The Myth of Competition 2

The Myth of Competition 2

Yesterday we saw that the Myth of Competition—the notion that competition is necessary for survival—is a deeply ingrained idea that has developed a positive connotation, and that it is, in fact, a weakness.

Today I want to discuss how competition dulls our faculties and makes us function at a low level.


Focus on competition constricts our abilities

Because competitiveness has such a positive penumbra, it may seem counterintuitive to say that it actually constricts our faculties. By focusing our attention on competition more and more, we channel all our capacities into constructing battle plans. We use our intelligence to devise strategies to counter our opponents. We use our strength to overpower him. We use our senses to notice the smallest variations in his activity, in order to anticipate his movements against us. In short, all our faculties become reactive, become dependent on our opponent for their next move.

Of course there are aspects of life that require such an attunement to the actions of another. There are times when someone is determined to fight with us, and we had better have the ability to keep track of him, sense his movements, outsmart and overpower him.

But to pretend that all, or even most, of life is like that is simply to falsify reality. Unless you live in a war zone, not even the harshest of environments lacks interludes during which we can let our thoughts run free, let our senses drink in the surroundings, let our bodies free to dance or sing or run.

Believing the the Myth of Competition stunts the open-ended exercise of our most inspirational and stimulating abilities—and in doing so cramps the freedom required to be a Creator.

Continuous competition a sign of low-level function

Another failing that arises from the Myth of Competition is that continuous engagement in competition becomes a sign of low-level functioning. When we live all the time in a responsive mode, we begin to function like machines. We don’t ask any longer whether the situation facing us is a combat situation, because we cannot be satisfied until we have a challenge to treat like a competition. We view every life task as a struggle. Are we going to be able to fix that broken toilet or is it going to “beat” us?

When life doesn’t deliver up anything to respond to, we generate more situations that can be treated as competitions, either directly between us and other individuals, or vicariously between two other competitors, one of which we identify with. This is the appeal of all spectator sports.

This is yet another limitation of our abilities, in this case, of our creative powers. Of all the things we could create, we choose to create more competitions, because we have become comfortable with the limits of competition. We become co-creators of own own limitations, unwitting participants in our own low-level functioning.

None of this is to say that all competition is bad. One can choose to engage in competition as an enjoyable way of releasing energy, as a kind of game or dance. And one can choose to engage in competition as a way of developing a skill. The main point here is the ability to choose. One can even choose to engage in it as the only appropriate response to a particular situation—when, for instance, someone else is determined to make you an adversary. As long as the element of choice remains, competition is just one of many activities that can be used to achieve creative ends.

Once competition becomes a necessity, however, and once people begin to see it as the matrix of all human activity, it turns into a straightjacket.


Tomorrow we will continue our examination of the Myth of Competition. We will see that competition actually breeds vices, and that it is not, as many think, a fundamental feature of living together with other people.

Until tomorrow, then.

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