I heard something recently that spoke to me. It was about competition. I am pretty competitive. I want to be the best, the most available, the first one with my hand up, everybody’s friend. So what has that attitude done for me so far? It has exhausted me. I have spent my whole life being a people pleaser. I want everyone to like me. When I turned 40, I did change that attitude just a little bit and I became a little tiny bit less eager to be everyone’s best friend.
Competition is good for one thing–it makes me try harder. It made me study so that I could pass the certification exams the first time; it made me finish walking a 5K even though I had done nothing to prepare; it makes me say yes to work projects that someone else could do just as well as I can because I want to always be the one who saves the day; and it keeps me up late at night finishing tasks that I have promised to get done in the many ancillary personal projects I have undertaken–all in my quest to be the best.
I heard somewhere once that if you always say yes and you always are the first to volunteer, you’re cheating someone else out of the chance to do that job. Perhaps they’re scared, perhaps they’re waiting to see if you volunteer AGAIN, perhaps they are nervous that they can’t do as good a job as you’ve been doing. But honestly they probably can do it just as well as you can and maybe, just maybe, they can do it better than you can. They probably won’t do it the exact same way, but it will get done. I’m trying to do this now, but also don’t want to quit doing everything so people forget that I can do some of those things. I guess I’m afraid of everyone retiring me because I’m old even though I still feel like I have things to offer. But that’s not happening today, so I will work to make sure people know when I’m willing to take things on.
So exactly who am I in competition with? And what was it I heard that started this post? It was “Look in the mirror. THAT is your only competition.” That was a zinger right in my heart. I am my only competition. And my only goal should be to be better tomorrow than I am today. To do that, I need to heed the advice I have often given others (and others have given me back)–step away from the buffet line. I think life is like a buffet. You have a plate and as you go through life, you take spoonfuls of things you’re interested in, things you do–work, volunteering, passion projects, family, church, and on and on. Sometimes, you’ve piled so many spoonfuls of these things on your plate that you spend all your time trying not to let important things slip off the plate. Sometimes, we just need to step away from that buffet to catch our breath, get rid of some of the stuff on our plate, and get ourselves in a place so we are ready to go back to the buffet line.
They say life is a race and if we’re running the race while we’re juggling our buffet plate, things will spill, we will fall, and we will get up again–plate and all–to continue our race. But this race doesn’t have other runners. The only competition we have is ourselves. We are the only one carrying that plate everywhere we go. Are you carrying it as a badge of honor? Do you want everyone to see your messy, overfull, drippy mess of a plate and be envious of all the things you can do at one time? Are you doing all of them well? Are you doing ANY of them well?
As I’ve gotten further into this post, I see that I’m using “you” when this is really “me.” I’ve been there and done that and am there and doing that, so I think this is a message from my heart to my head and maybe it will help someone else come to grips with that damn buffet line. I guess I need to look again at my competition in this race called life and give her a chance to take a breath and run with a plate under control. We’ll see how the next lap goes.