capitalist system – the so-called free market economy because of which we are all persuaded to compete rather than cooperate. As a spiritual curator that constantly strives for love and peace, helping countless people discover their authentic selves, I have always found this rather strange.

Competitiveness is all-pervasive and is present at every stage and in all spheres of life. There is competition in sport, in academics, in one’s professional life. Some amount of competitiveness is seen as natural and desirable, and even within the family: with siblings, cousins, and so on. What if I told you that competitiveness isn’t all it’s cracked up to be? I think it will surprise my readers to know how competitiveness can actually prevent self-actualization and prevent us from achieving our full potential.

Conditioned to be competitive.

Our whole society hinges on competition: there are exams in school to determine who worked hardest or longest or had the most aptitude for a given subject. There are awards in show biz, in the arts, in industry – there is competition and a grading system in pretty much every sphere of life. It makes us excel, we are told. It is exciting and makes one more determined to succeed and more focused on one’s goals. It makes us work harder, they say, and success is, of course, what we as a society are trained to value above almost all else.

For the longest time, I bought into this narrative about competitiveness being necessary and worthy as well. At one point in life, I was into archery, and boy, was I competitive! The whole point of archery is that you win if your arrow is closer to the bullseye than any other arrow. Later I moved into the performing arts and found singing and conducting also to be highly competitive.

Competitiveness is not a virtue.

Competition is not just about doing your best; it is about hoping that others don’t do as well. For one to win, another has to lose. The aim of competition is not really noble now, is it? Let me ask you to cast your mind back to a time when you were in a situation where everything hinged upon you doing better than everyone else. How did you feel? Did you have butterflies in your stomach? Clammy hands? Were you stressed? Didn’t feel very good, did it?

So, I feel that too much competitiveness is corrosive. It keeps us from fully experiencing life and its beauty. It takes the joy out of doing. When I took competitiveness out of the equation in my music, I found that I was enjoying music more fully and experiencing the notes in a more pure and perfect form. I found that I was able to make peace with myself, and embrace joy and creativity when I relinquished the urge to compete. Watch this to learn why competitiveness is more vice than virtue, and to understand how I overcame the social conditioning that causes us to compete. You can do it too.

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