September 25 – The only truly important competition in life

September 25. “Our business in life is not to get ahead of others, but to get ahead of ourselves, to break our own records, to outstrip our yesterday by our today.” (Stuart B. Johnson)

I grew up with sports. I watched, played, and read about sports of many kinds. Baseball was my first love and I collected thousands of baseball cards – reading the backs of most of them. I also watched football and basketball along the way. I spent many Saturdays watching Wide World of Sports, and seeing many other competitions as well. In sports there are winners and losers, statistics and standings. Results of sporting events tend to be very black and white. Partly as a result of all this, I tend to be a competitive person.

I spent a lot of energy in my younger years struggling with an overly-competitive mindset. I saw everything in life as a competition to be won. Game night would frequently end as argument night. I would become so focused on winning that I would lose the sense of fun in the game itself, and thereby miss the point of why families and friends come together to play. As I have progressed into my middle-aged years, the edge of my competitive sword has dulled. I no longer see everything as a chance to count up winners and losers. I am still competitive, to be sure, and at times that spirit of competition will rise up in me again, but not with nearly the force or frequency of my youth.

In this quote, Johnson tells us that the most important, and really the only competition of importance in our lives should be the one we have with ourselves. My daily mission is not to beat the person next to me, or to win at some real or fictional game. My daily mission is to be the best version of me that I can be, to progress myself a little ahead of where I was yesterday, and to set myself up to be a little further ahead tomorrow.

Today my reflection is on being fiercely competitive with myself, to continuously work toward being the best that I can be, and to be ever-improving.

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