The Financial Express

Competition: Conundrum or catalyst?

An illustrative image — FE An illustrative image — FE

When you think of the word ‘competition’, what is the first thing that comes to your mind? You may think of the word optimistically because it reminds you about your fabulous performance in the last inter-university competition. Chances are also there that you may think pessimistically as it makes you recall the bitter experience of watching your colleague get promoted instead of you.

We understand the reasoning behind these context-based interpretations. But the question remains: Is competition something that can help us grow — or it is yet another problem that we do not need?


Positive perspective

Ashraf Uz Zaman, a final year student of Dhaka University, has participated in many national and international competitions and won the championship titles of the Voice Talent Online Scholarship 2019 and Hashtag Marketing 2019 — to name just a few. He shares, “I believe competitive environment brings the best out of you, gets you out from your comfort zone, fuels your creativity, and urges you to do your best.”

The DU student adds that it gives you a chance to learn from others, improve yourself and master teamwork skills. “And most importantly, a competitive environment helps you learn discipline, handle pressure, show empathy, build confidence, and grow from failure — all of which are important to succeed in every aspect of your life,” Ashraf tells The Financial Express.


Negative perspective

Yanur Islam Piash, co-founder and chief executive officer of eLearning platform Bohubrihi, was closely involved in organising business competitions when he was a student of Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET).

He recalls, “My core objective for organising competitions was to kindle the entrepreneurial spirit of the youths. I wanted to encourage the participants to generate new ideas, challenge themselves and implement those ideas.”

Piash also says, “I never wanted them to work hard just for the prize money or recognition. Because such a mindset limits the learning potential from these events and can lead them to a state that causes self-doubt, stress and ethical breach.”


From this discussion, we can say that competition is not a bad thing in itself — be it a competitive event or competitive workplace culture. What matters most is how we interpret the outcome of the competition. Let us illustrate it more:

Scenario-1: You participated in a debate competition and you won. But you started glorifying yourself, thinking your job was done and there was nothing left for you to learn. Thinking like this can only damage your growth. In this case, although you won the competition, your attitude could not anything good for you.

Scenario-2: You participated in the same competition and you lost. But you saw it as a learning experience and figured out what you needed to improve to do better next time. In this case, although you lost the competition, your approach could bring positive things for you.

Three ways to foster healthy competitive mindset

Pro-tip #1: Rewire your mindset

As a business competition maestro, Ashraf suggests that we should always approach a competitive environment with a growth mindset instead of a fixed mindset. He believes that our ‘why’ should not just be the intention of winning. Rather, we should relate success to learning, improving and trying again without giving in.


Pro-tip #2: Focus on self-improvement

As a youth leader, Piash suggests that we should learn to compete against our past performance. He believes that we should not constantly compete with others because they may have a different definition of success and a different ambition in life. So, we should work on ourselves to comprehend where we are right now and what we need to do to get to where we want to be. And his platform, Bohubrihi facilitates that by making people well-equipped with all the necessary skills needed to serve in their areas of interest.


Pro-tip #3: Educate and edify children

Both Piash and Ashraf believe that we must not instill the ‘win-at-all-costs’ idea into our children’s brain. Rather, we must educate, and enlighten our children from the early years so that they can develop a healthy mindset. And we must create an environment where competition is not feared; rather everyone strives for excellence — and yet, embraces win and loss, both with grace.

They also recommend that we follow Japan and integrate moral education in the academic curriculum to give our children basic moral guidelines through all educational activities.


Some closing thoughts

Life is not a high school where you must have an intense result-oriented focus on everything. Life is bigger than that. There is no grading system for the highs and lows of life. No one is going to give you an ‘F’ grade for not winning the inter-university competition or not being promoted.

Maybe those titles do not align with your aspirations in life. Maybe you aspire to be a musician, an entrepreneur or a writer. So, toss out the self-doubt that stems from irrational comparison. Just deliver your own best performance in the stage of life, and finish off with a mic drop.


Morium Kulsum is a second year student of marketing at Dhaka University.

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