Play nice, boys and girls

chessDaily Prompt: What activity, task, or game most brings out your competitive streak?

To answer this question truthfully, I would probably say that I get the most excited about playing Scrabble.  But it’s because I like the game, not necessarily the competition element of the game.

I’m fundamentally opposed to the concept of competition.

I mean, if you think about it, the winner is ‘good’ and the loser is somehow less good, or even bad.  And that just creates this uneven power structure…I don’t like it.

We’ve all heard of the term sore loser, maybe have been one, maybe have seen one.  I’ve never understood how someone could get so angry as to flip the board (of a board game) just because they don’t win.  But it happens.   What is this about?  Ego.  Fear.  Insecurity.  All of which are natural human feelings which we have and need to acknowledge and manage.

But when these feelings aren’t managed, and this competition escalates into aggression and real violence, interpersonally, politically, nationally…well, this is when we really need to stop and think this through.

Flipping a board game?  OK, that’s manageable.  Flipping a country?  Not so much.

Who really wins in the end?  Not me.  I was also always last in gym class, in most activities, except for maybe baseball and gymnastics.  I hated that it was a competition then, even if the instructors say that it isn’t, it still is.  They are still grading you on a particular basis of comparison.  In general, I think that this is a major flaw in our academic structure…but that is another rant for another time.

It’s easy for me to criticize the concept of competition because I’m naturally non-competitive.  It’s just never really been a motivator for me, or made much sense.

(Why can’t we all just get along?  We are all equal! It’s all about love and sunshine and unicorns and rainbows!  And bubblegum pie!  Wait…what?  OK that last part was a reference to this slightly offensive but hilarious/random Flight of the Concords clip).

Anyway, while I am mostly a cheesy, peace-loving, idealistic hippie type, I also really try to explore all sides of things.  I know that competition has it’s place, I know it’s a natural part of life.

I think that it can be a very good motivational and learning tool, specifically in developing cooperative and strategic (thinking) skills, along with the art and practice of play.  Investigating power dynamics via games is definitely fascinating and important.

But as humans we really do have the capacity (and responsibility) to play nice.

I am trying to find some reference point that explains a sort of cooperative competition.  I found the term coopetition, which is explained in a business / game theory context here (I have attempted several times to learn about the latter in more detail via conversations with Mathematicians because I find it a fascinating topic, but my mind doesn’t grasp the logistics thoroughly).

Then I looked under the explanation of competitive altruism and that’s a little too evolutionary-biology-ish for what I’m thinking of.

So what do you think?  Do I even make sense?  Do you know of a better word/definition for the kind of competition that facilitates real learning, cooperation, play?

Small changes are the best (most of the time)

Today, the Daily Prompt question is: You need to make a major change in your life. Do you make it all at once, cold turkey style, or incrementally? 

Oh man, I am definitely NOT the queen of big, fast changes.  Not. At. All.

At least, I think I’m not.  I am constantly craving change at a faster pace than it happens, but then I look back and realize, OK, so my life was pretty different a couple of years ago.  Still, I want more variety!  I’m constantly trying to find ways to fit change into my regular routine.  At least, I’m always trying to take a new course, or do a new activity.

I am the queen of ideas, sometimes making them happen and sometimes not.  Most of the time, I don’t have the time, money, heart or focus to make (bigger) changes happen fast, so they take a while by default.

Take school for instance.  I get free tuition (to an extent) but I also always work full time.   So I am obligated to take one course at a time, thereby taking forever to get the next certificate, diploma or degree.

One thing I’m bad at cold-turkeying (for better or worse– OK, mostly worse) is relationships.  A break-up should really be a straight up split – no talking, no contact, no nothing.  I get too flaky about this kind of thing, and wish I had more discipline.

I think that regular small changes are so important, though.  To use a somewhat trite example, a new hair cut /color can do wonders!  I’m not the queen of dramatic hair changes, but I like to make small ones regularly, and then once every few years do something a little drastic.

I’ve been waiting for that big leap-of-faith change for a while.  I’ve been craving a complete turnaround, wanting to make a move that’s spontaneous and crazy, surprise and inspire myself and everyone.  jump

Not just talk about it, but actually make the move.

Hopefully my capacity for this gets greater as I grow older.  I want to be braver and jump in with both feet more frequently.

But there is something to be said for taking the slower, more cautious route.  Creating the space for new things to come in naturally (rather than forcing fast  changes for the wrong reasons) can be healthy too.

I think that our Western society is much too ‘goal’ oriented: we want things fast, we want things now.  We forget that making one or several small changes leads to – or, is essentially the big change.

Practice doesn’t always make perfect: practice is perfect.  

The big change might just happen quietly, subtly, more slowly and perhaps more naturally than an ‘all or nothing’ change.  It doesn’t need to be too painful or too scary.  The path to the eventual big change might just teach you the importance of space, discipline, patience, consistency, faith.  Baby steps are OK too!

Don’t underestimate the power of small, consistent changes (if you don’t smoke for just today, it matters), or the importance of spontaneity and risk (ask that girl you like out already! do it now!), if the latter is what your heart wants.

A massive change, a clean slate – well, that can be a terrifying and fabulous thing.  But it’s not always the only – or the best – way through.

Being a naturally cautious person (who yearns to be more exciting), a nice balance of this is summed up in one of my favorite sayings: plan to be spontaneous!