When I want to get my son to do something he’s not interested in I have found making it into a race works pretty well. When he thinks it is a competition or has to be a timer he jumps right into the very thing he was just resisting. There is something about winning, being first, feeling accomplished that he seems to only get when it’s a race or competition with me and his dad. While probably not my finest parent skill it has resulted in completed meals, chores and even a clean bedroom every now and again.
I like to think I’ve outgrown this trick I use on my son when it comes to competition or racing to get things done. As an adult I can often choose when, how fast and how I do something and yet I too find myself racing towards a finish sometimes. When I see someone speeding past me on the road I sometimes hit my own gas pedal a little to catch up and see if I can get ahead of them. As a business owner I feel the pressure to grow and be financially solid to demonstrate success as quickly as possible because I saw another person being wildly successful in half the time it seems to take me. It creates this pressure that I must keep pace or get in the front so I can feel good about what I’m doing too.
The truth is most of the time we feel this way, it is self-imposed. We see what others are achieving or have obtained and we want that too. Even when we didn’t have any thought to it once we see what others have done we become interested enough to pick up our own race. We want those good feelings of winning, being celebrated and saying we did it faster than anyone else. While I think some competition is great every now and again it can also take away some of the best parts of the process along the way.
The best message I found in the Disney Cars movie was that once highways went in, visitors stopped coming by the small towns. The small towns grew smaller and smaller on a map until they were not even listed anymore. People were more interested in getting to their destination as fast as possible rather than enjoying the drive, seeing the scenery and visiting several places along the way to their destination. It not only bankrupted several towns but it limited us in experience and enrichment. The race to the destination is sometimes not the point of the trip and I think no where is that more true than our own lives.
I am often my own worse enemy when it comes to getting things done quickly usually because I have a long to-do list. I have goals I want to focus on alongside responsibilities and errands. I don’t think I have time to take things slower so I can enjoy what I’m doing because it will be better when it is all done. When I have achieved this goal I can relax and slow down. When I get this to-do list completed I can do something I really want to do. So the more I hurry right now I can have that reward after. While cleaning the house is probably not ever going to be fun the rushing around to get it done quickly is also fairly stressful at times. It also leaves me too exhausted to do much of anything when I am done. I lose my focus of what needs to be done and just focus on how fast I can do it.
My own map of small details in my life has been able to be brighter this year. I like to think of them as little small towns reappearing on my map of what’s important in my life and worth stopping to spend time on. With COVID-19 leaving us with more time on our hands due to closures, cancellations and distancing I have been able to realize how many small details I was missing because I was racing through things every day. It wasn’t that these big things weren’t important or that those deadlines didn’t matter but that it was too easy for me to let go of the smaller things as a result. I was forgetting the beauty of the journey, the sweet little moments of every day because I was so focused on the next big thing down the road.
What I fear I am guilt of the addiction to the race. More than that, I’m addicted to the wins. I want to be first, smashing goals and winning accolades. These things feel good but when not in balance with every day enjoyment of the sweet moments it feels like a adrenal junkie seeking a constant high. You overlook the small stuff in pursuit of the next white whale goal. This year has shown me there are lots of pretty incredible things that happen every day that I was missing with my intent focus on the big goals and destinations.
As much as I’d like the world to be able to return to normal, I’m enjoying this ability to capture, reclaim and mark my small sweet moments in each day. I still have goals I’m chasing but I’ve even found a difference in how I pursue them. It’s less about how fast I can do it but rather how good I can make it there. Working on a goal with the happiness in my heart rather than just urgency and stress feels good. It is enjoyable and even makes difficult challenges more obtainable because I can rest when I need along the way.
Competition is healthy but I think this year has shown me there is a better way to use competition in my life. The energy of it can be funneled to map out a more scenic route that builds to a win that is so much more enriching than just the rush of getting there fast. It is what I’m learning to describe as living naturally competitive. Releasing the pressure of stress from feeling the need to push harder and faster and instead letting nature roll by in a beautiful way that leaves me feeling happy I’m doing what I’m doing and where I’m going.
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