1/23/15: Life is a Contest?

I go to a college preparatory high school- the kind where we begin to talk about college by sophomore year, and begin building our applications to ensure our chances of being admitted to the best college possible. Even since 7th grade, our curriculum has been centered around competition, through sports, academic contests, and grades.

As a high school student, you would think that success is exclusive; that you can only achieve happiness by competing. Being the best is the sole motivation for so many people in my life, including me. I am one of the most competitive people I know, from the soccer field to math class to spewing random facts to prove my intelligence.

I hate it. I hate the culture of high school that makes children pit themselves against one another, believing that happiness only comes to those who win. We are taught that the purpose of life is to go to the best colleges, get the best job, and make the most money. Love and peace take the back seat in the eyes of the education system. No wonder the priorities of teenagers around the country are so out of wack.

Let’s look at evolution, because that tends to be convincing to many people in today’s world. The prevailing belief of humans is that we took over the world because of our competitive edge; we crushed our opposition and battled our way tooth-and-claw into the world spotlight. But the truth is, we weren’t the strongest, fastest, or smartest animals on the prarie in the beginning. We were awkward, hairy, bipedal creatures whose chances of survival seemed slim.

So how did we get here? Through cooperation and social order. Humans are more innately social than nearly all other animals, and our social connections are deeper. Humans developed an intense capacity for love for their offspring, mates, and fellow homo sapiens. We did not abandon each other, and instead learned the skill of empathy. By sticking at each other’s sides, we were able to evolve together as a species, with each person working towards the common goal of survival. We are truly the most selfless of creatures, thanks to our profound capacity for love.

But this is virtually unknown to my generation. My generation is focused on personal gain, on competing for greatness. We are evolving away from the empathy that made our species so special, and it scares me. Just the other day I was talking to a boy in my grade who I’ve previously discussed, and he said the point of his life was to beat everyone else and make as much money as possible. I have never been sadder talking to him in my life.

Where did our value for love and kindness go? I know deep down that we are all good people, but we are losing touch with our innate connection to each other. Kids my age don’t seem to understand that we are all the same at heart, all part of a universal condition and energy. We are isolated beings who refuse to share our emotions with each other, simply afraid of being second-best. The fault lies on our competitive education system.

Schools and teachers need to move away from our culture of competition and isolation. High school is supposed to prepare kids for life. Why aren’t we teaching kids social skills, love, and kindness? Why aren’t we teaching kids that empathy and cooperation will get us far in life? That’s the way the real world works- no one wants a colleague of business partner who simply wants to outshine everyone. They want a partner, someone who wants mutual benefits. We need, then, to learn about the beauty of mutual growth in school. Students need to be prepared for life, not misled into believing it is a competition.

At the end of the day, people want to be loved, accepted, and find meaning in life. We can’t achieve this by pitting ourselves against one another. We must learn to come together.

So how does this affect you? Well, I suppose that next time you feel the need to beat everyone around you, remember: we are creatures of cooperation, not competition. The goal is not to win, but to find love. I think we all lose sight of this at times, but must come back to our central tendency towards connection. If you work with children, please, PLEASE, teach them the importance of sympathy. It is a lesson they may not learn until they have already hurt themselves and others. We need to reteach the world that competition isn’t the only thing out there, and perhaps you can help take the first step. I know I will try, for the happiness of myself and others. At the end of my life, I want to look back and think not “I was successful, the best, and made money”, but “I was happy, the kindest, and found love and connection with other humans”.

Here’s to hoping you do, too.

8 thoughts on “1/23/15: Life is a Contest?

  1. Loved reading your thoughts on this.

    Indeed school is/was to be a preparatory phase for children to be ready for life. Give them ability to make rational choices, voice their opinions, carry out their convictions in a systematic way, and live a fulfilling life.

    But irony is, in well sought after jobs, the grades are checked. “Which ivy league you attended?”, “Were you on the deans list?”, “Did you win medals?”… All those questions can only be answered if the student competed, worked hard, became better than others… atleast at grades, learning, remembering etc. Have not heard anyone asking “How many friend are better of because you added value to them with your talent?”, “Explain situations where you did jot win medals but won hearts”.

    So it is a given, i feel, that competition will exist. And i don’t think all of it is wrong. As you mentioned, it must be accompanied with empathy, love and tolerance for fellow human being.

    In my experience there is not a single person or system or social order to blame. We are evolving, and that too at a very fast rate. Stuff that went thru the moral and ethical filters before, no longer need or have to due to the way the world works at speed of thought.

    Your “friend” may actually get exactly what he is wanting from life, all the best to him, but having that as the only goal at a young age is quite limiting and narrow view point of the world. I come from a mindset where even if I competed hard at sports or work, I would be concerned about the other guys and how they would feel if they did not win or finish first. It was never to, see i am better, it was more to give ones best.

    I do hope you carry this profound thoughts as you go thru numerous tests, competitions, and races in life.

    I did find it pleasantly surprising that you mentioned you are at core a give-it-all competitor but also have these thoughts šŸ™‚


    1. I do agree that competition will always be present in life, and for good reason. I just feel that in high school, it seems to be the only thing- to everyone’s emotional detriment. Thank you very much for your comment and your thoughts!


  2. For me and whether this be right or wrong, it’s probably more different, I used to be ultra competitive and still am but in a different context..

    Whereas before in high school I competed against others, worried about the marks they got, wanted to do better than them at everything or most things.. Have started to realise that everyone can be successful, and not everyone wants the same type of things that I define as success :), which means competing against each other for the most part is counter-intuitive as we mostly want different things in life anyway! šŸ™‚

    Cool post here again


    1. Very true. We often don’t realize that we can all coexist and all achieve our own definition of success in life, without having to compete ruthlessly with others for it. Thanks!


  3. This post was exactly what I needed today! With the last year of high school for me starting in less than a week, I was feeling so stressed about the competition that I will have to face. Thank you for reminding me that there are more important things in life than being the best! šŸ™‚


    1. A hindu holy book called the “Bhagvad Gita” states… “…be attached to action not its fruit, be not attached to inaction.

      One can be competetive and fiercely so in preparing, working hard and giving their best… Then if it is to be, it will be, else there should be peace and satisfaction in effort put in.

      All the very best for “giving” your best to your last year.

      Liked by 1 person

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