The Culture of Competition
We live in a culture of competition, where the goal is always to win.
Be the first in your class, the best on the field. Prove your value by asking the most intelligent question or providing the most insightful answer.
Companies recognize and give awards to the sales people who close the most deals. Creative fields also hand out awards for those judged to be the best, even though this judgment is completely subjective.
Through social media we have come to accept the number of followers a person has as a measure of their “influence,” even though one has nothing to do with the other.
We wear watches that tell us how many steps we walked or calories we burned. Our devices allow us to link with friends so we can compete on everything all the time.
At the very least, we compete with ourselves, always striving to do better than we did yesterday.
All of this is rewarded. Sometimes tangibly, in the form of awards, recognition, or status; other times intangibly, in the form of self-satisfaction.
What gets rewarded gets reinforced; this perpetuates the addiction to winning, or at least to fighting to win. Because we can’t actually control whether we win.
Everything is a Battle
Look at the language we use when we speak about illness, both in the body and in the dis-eases permeating our society:
We battle cancer and other illnesses.
We wage war on poverty and crime and drugs.
We fight for justice and equality.
In our daily lives we fight traffic and we battle crowds (maybe less so in the pandemic, one of the blessings of the past year).
Legislating has become a battle ground, with each side showing up more interested in getting what they want than serving the needs of the constituency.
Talking heads on TV make up enemies simply to have something to rail against.
The pandemic has been compared to a war, an invisible enemy that is always one step ahead, who we fight with the weapons of masks, social distancing, and now vaccines.
This is the strategy we know; it’s what has been modeled for us and what we’ve been rewarded for.
Everything is a fight.
The Fight Depletes Energy
And then we wonder why we are exhausted, anxious, or depressed. We wonder why disease and illnesses are increasing, and why justice and equality remain elusive.
It’s not a mystery.
Fighting is exhausting work. And the fight ever ends. Because once you win, you don’t want to lose what you’ve gained. So then you fight to maintain what you have.
Afraid to lose, you shift your battle strategy to protecting your turf. You become defensive.
It’s still a fight. It still consumes energy.
We are driving through life with our foot constantly on the gas pedal. Not only is it not sustainable; it’s clearly not even an effective strategy.
There’s another way: the way of surrender.
Surrender: The Strength in Humility
Surrender is not about giving up or giving in. It’s about letting go of control, releasing the need to be right, and opening to what is.
Surrendering is about dismantling the armor that separates us from others, so that we can come into the room without an agenda and open to hearing other viewpoints.
Surrender is not a sign of weakness. It is a sign of humility that is backed by confidence. The person who is open to what others have to say without an agenda to be right or to win is the strongest person in the room.
When we surrender, we come without our defenses — but this is not the same as being defenseless.
To surrender to the power of a disease or a systemic problem is to acknowledge that it is bigger than we are, that we cannot solve it alone.
We can practice this. Go out in nature. Stand by the ocean or look up at the sky and contemplate its vastness and find the humility that comes from realizing you are just another speck of dust in the universe, nothing more than a fleeting moment in time.
Or stay closer to yourself: appreciate all the things that your body does to remain alive that you do not control. When you consider the complexity of the human body you inhabit, an organism that doctors and scientists with the best machines are still struggling to understand, you will find humility essential for surrender.
It is this humility that we must bring to our larger problems and to the conversations that will lead to solutions.
It’s time to give up the fight. Embrace surrender as the path to winning.
The constant fighting
Depletes your life energy
To win, surrender.