A flower does not think
Of competing with the flower next to it.
It just blooms. (Zen Shin)
Imagine a world without competitions
There is a wise Chinese proverb that clearly demonstrates how a competitive spirit is destructive: When an archer hits a target, not expecting a reward, he uses the fullness of his ability; When he hits to win the gold medal, he becomes nervous, blind, sees the two goals, and is all alone. His shooting skills did not change; His expectations divided him. This is very important to him. He is thinking more about winning than about shooting. The strong need to win draws the energy that was needed to shoot.
Does this remind us of the behavior of many people in this competitive world? Anthony de Mello in his book Awareness notes that when you live for only one particular purpose, you have total energy and all your skills, knowledge and abilities are available to you. When you are not burdened with competitions and goals, you are relaxed and it is not important whether you win or lose.
I would add a verse to Lennon’s song “Imagine”: Imagine a world without competition. Well, we can’t stop competitions, but we can help children develop a healthy attitude toward these ego-traps and help them to be archers who use the fullness of their abilities. First of all, we need to change the way we reward children for their achievements.
Over-complimenting the child
The way we praise our children has a major impact on their development of life values. Many parents believe that praising kids for every little thing they accomplish contributes to their confidence, self-esteem, and motivation.
In the book “The Danish Way of Parenting” the authors suggest that it is much better to focus on the task, rather than over-complimenting the child. This helps children focus on the work involved rather than the potential praise that might come from that work, and in turn, it teaches humility. This promotes their strength and resilience. In addition to that, the Danish authors mention important research done by Stanford psychologists.
Praise is closely connected to how kids view their intelligence. If they are constantly praised for being naturally smart, talented or gifted, they start believing that their intelligence is fixed and that they don’t have to work hard. They become afraid to put much effort into doing something because effort makes them feel dumb. In contrast to that, children who are told that their intelligence can be developed with work and education know that they can further develop their skills if they work on it.
It’s The Journey Not The Destination
Children who are encouraged to focus on efforts rather than on goals are likely to enjoy the process and see positive aspects of working hard on something. Instead of saying “bravo”, “great”, “awesome”, “brilliant”, “genius” or other popular praising words, we could just describe what we notice, for example, “There were so many puzzle pieces and it was pretty hard to put them together but you didn’t give up!”
Focusing on effort, we teach our children that success is not a destination, but the road that you’re on. You know the quote: “It’s The Journey Not The Destination”. In relation to mountain climbing, this is generally an activity where we should enjoy every breath without the pressure to get to the top in a short amount of time. Nature is about relaxing and enjoyment but competition carries stress, tension, and disappointments.
So, what happened to mountain climbing? It has turned in to a competition. One former alpinist said that people who went to the Alps and other high mountains, who survived extreme conditions, climbed vertical cliffs and slept at the height of the eternal snow should keep these firm rules: always help the weaker, go the pace that matches the weakest and share all you have. Is there a more humane, more natural way of behaving? However, this behavior is dwindling as climbing mountains has become a competitive sport with its own rules, winners and losers.