Whatever you do, do it for the joy it gives you, do it with love – don’t do it to be the first or the only one or to be famous!
Our education system is such that it forces us to be competitive even before we understand what it means to compete. The whole social environment of a child (particularly in India) is focused on academic excellence. And that is measured not by how much the child has learned and imbibed, but by what grades the child has got. So, naturally, there is anxiety among young, impressionable children – they all want to be the first in class – even if not for themselves but to do their parents proud! However, the nature of any competition is such that there can only be one first. Everyone else will have to follow. So, the ones who do not get to be first in class, continue to compete, often vainly, rabidly. And the one who stood first is competing to protect and so becomes possessive of her or his first position! This continues through college. At work. And in society. Look around you. You will find this evident in all walks of Life – even in a queue in India, where people simply have to push and jostle to get into a movie hall or a plane!
Let me clarify. I am not against aggressive people or against competition. But if competing is going to make you miserable – thinking about winning all the time and feeling depressed if you don’t win – then what’s the point in doing whatever you are doing? A constant state of urgency and the often-avoidable aggression, takes away the joy that any activity can deliver, especially when the focus is only on winning, on coming first, on being hailed, on becoming famous!
Whatever you do in Life has to fundamentally give you joy! If you are not feeling the joy when you are doing something, it is simply not worth doing it. Good coaches will always inspire people to strive to be the best, deliver what they are truly capable of, while enjoying themselves in the process. If what gives you joy also gives you wealth, fame and recognition, great! But if you work with only wealth, fame or recognition in mind, if you play the game only because you have to be the first – it may just not always be possible. Because, chances are, someone may be better than you are on any given day. That doesn’t mean you are worthless. But your hunger to win and your lusting to be number 1 will make you believe you are good-for-nothing. The Bhagavad Gitaexplains this simply, beautifully. Krishna says: “Don’t focus on the result at all!” – just make sure the “motive is pure” and the “means are right (ethical)”. Offer whatever you are doing to “Me”.
Look at any great artiste or sportsman or actor or business leader. You will find one trait common in all of them. They simply lose themselves to whatever they are doing. They are not bothered about what people are thinking or about winning or losing or about coming first. They are offering themselves, and their craft, to Life (cosmic parlance for the “Me” in the Gita!). When the doer becomes the deed, when the singer becomes the song, when the painter becomes the art – magic happens. If the magic delivers a world-class performance, and with it material rewards, fantastic. But even if doesn’t, a truly great professional will not bother. Because she or he has enjoyed the process of doing thoroughly!
Life is not a 100-metre race. How you run in Life and did you enjoy yourself running – these are far more important aspects to consider than any medal that you may win at the end of the run! So, the next time you are placed in a competitive context, compete by all means. But do so only so long as you don’t lose the joy of doing, or sleep, over wanting to win or be the first or the only one!