Competition and the Jedi Path: On Winning and Losing
What is the Jedi relationship to competition? As human beings, we have a natural drive to compete, and we can derive much enjoyment when we do so. In our culture, we have built entire enterprises around competition be it game shows or athletic events. Competition is part of the human experience, but if we are to be Jedi of quality, then we must compete in a way that is compatible with the path and applied Jedi philosophy.
To understand the Jedi attitude towards competition, we must look at the concepts of winning and losing. In the words of the song Scatman's World by Scatman John, “Everyone's born to compete as he chooses, but how can someone win if winning means that someone loses?” I think Scatman John has a very Jedi-like approach to competition. In any competition we need to step away as seeing as a choice between winning and losing. There can be many more outcomes than just victory and defeat, and when we concentrate solely on winning, we lose sight of what is really important. If we are resolving conflict, it is always better to do so peacefully than to win or lose. Now in games and sport, it is fine to compete, and to do one's best to win, so long as one is not strongly attached to a winning outcome. It is more important to lose well, than to win poorly.
So when a Jedi competes, we should cultivate an attitude of non-attachment. We can enjoy the sport of competition, and I find my enjoyment is enhanced when I am not attached to any particular outcome. While one can enjoy winning, one can also take delight in the victory of a competitor and a game well played. When we are able to let go of our desire to make other people lose, it cultivates a healthy approach to competition, and allows us to participate without cultivating animus or rancor which would detract from the enjoyment of the sport and lead to a less satisfying experience if we are to lose.
Competition is closely linked to our desire to do better – to be better. While the Jedi Path is one of constant self-improvement, the Jedi attitude of being better should not come at the cost of tearing someone else down. We should strive for outcomes that do not just benefit ourselves, but benefit all of those within our sphere of influence. With skill and positive intent, it is possible to create outcomes where everyone wins. Ideally as Jedi, we can create an environment where no one has to lose. This is the path of world-betterment through self-betterment. In practicing this attitude, we can lift those around us while we ourselves are buoyed with positive action we generate in our own lives.