ARE YOU READY FOR A COMPETITION?
“Today’s life is all about competition. Let’s make our children competitive to win in life. That’s the theory of nature too – survival of the fittest…” An eminent speaker said during a parent-teachers meet in my kids’ school few years ago. The audience was applauding loudly.
Everybody teaches kids to be competitive. The ultimate Goal is “winning”.
Can everybody win? Only one person can be no. 1, right? So the remaining 99% of the public ends up in disappointment, frustration and depression. Eventually suicide happens.
This competitive and winning spirit takes toll on children’s body and mind. The effects can be intense anger, fearful, crying, insecure feeling, becoming overly anxious about competing, cheating, withdrawal from friends and other activities, unsportsmanlike conduct, and/or using performance enhancing tonics or even drugs. (I know some people give their kids “brain enhancing” tonics!)
While discussing about this attitude, another parent asked me: “Should we let our children fail in life? Without competition spirit, can they achieve any goal? They will become inferior in the society…”
I love chilly hill stations. When hill station becomes a destination, I have to drive car (my work towards the goal). In fact, I love driving in ghat areas. I can enjoy the scenic beauty, the music in the car stereo and sharp turns and thrilling curves – such driving provides me a lot of pleasure. But once I reach the hill station, I get into a hotel/resort room. There is nothing else to do inside this room. So, it is not the destination that’s important. It is the travel to the destination. Travel or driving is your karma. The problem is people consider Karma as by-product of the result. It should be the other way around.
“How can it be? Nobody enjoys hard work. They do work, only because they have no other way. If we don’t have aim or ambition, nobody would work…”
“Of course, we need to have an aim or goal. We have to work hard towards it. But whether we reach there is not in our hands. So without competitive spirit, we have to work hard (do our karma).”
“How’s it possible?” he asked me.
“Just suppose you are participating in 100 meters running race. You can have two attitudes to practice (1) Give your 100%, practice with dedication, devotion and determination (2)Just work hard and smart, with a single focus on goal to win -you work only because you want to win.”
“How’s it going to affect the result…?”
“There can only be two results – win or lose. But the attitude will definitely go a long way in the life of the runner. For instance, you get second or third place only (or fail). If you have practiced with the first attitude, the mind will tell you: “Okay, you have done your best. But this was your destiny”. You will find immense solace and contentment. On the other hand, if you have practiced with the second type of attitude, the mind would tell you:”If you have tried harder, you would have reached first place…” This will create frustration and anger…”
“Hmm…I had never thought that way…” he said.
“It’s not your problem – our so-called civilized society prefers the second attitude…”I said.
Let’s have a goal. Let’s work hard (do our karma) with “dedication, devotion and determination” (the three Ds) and not to compete with anybody. This would make children strive to achieve harmony with people around them.
In India, our ancestors didn’t teach us to compete. They taught us how to co-operate and compromise. They didn’t teach us to fight and come first. They taught us to be creative; to be loving, blissful, without any comparison with the other. Because, everybody is a unique expression.
Nowhere in our scriptures told that can we be happy only when we are the first.
They said both ‘Prayatna’ (effort) and ‘Prarthana’ (prayer) are necessary. And do not bother about the result. One may put in 100 percent effort but the final result depends on a factor called grace. Despite 100 percent effort, finally what does the magic is a factor called grace. That’s what we have to teach our children. The moment you understand that there is a factor called grace, then you become sensitive to help from the invisible hand.
Children become unhappy in life because they are victims of our expectations. They have become competition items. We are instilling only self-interest in them, teaching that everyone is your competitor and enemy… Be aware that when self-interest or ego prevails in our mind, we begin to compete with everyone for everything – tomorrow, these same children would think that you are also their enemy. And then you would lament, “Children ill-treated us”!
“This is so true Uday, but in today’s life nobody would want to believe this…”
“Modern management philosophy puts primary emphasis on competition, while our ancestors focused on collaboration and individual creativity. For instance, in the West there is greater emphasis on goal achievement for the firm, while in the East, success of the firm is an inevitable by-product of the goal of making this world a better place to live in.”
Modern day management tells you karma is an input which can be hired, while Indian philosophy focuses on duty as one’s dharma. People are not competition. Life is not a “me versus them” proposition. Life isn’t about being better, richer or smarter than the people around you either. It’s about loving. It’s about caring and sharing…
Let me share my experience with you. During my teens, I was very ambitious – I participated in lot of competitions and won prizes, lot of fans and followers from my college days…Everything went into my head making me so egoistic at very young age. And there was nothing to rectify me…I wouldn’t listen to anybody…”
At the age of 24, I was traveling in South India (I work for 10 months, save money and travel for the remaining two months – that was my life style) Mostly, I depend upon temple food when I travel (Even today I like temple food). Once I was standing in a queue for Annadana (free afternoon lunch in the temple) and there was huge rush and they would close the door after the hall is full. I was very hungry. There was an old man standing in front of me. Long bearded, wearing shabby clothes and had a cloth bag in his shoulders. He looked like a beggar, but I guessed he was a villager. We were looking each other with a competitive spirit. We were impatient because any moment a block can happen preventing us from entering into the hall. I was thinking – if they put in the blocking rope in front of me and letting people up to him inside, what would I do? I felt envious. So a nasty thought occured to me – when people start pushing, I should pull him behind me and get inside first…”
“Then what happened…”
“Unfortunately, they put the rope just in front of me, to block the queue to prevent people from me from entering into the hall. But just before that a sudden miracle happened in a split of the second. The old man pushed me inside keeping himself just behind the rope. Before I understood what happened, I was pushed inside the hall…”
“I was shocked. I felt ashamed. Though I was very hungry I couldn’t eat the lunch. I felt too small in front of that villager; till then I was a man of ego and arrogance.”
When I came out of the lunch hall, I tried to locate him. But I couldn’t find. I understood that he had done it intentionally – Though I have experienced poverty in my life, I never experienced starvation of which I was scared about. He might have guessed it. I don’t know.
“But, this one incident was enough for me to take a vow. I am not going to compete with anybody in my life. From that day I stopped participating in any competitions…”
People around me said: You are not practical, you are a failure in life, you won’t reach anywhere, you are soft, you are chicken, you are spineless, you didn’t use opportunity to grow and expand”
I took a clear stance – I know who I am and I don’t want to convince others. I don’t worry about others approval or disapproval. Because the divine force through the villager taught me that the real winning is letting others win. I decided that I would help at least 100 people in my life to win their own dreams and goals…
“But at the end, you will be a loser….”
“I am not worried – my future is the divine’s responsibility now. Till this day, the divine existence has seen to it that I don’t lose. It provided me more than what I can ask for – that too without participating in any competition. Where-ever I go in this world, I get friends to help me…”
Let me work hard for myself and my goal… Let me enjoy my karma. MY HARD WORK IS NOT A COMPETITION ITEM. So I don’t need any world cup or local cup. Winning is serving others. It is about sharing and caring. Winning is leaving a legacy that will last long after we breathe our last breath.
© Uday Lal Pai. Please contact the author for re-posting or publishing at firstname.lastname@example.org