From day one there is a glint in your eye and a surge of adrenaline through your body. You see the opportunity to compete and you take it.
Walking along the side of the road one day you spot another man walking at a similar pace, you casually step up your pace to edge in front of him. What happens next can only be described as “fight or flight”! Both you and the competitor on the other side of the road step up your pace into a fast walk and then into a jog, and before the blink of an eye the two of you are sprinting like it is the race of your lives. The only thing that brings this important race to a halt is a badly Council planned side road, which has a car pulling out and unfortunately brings your race to a halt. The other man escapes and wins the race while you are left to curse the driver, curse the road, curse the council, and curse the winner for cheating his way to the finish line.
This morning listening to BBC Radio 4’s ‘Thought for the Day’ the speaker spoke of our need to be the best at all costs and, if that wasn’t possible, to bully and discourage those that had the skill and ability to achieve great feats whether that be in sports, academia or generally in life. What is it that drives us to compete in our car for a better place at the lights, or motivates us to race against another man, where no race exists other than in our own mind? Does this mean we are hyper competitive and will ultimately win the race for life or is it a feeble demonstration of our own ego, and slowly the tortoise will pass by while we busy ourselves with our own competitiveness?
As Jeremy Coles reported today in BBC Nature; an international team of researchers has assessed the well-being and happiness of the great apes and found it to be similar to that of humans, in that we both have natural high and low points in our life. Apparently they even have a midlife crisis, although I am sure they haven’t felt the need yet to buy a red Ferrari! Have we evolved from our ancestor apes with some lucky additions but ultimately carry the same animal instincts or do we have the ability to act and behave with a certain amount of decorum and mutual respect? Is it possible for us to look to our peers and support the best in them rather than seeking to prove the best in ourselves? What is being the best anyway, if not to share your successes and pass on your knowledge, and can we truly be the best, if winning has been at all costs?
One thing I know for certain is that the people who have inspired me most in my life have spent more time praising and supporting others than talking of their own greatness. Maybe if we spent less time trying to be the best, and more time working and collaborating with others to achieve the best, then we would have a more content, productive and successful human society.