a neon display of a man's head and brain

Can competition be healthy? According to Think Like A Monk by Jay Shetty1, competition hinders productivity. However, sports psychologists2 and many from younger generations, myself included, argue that competition motivates and dramatically increases productivity. Who’s right?

Would there be a point to life without competition? Sure, happiness is the life value we are all supposed to achieve, but competition is what brings life to life. Every impactful advancement in the world would not have been possible without competition. After all, each advancement was only created in order to outdo the last, isn’t it?

Take communism versus democracy, for example. When the Soviet Union attempted to succeed as a communist country, it became transparent that democracy would always prevail. Maybe evenly distributing money across people would demolish poverty, but overtime society would collapse. When working harder brings no rewards, what incentive would people have to do so? Human tendency is to be lazy, so when people are provided with money regardless of whether they work extremely hard or don’t work at all, hardly anyone will work. If no one does their job, society will unquestionably suffer and people will begin to die.

Competition is crucial for keeping the market running in a productive and efficient manner, as well as in politics3. However, even when brought to a smaller scale, it’s the same. When not competing with others, individuals will have no drive to be better, to work harder. Whether it’s with academics, public speaking, or sports and athletics, the goal of working harder is invariably to be better than other people.

In another article specific to sport and competition, Psychology Today explains that sports psychology is the mental training that athletes need in order to perform at their best4. The mental training is split into three main parts: training for endurance and self-improvement, training for mindset towards teammates, and training for mindset towards opponents. It is this third type of training that most concerns the idea of competition.

Competition can also be helpful in raising awareness for good causes and encouraging more donations. A study conducted in the journal Nature Climate Change backs up the idea that although competition may not teach people to deeply care about a social issue, it does wonders in raising awareness and money for the cause. After all, money is what will allow for the reforms that eventually help society and the cause.

The importance of competition in human society aside, what makes us so competitive in nature and desperate for the feeling of being “better”? Many scholars believe that competitiveness is a biological trait and overtime it has become intertwined with that of human survival3. Consequently, asking when the competing feeling will get a break is similar to asking when the feeling of attempting to survive will get a break.

References:

  1. Shetty, Jay R. Think Like a Monk. Simon & Schuster, Inc., 2020.
  2. Mack, Gary, and David Casstevens. Mind Gym : An Athlete’s Guide to Inner Excellence: An Athlete’s Guide to Inner Excellence. McGraw Hill Professional, 2002.
  3. Linden, Sander van der Ph.D. “The Psychology of Competition.” Psychology Today, 24 June 2015, www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/socially-relevant/201506/the-psychology-competition.
  4. “Sport and Competition.” Psychology Today, 18 May 2009, www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/sport-and-competition#sports-psychology.
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