Life beyond being a spectator
Monday, 14 November, 2011In the last issue we discussed the story of the man who reduced himself, out of ignorance, to a spectator in a game that he should have been the main man.
We went on to posit that in a sense most people are like that man. They are born to win, but they never give themselves a chance because they never engage in the activities that are necessary to win. We elaborated that there are two groups of people in every field of human endeavour; these are the spectators and the players. In the economic field, there are those that are making it economically while the rest are either part players or spectators and commentators. In the political field, there are those that are running the show and the also-rans on the field of play and the rest are spectators and commentators. However, in the grand scheme of things life is all about service; service to one's country, service to humanity and indeed service to self, yet in all these areas if one is not careful one can become a spectator while others thrive and flourish.
It does not matter where you are at in life, the question to ask yourself is, "Am I a spectator or a player." You ought to be fed up of being a spectator and muster the willingness and resolve to be a participator in the game of life.
However, there are other people who are already players in this game of life. What principles should govern and direct their conduct. This issue seeks to address that matter.
How you play is more important than winning
Nothing captures the essence of this principle better than the words of the Olympic Creed which reads, "The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph, but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered, but to have fought well." What makes a lasting impression on people in life is not necessarily the final outcome but the manner in which the contest was conducted. It is very important to get results and sometimes society teaches us that it is even more important to get ahead because life tends to reward people in terms of the results they get. However, how we achieve the victory is as important if not more important than the victory. If you use unfair advantage to get ahead in life, then you are not a winner but a loser. If you play foul in order to win then you are not a winner but a cheat. Winning is important, yes, but it should never be at the cost of your reputation and your integrity. The essential thing, as the creed says, is not to have conquered in life but to have fought well. When people discuss the life of a great athlete or any great person, they never speak fondly of the statistics but they always dwell on the memorable moments he or she produced. The truth is that people do not mark you according to your score, but according to whether you played well or not.
Winning is not getting ahead of others, it is getting ghead of yourself
Your greatest competition is not with your rival, but it is with yourself. If you beat all competition and yet do not become the very best you could be in the process, then in the grand scheme of the game of life you have lost.
Most people push ahead to get ahead of others. That is a natural tendency, and in fact society teaches us to be competitive. At school society gives us grades and numbers thus imprinting in our minds that we should strive to get ahead of others if we are to be rewarded in life. However, far more important than getting ahead of others is to bring the best out of yourself. Winning is not about comparison with other people's performances. Winning is about contributing the maximum while you are still able.
You may win or you MAY lose but you must never be defeated
In every contest there is a winner and there is what the other judges and umpires will declare the loser. Whatever the outcome of the contest, defeat is a personal choice.
People are never defeated by the opponent, or the circumstances. People are only defeated by themselves.
Defeat is an attitude of the mind. Winning or losing may be determined by the score, but defeat goes far beyond the score. Defeat is the attitude that you carry with you after the contest. It is the spirit that you nurse after a failed attempt. You may lose but chose not to be down-trodden or you may lose and then go around with your head hanging low like a sore loser. The results will not always go our way, but we can always choose the attitude that we nurse after the results. People are defeated when they give up. People are defeated when they lose heart, and people are defeated when they stop giving their best efforts at every turn. Defeat is therefore a poor choice of attitude among alternatives.
The Purpose Of Competition
Competition provides us with feedback but should never be the end in itself. Until we match our skills with another or against a competitor we seldom know the extent of our strengths and weaknesses.
The problem with this approach is that we tend to measure performance relative to another person or group. True competition should be competition against a standard. We should therefore set our standards and set them high and then hold ourselves accountable to accomplish them.
The downside of competition is that it tends to become personal and in the process fuels animosities and unhealthy rivalries. Competition can also usurp our views of success and failures. One eyed man among a tribe of the blind can be deluded into believing that he has a good eyesight.
Seek always to complete people rather than compete against them. When you complete people you bring the best out of them, but when you compete with them you seek to vanquish them.