Friday, August 15, 2008

Why do we compete?

Why do we push ourselves so hard?

To challenge ourselves?

Or to promote ourselves?

For the thrill of victory...

while risking the agony of defeat?

Why do we compete?

Whether as amateurs or professionals, whether as future medalists or worthy opponents, what inspires our goal-setting, our concentration and dedication, our hard work? What makes all the difference?

And how might these questions relate to a discussion of communication?


Guo Cheng said...

Winning itself is enjoyable. I always feel happy when I can throw someone on mat. Maybe trying to win is human nature.

Brad Blackstone said...

If winning is "human nature," then I suppose losing is also. Some people, cynics certainly, would add that we all lose in the end.

Sharon said...

I guess from a biological and evolutionary perspective, the desire to win may reflect general survival instincts.

If this is so, then losing cannot be part of "human nature".

Perhaps that is why it is difficult to accept losing whereas the feeling of joy upon winning occurs almost instantly? After all, you don't find coping strategies for winning, do you?

Brad Blackstone said...


I like your scientific approach to answering the question of competing. That is very relevant!
Of course, in a struggle for survival, some participants win, and some lose---always. Part of nature is losing a struggle, whether I'm an antelope being eaten by a lion or a table tennis player being defeated by an opponent in a match. Or not?

Tan Zhenyun said...

In my point of view, I thought the main reason for people to compete among each other is so as to maximize our own potential. The presence of challengers, the belief of "I can do better than him/her" served as an motivation for them to strive better, to push themselves further. Ultimately, of course the thrill of winning is what a person seek to achieve.

But I supposed, improvements can only be done if there is competition.

Brad Blackstone said...


Thanks for the interesting comments! I think your point that through competition a species (or the sporty types) improve is well taken. We certainly see evidence of that in sport.

Just look at the Olympics. It seems that with each new set of Olympic games, new world and Olympic records are set in track and field. Over the course of the last 50 years, for example, the world record time for the mile run/1500 meters has been reduced significantly. I remember when there was constant talk of the breaking the hallowed "4 minute mile." Nowadays mile runners look to go beneath 3 minutes and 40 seconds (the record is near 3 minutes 43 second).

We see the same developments in building construction, nanotechnology, space exploration, biomedical research and many other fields. Amazing developments each and everyone, thanks to the competitive human spirit. (Sadly, however, there are also competitions that harm humans, such as the "arms race" and drive to have the best/most deadly weapons in the world...)

Guo Cheng said...

"For the flame and glory", one of my coach said that.

JIAN said...

To win!The reason is rather simple!

The advantage of competitions among people is that you will never know what the limits are. It does not like an exam, 100 marks is the upper limit. There is no doubt.While in competitions among human beings, you will never know wha thet the limits are. This property motivates us to work harder and harder to break the existed records and set the new ones. It never ends! The endless process is the origin of development of the whole society!

Chandra's ES2007S Blog said...

Hi Brad,

I was reading several of your old posts and found them really interesting and being a sportsman myself, I wanted to share my thoughts on this post. I know that not many people here know about cricket but let me talk about a legendary Indian cricketer called Rahul Dravid. His career was totally overshadowed by another legend, Sachin Tendulkar. But Dravid was never intimidated by his colleague's achievements. This is what Dravid said in his retirement speech (I do not remember the exact words), "God gave me a talent. I wanted to see how far I could reach. I was curious to find out what my best was. Now I know that and I am satisfied. I have no regrets that I did not score as many runs or centuries as Sachin".
I respect these words. It is about challenging ourselves. There are always going to be people better than us but we cannot surrender without giving our best. Personally, losing a difficult game or a battle pains me but I enjoy that pain. Yes, its ironical. But when you have given your best, you have a sense of satisfaction and a desire to keep improving.
Really liked this post :)


Brad Blackstone said...

Thanks, Chandra, for your comments. Yes, I can see that you embrace challenges. If nothing else, it makes life interesting!