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How to Cope With the Stress of Competing in a Cruel World


How to handle the stress of competing in a cruel world!

The Oxford English dictionary gives the following interpretation of the word competition and competitiveness.

"The activity or condition of striving to gain or win something by defeating or establishing superiority over others"

"Having or displaying a strong need to be more successful than others"

Aiki and Zen give us a unique way of handling the stress of competition we meet in our daily lives.

For some people winning at any cost is the only goal.

I once heard a song that had this line,

"in our losing we found honour, in your winning you found shame."

In the world of Aiki and Zen, there is only a place for competition in sport, or where the situation has rules based on fairness.

Unfortunately, in the world of business and life, in general, the only rules, other than the laws of criminality, are our own moral code and conscience.

Aiki and Zen, teach us that in our lives we face competitive situations daily, but the way we respond to that competitiveness is generated by our own ethics.

The dichotomy for many people in our modern world is, to be the best or to be better.

The essence of competition in Aiki and Zen philosophy is to compete with your innermost self to become a better, more content person living a fulfilled life.

This may seem strange in the context of the martial arts, however, the legendary martial artists didn't advocate, defeating an opponent.

Their intent was to control a situation so that engagement was only a last resort.

I once heard this fantastic quote that for me sums it up.

" understanding, is a warrior who never lost a fight or defeated an opponent"

Competition and competitiveness, however, comes in many forms, here is just one.

Over thirty years ago I had a friend who was a millionaire hotelier.

He was very successful, and to all around him, he appeared to have a great life, enjoying all that his wealth could bring to him.

We would often speak and drink together after our day´s work and one night he gave me the best bit of advice I have ever been given.

He said, "Chris I have worked and struggled for over thirty years to get to where I am today, and all I do now is worry about losing it all."

His words had a profound impact on me.

You see my friend, was about thirty years older than me when we first met, and had achieved what I wanted.

After this conversation, I considered what I was doing with my life.

I worked all the hours that there were to work, I took all the responsibility to go that "extra mile", and above all else I gave my all for the success I desired.

But, I realised for me, at what cost?

I understood that my friend had won something, that had also been the source of a loss.

He didn't intend to put others down, but he was competitive, and needed constantly to prove himself.

His motivation came from his need for success and could be summed up as:

"Having or displaying a strong need to be more successful than others"

And, on reflection, he had eventually considered that his success in business had been his loss of freedom from worry.

His success was primarily fraught with the trials and anguish to win, and secondly the trials and anguish of loss.

His intent, his essence and his spirit told him he needed success and if he lost the jewels of success he would be seen as being unsuccessful and thus a failure.

On a material level, he had everything, on a personal level he had, torment and disquiet.

Looking back, I think he could see me heading in the same direction, and I am thankful to him for opening his heart to me.

Years later, another friend said to me that he thought I was a winner.

My response was that I was neither a winner nor a loser but simply a participator.

You see, my conversation with my millionaire friend changed the course of my life dramatically.

My mission became to enjoy being involved, without the need for acknowledgement, other than from my sense of right and self-esteem.

Competition, comes in many forms, winning and losing are only perceptions and both victory and loss are only momentary.

Some elements of competition are life changing and can leave many scars, for instance, sibling rivalry, being rejected by a lover for another etc.

Freud concluded that our competitiveness comes from our childhood need to gain the attention of our parents.

The combination of Aiki and Zen help us address how we compete with the perceived competition.

In relation to competition, Zen teaches us that there are three essential attributes:

Clarity is the ability to see the truth of the situation, and what is actually happening.
Humanity is the empathy to see what is potentially gained or lost for whoever is entangled within the situation.
Courage is understanding you can withhold your permission of being drawn into rivalry.
Aiki tells us that if we develop three strong postures we will never be having to win or lose:

The mental discipline to stay calm and assess the situation accurately.
A physical stance that enables us to always be relaxed and ready to face any eventuality.
A spiritual understanding that enables us to control our intention of wanting to succeed but without the need to defeat another person.
Finally.

My little pet dog Poppy, will bury a bone and then guard it with a passion. She becomes frightened that another dog will steal her bone, and, as long as the bone and the other dog are there she will always be on guard. Take away one of those elements and she will relax and play like a puppy once more.

Perhaps we are more like animals than we would care to think!

We are all different, with a different intent and motivation.

For every winner, there has is a corresponding loser, and people, by nature become far more agitated by losing something, than by gaining something.

To either win or lose means we have to give our permission for entering the contest.

Perhaps we do not need to defeat someone else to become a winner, surely we can put our own interpretation of winning within the context of the wisdom of Aiki and Zen.

Every person walking this planet want`s to feel that they have some successes within their lives.

"I love the winning, I can take the losing, but most of all I love to play"... Boris Becker

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