There’s Always a Scoreboard

Competition is a hard thing. Too much competition without compassion and you end up with a vicious ‘win at all costs’ mindset. Too little competition and no focus and you miss out on opportunities to excel. I googled “is competition good” and got pages of articles on the subject. I’ll be honest, didn’t look at any of them.

It doesn’t matter if it’s good — it just is. Like gravity.

Last night I was hanging out with family, sharing how I got two ‘good mom’ points for having a great frisbee toss with my son. (That probably sounds lame, but I’m pretty inactive on vacation and putting myself in motion was a big deal. And it was an even bigger deal that we had fun, and neither of us took it too seriously.) Anyway, my brother-in-law said, “You’re keeping score?” And I said, “There’s always a scoreboard.”

As soon as the words were out of my mouth, two things happened. First, I felt awful for saying it and second, I decided to write a post about it.

The reason it felt awful is because so often competition is about doing better than someone else. 

  • I ran faster than she did
  • I answered more questions right than he did
  • I sold more boxes of cookies than she did. 

It’s all me versus you, us versus them. And the next mental step is that doing better means being better. Like somehow a point in time result in an isolated activity equates to a person’s overall value. You know, I managed to have a bit of fun active time with my son therefor I’m a better mom than a mom somewhere who didn’t have the energy to get off the couch. Therefor I am a worse mom than a mom who went with her son on a 10-mile bike ride.
Which is crap.

The reality is that I did something that I’ve been trying to do more. However, tallying a couple of points in my mom column didn’t mean I pulled ahead of Sally Jones in Peoria (currently sitting at 3rd in her region due to a disappointing Sunday dinner), it just meant that I could feel good for a moment. And, I could bank those points, mentally at least, for the next 12 hour workday when my family has  to eat Chipotle without me.

I love the Harry Potter books. It’s no surprise that my favorite character is Hermione: she is unapologetic about her smarts, she comes up with great ideas and she isn’t afraid to get stuff done. But perhaps my favorite part of the overall universe is the battle for the House Cup. “Five points of Griffendor” makes me smile, every single time I hear it. Yeah, sometimes you have to save the world to get points, but most times you just have to work hard, apply yourself and support your team. I find myself saying it all the time when I see small wins and everybody knows what I mean.

What does your scoreboard look like? If it’s lower than you would like, today is a great day to give yourself some points. And if you’re struggling with it, here’s something…

Five points for Griffendor, just for reading this post.

4 thoughts on “There’s Always a Scoreboard”

  1. I struggle with this. I don’t think I compete for “Mom” points, but I worked in a toxic culture for 9 years where they way to success was at the expense of your co-workers. There was ALWAYS a scorecard including who got invited to the CIO’s Christmas party and even if you reached that level, there were party games that pitted us against each other. Even now I sometimes find myself falling back in to that mindset–though I usually realize it soon enough to knock it off

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  2. I think the struggle is normal and natural, and hyper aggressive cultures where the only way to win is to pin people down and climb over them are out there. And, there are people who love that culture, which means it will always be there. I try to find places where contributing to other people’s success is rewarded — but it would be harder in an environment like you described. Thanks for posting!

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    1. I think it depends on the person. For me, it’s more about having a way to assess the value I’m contributing to the world. But, I won’t lie — I’ve always looked for the approval of others. I’m getting more able to resist it as I get older.

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