We Need Healthy Competition


Norman Triplett (1861-1931) was an avid cyclist who published one of the first experimental studies in sports psychology in 1898. He observed that cyclists performed better when in a race as opposed to when they were riding against only themselves.

He conducted a controlled lab experiment to see if the effect he saw in cycling had more general implications. So he put children either in groups or alone, and asked them to perform simple tasks. The children that were in a group performed more quickly, for example the children that were told to reel in a fishing rod spun the reel much more quickly in groups than alone.

This concept of being pushed by those around you, social facilitation, can be seen beyond those lab experiments and cycling. In timed trials for track and field events, those who were racing others generally push themselves more than those who run alone. This discovery can also be applied to the workplace, where adults work harder when they are competing against each other or in a group than when they are alone in a cubicle. Of course, there are limits to the social facilitation. If the task is too difficult, or the participants are easily stressed and intimidated, competition will only lesen the effectiveness of those people.

Not only do athletes improve performance when other athletes are practicing alongside each other, they perform even better when a there’s a huge crowd watching them. As you can see your environment really plays a big role in performance and a healthy sense of competition.

The moral of the story? You are the average of the five people you hangout with - personally and professional. Make sure you surround yourself with people that share the same values, the people you aspire to be. Your environment dictates how successful you become. If you aren't challenged by your competition, then you're in the wrong division. Failing is part of growth, It's a necessary growing pain.

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