When I was in high school, one of my friends and I were selected to compete in a writing competition. It was an honor just to be invited to participate, and my friend took it very seriously. Something about the situation provoked my competitive side, and I wanted to beat him in the competition. I didn't even know what that meant, but I wanted it. Badly.
I talked to another friend who was also a writer--what could I do to prepare? He gave me the best advice:
Write from the heart.
If I wrote from the heart, then I was unstoppable. It didn't matter if I won or lost because I would have been true to myself. If I didn't write from the heart, I would have lost more than a competition.
We never really found out how we did--neither one of us won the first place. But I gained a way to tame my competitive urges: listen to my heart. It has helped me avoid burnout in situations where others have not been so lucky, enabled me to participate in numerous activities when time management posed a challenge, and pushed me to constantly do more.
For a couple of reasons, I track my activities. And I still struggle from time to time and have nagging thoughts--the ones where I calculate my score. And compare it to others. And want to declare a competition that I. Will. Win. Whether it's true or not, feeling like I do more than others doesn't encourage me to keep doing what I do. In fact, it makes me wonder if I'm being a doormat by doing so much for "nothing" in return. Talk about ugly thoughts!
As long as I give freely, I receive freely. If I keep score--especially if I talk about my score--then I've lost. What do you think?