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Discernment about a part of competitiveness' tendency

An analysis of competitiveness in today's toxic work environment.

By Antonio Font Bardolet

Man working on two computers
Photo Courtesy of Adam Nowakowski via Unsplash

Describing it simply, competitiveness can be referred to as an individual behaviour either towards a specific goal or as a general form of behaviour towards the outside world. There are no ethical problems with being competitive as long as a person strives to do the best by achieving something, is aware that the people around them can perform better, or assumes that perhaps they are not yet ready for the goal they want. Notwithstanding, being competitive can be a problem if one loses the perspective mentioned above. Part of that comes from messages sent by agents who lurk around the wildest capitalism. An example of this could be the books and talks that became popular at the beginning of this century about self-help and becoming a successful person. In those books and talks, there were messages such as “If you want 10, go for 20”, or "Defeat is not an option; the only thing that matters is winning; who wants to be a loser?". These are toxic and can lead people to lose their way and begin to see other people as mere adversaries who must be defeated instead of human beings with feelings that can be hurt. They can also lead people to reduce the meaning of life to mere competition, losing the perspective that life is more than that.

On the other hand, although the ontological meaning of being competitive implies competing with someone who has the same objective of winning or surpassing another, is that really what it is about? Perhaps, but let's put aside the term “competitiveness” for a moment and focus on the individual skills that one must have to be competitive. Let's make a few assumptions using a simplistic premise in which I use the term "filter" as the process in which humans decode information from the outside world in a genuine way, to set up the background. Each one of us has a cognitive filter through which everything we perceive from the outside world is filtered and decoded, so our experiences throughout life—fears, intrinsic survival skills, enjoyment, etc.—have partly shaped this filter, and, as I assume that the other percentage of this shaping is innate; we already have it when we are born. That would help explain how two people who are born in the same conditions, environments, and social contexts can be completely different from each other. Therefore, this shaped filter has a direct influence on our actions and, consequently, on the development of our skills, so each person perceives things differently (maybe slightly, maybe intensely); therefore, our skills are genuinely different from each other.

Returning to the beginning of this article, in which I proposed competitiveness as a behaviour that could be taken in the wrong way, my approach is that although circumstances lead people to compete with others for the same objective, in the end it is not about overcoming or being surpassed by someone but rather having better specific skills at a specific time for a specific objective, which, as a person, does not imply being better or worse, nor being a winner or a loser or other toxic messages that have been spread by agents with dubious objectives. Therefore, there is no one to defeat, and there is no reason to be afraid of being defeated or to feel like a loser since each person has their own genuine abilities. It's about what skills best fit a specific goal at a specific time.


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