by Jake Thompson

Gentle Pressure, Relentlessly Applied

“I’m in constant competition with myself.” My first reaction when I...

“I’m in constant competition with myself.”

My first reaction when I saw these words were, “Ugh….then why can’t I be nicer?”  Seriously…. I am my fiercest competitor because I am never satisfied.  And to some degree that’s acceptable.  We should always be striving to want more, be more, do more.  But at what expense?

“We create an image of how we should be in order to be accepted by everybody.  We create this image, but this image is not real.  Not being perfect, we reject ourselves.  We know we are not what we believe we are supposed to be and so we feel false, frustrated, and dishonest…..Humans punish themselves endlessly for not being what they believe they should be.  The way we judge ourselves is the worst judge that ever existed” (The Four Agreements).

At some point we have to find the balance between competing against ourselves vs. competing FOR ourselves.   It’s so easy to forget the long list of accomplishments we have achieved on our quest for greatness when we are focusing on wanting to become more.   No one likes the critical competitor who after the event says to you, “You could’ve lifted more.  Your form was terrible.  That’s all you’ve got? Why didn’t you run faster, jump higher, hit farther?”

Chances are if someone approached us with these criticisms we wouldn’t want to compete against them again, nor befriend them vs. the competitor who walks up to you with a smile, an awaiting high-five and words of encouragement. It’s ok to be compassionate, forgiving, and encouraging to yourself in the midst of competition.

I have a friend who uses the line, “Gentle pressure; relentlessly applied.”  I like this.  Yes, pressure is good – remember; pressure creates diamonds.  But pressure that comes from a place of negativity sets us up for either failure or a miserable path to success. While I compete against myself, for myself, I will continue to do the best I can with what I have at the given moment – it’s really all that you and I can do.  We are given just enough strength to handle one day at a time.

And while each day brings new challenges that we may be able to tackle easily or ones that require a bit more effort and sometimes even failure; I like to remind myself of this quote by Theodore Roosevelt:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.  The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

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