The concept of competition implies beating the other person.
In sports the concept is a standard, fundamental part.
In everyday use outside of sports that beating the other person often carries a tinge of accusation or wrongdoing. People accuse others of being over-competitive, which they look down on. I’ve never heard anyone accuse another of being under-competitive.
In business, competition often carries a noble ring. Business culture holds that business should compete to win.
I’ve found that competition has another meaning — to strive to improve yourself, independent of beating someone else.
Sometimes you see this meaning in sports when people describe someone as “a competitor,” even when they aren’t competing someone to win. A competitor in that sense tries to improve him or herself, perhaps using others for comparison, but not to win or lose to. Using others as benchmarks enables and motivates many of us to do more than we could otherwise — to increase our potential and come closer to realizing it.
This second meaning works for me. When I run in Central Park, for example, I keep track of how many people pass me. Nobody is winning or losing. I just know how much faster I could run and that helps me run faster than I could without the comparison.
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