The clock is ticking. The pressure is on. Your body starts to surge adrenaline through your system, your heart is racing and your breathing increases. But you’re not on the court or the field. You’re sitting at the edge of your couch in your living room, watching your favorite team square off against your arch rivals.

It’s easy to get caught up in the competitive spirit, especially during March Madness. But is competition good for you?

In studies involving students, they have found that competition can positively impact the performance of individuals. The same holds true for competition in the workplace, with sports, and among friends. Research has shown that competition is natural and that feelings of competition can even be generalized towards strangers, not just people we know.

Competitive feelings are natural, says some scientists and psychologists. Getting involved in sports to channel competitive feelings is beneficial, especially in studies done with youth involved in sports. Not to mention the health benefits of being involved with a sport that can also boost one’s self-esteem and camaraderie.

On research done one successful women, winning competitions was a frequently mentioned positive experience. This supports the model that teaching students to be competitive in school will help them with competition later in life.

Competition can generate excitement and interest in a topic, such as the fun of getting together with your friends during game weekends and betting against each other for who’s team will win.

basketballWhen does competition become negative in our lives?

Comparison and our human tendency to compare ourselves to others is at the root of competition. Studies have shown that competition can become negative if one focus exclusively on extrinsic motivational factors or when one will do anything in order to win, thus putting aside other important values and beliefs, like teamwork, honesty, and humility.

Back in the 80’s, studies in the classroom showed that when students worked in small groups, competing against each other, they were less productive than small groups working cooperatively. Even if students routinely win, they can lose interest in activities and put in minimal efforts to beat others, rather than trying to achieve as much as possible.

At the end of the day, the best person to compete against, may be ourselves.


About the Author:

Barbara Lee is a blogger and avid lover of traveling, eating local, and the environment. With a BS in Psychology and previous work experiences ranging from non-profit legal work to managing a restaurant in San Francisco, Barbara enjoys pursuing new experiences and living life while using the most natural and organic means possible. Some of her most memorable life moments include watching little blue penguins return to their nests in Melbourne and snorkeling a rift of melted glacier water between tectonic plates in Iceland.  For more posts by Barbara, click here.