Don’t Forget the Joy of (Real) Competition

When’s the last time you competed in a sport?

Do you still remember the starting gun, the cheering crowds, the nervous energy before an event? Do you remember the buzzer sounds, the camaraderie, the triumph of victory?

Most of us leave these things behind in high school. I never (besides in theatre and quiz bowl – hey, I was a bookish guy) never really got them. But since I became a runner, I’ve learned to love the atmosphere and all the trappings of competition.

Beyond just the joy of winning, competitions like races or sports games create almost sacred spaces in which it’s honored to push yourself and exceed your limits. The headspace in a competition is drastically different from the headspace of isolated self-improvement (solo runs, pickup basketball, etc.) There is a camaraderie with your fellow athletes that sweeps past social isolation, and tons of humans come out to cheer you on. It feels meaningful.

And that’s something I bet you’re missing since those younger days.

There may be plenty of competition in adult life, but most of it is less than honest and doesn’t announce itself for what it is. You compete with your coworkers (in influence), or you compete with the neighbors (in status), but you have none of the pure clean joy of winning a race or a match. No one (maybe your spouse) cares all that much about your church softball league game on Sunday.

It’s time to make real competitions a part of your life again. And it’s easy to get started.

Try racing: training and competing in simple 5Ks or in harder triathlons, marathons, etc. requires little equipment and is possibly the fastest way to draw on the energies of real competition.

When else in your life are strangers going to cheer you on? When else in your life are you going to be surrounded by other people pulling and working hard toward the same goal?

You don’t have to win – you just have to win against yourself (cliche – yes). But why not win against yourself alongside everyone else?

Photo by Victoire Joncheray on Unsplash

James Walpole

James Walpole is a writer, startup marketer, and perpetual apprentice. You're reading his blog right now, and he really appreciates it. Don't let it go to his head, though.

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