Being Competitive Can Be Counterproductive

I am seriously competitive.

Playing ‘just for fun‘ is not fun. Now creaming someone, being the absolute best, winning, getting first…those things are fun for me. This would be why I don’t do well playing board games with my in-laws at Christmas. My in-laws are possibly the nicest people on the planet and board games are loads of fun, but their super nice ways make it hard for me to have fun.

They do very nice and kind things like tell you when you made a mistake, coach you on how to play better, and give advice. I’m more in the camp of, “Hey, we gave you the rules, walked you through the instructions, and asked if you have any questions. Now it is time to learn by doing.”

  • I drive my kindhearted husband crazy.

My family shows love while playing games by yelling, creating alliances against others, and not having re-dos for turns. And I love it.

The odd woman out.

I have come to realize most people don’t like to compete like I do, so I have learned the fine art of competing against myself.



I make almost everything a competition. This explains why you will sometimes find me lunging down the hallway at the office in my four inch heels, carrying every single bag of groceries from the Costco trip all at once, getting rid of half of my personal belongings, and choosing books that are over 400 pages for my book a week challenge.

Mind over matter.

Since the subarctic where I live is no longer in the deep freeze season they call winter, I have started biking to the office when I am able. I seriously love to ride my little grey, Specialized bike. In fact, I was so happy this morning I belted out ‘Oh Christmas Tree‘ while riding in the middle of nowhere.

  • I don’t think my off-key singing made the river valley happy.

Most of the ride to the office is uphill through the river valley. This morning while riding, I decided to GO FOR IT!, to push myself and see if I could beat my 58 minute time from last week. I set my intention, decided to aim for 45 minutes, and pushed hard.

Ok, it is way more epic than it looks. Around the bend is a steep drop. If you were walking, you would suddenly start jogging due to the gravitational pull!

Ok, it is way more epic than it looks. Around the bend is a steep drop. If you were walking, you would suddenly start jogging due to the gravitational pull!

The lactic acid built and my lungs wheezed.

The last few hundred feet out of the valley is this steep hill that I always have to walk the last 20 or so feet. This morning I decided I was going to win the “Hill vs. Donloree” challenge.

Every single revolution of my pedals was torture, snails were passing me and wishing me good luck, and the blood vessels in my cheeks threatened to burst.

Nonetheless, I persevered. I had a time to beat. 

Hilarious mantras started pouring through my head.

  • Choose a champion mindset.
  • This is what defines you from the rest of the pack.
  • Mind over matter.
  • Pain is your friend, it tells you you’re alive.
  • Feel the burn.
  • Winners don’t give up when it is hard.

And on and on it went until I got my little arse up that last hill. Then a pressing thought and need hit me like a ton of bricks.

I think I am going to throw up.

Dumping the bike and backpack on the ground, I quickly started to walk in circles and tried keep the pavement level. For some reason it was moving up and down on me. Throwing up and passing out were both possible outcomes and I needed to get back on the bike to beat my time. As I circled and the bottom of my lungs stopped protesting, a very fit bike dude emerged from the hill without any effort.

He took one look at my crazy hair, unstable walk, and bent over position and stopped.

Apparently I didn’t look very good.

Luckily, “Hill.”  And then a whole lot of gasping and nodding paired with some hand waving was enough to make him decide I was ok.

Or I scared him.

After spending 12 minutes circling and drinking the rest of my litre of water, I was ready to do the 30 flat city blocks that lay ahead.

  • My final time? 58 minutes.

I learned a valuable lesson today.

Don’t push yourself so hard that you end up wasting all the precious time you earned trying not to throw up and nearly passing out while a very fit man anxiously watches you from the sidelines. It is counterproductive.

A little bit more every single time, time after time, will create the result you’re looking for. 

Why wouldn't 2 or 3 minutes faster have been enough? 15 minutes, aka 25% faster, was and is ridiculous. I am ridiculous.

Why wouldn’t 2 or 3 minutes faster have been enough? 15 minutes, aka 25% faster, was and is ridiculous. I am ridiculous.

Are you super competitive? How do you manage your competitive nature? Does it get you into trouble like it does me?

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  1. Excellent, as always. Visceral lessons — surface lessons. I relate both as a non-car owner, and as someone who was formerly competitive.

    My competitive nature changed a great deal in recent years. This was primarily due to the sudden death of three friends, all younger than me. With each of those deaths I examined life more closely. Punishing myself with exercise by being excessively competitive, something I had always done, gave way to enjoying exercise more; biking, bodybuilding, hiking, etc.

    This translated to many other things in my life. Lessening the enjoyment of life in pursuit of numbers is one of the worst things we do as a culture, whether those numbers are biking times, or the numbers we covet just to the right of dollar signs…

  2. I compete with myself and only myself. Competing against others is for contestants in a game!

    Yup, I’ve gotten in trouble for unrealistically competing against my own self. My biggest “reward” was pancreatitis, gallbladder removal, a bad right knee, lack of sleep and stress. Fun times!!!

    Misdirected competition slowed me down, it nearly derailed me; it didn’t get me any further ahead.

    So glad you found humour in your experience 🙂 Our valley trails are pretty tough and I tackle a few of them 3x a week. So far I haven’t had to be rescued 😀

  3. Like you, everything in my life is a competition. This is why I can’t take spinning classes. Because I have to “beat” everyone in the class, and then I end up passing out. It’s happened twice, and I’ve since learned that spinning is just not for me.

    Oddly enough, competing against myself just isn’t enough motivation for me. I need to focus on beating someone else in order to push myself really hard. I always want to be the best, but I need an image on my head (or in front of me at the gym) in order to give that extra bit of energy.

    • Oh, I totally get the need to compete with someone else…it just gets me in trouble. hah! If someone is next to be on the stationary bike, I always up my resistance and rpms to be ‘ahead’ of them. SIGH.

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