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Friday, October 28, 2011

Participation vs Competition-

My driving style has changed over the years. Like many young people, I drove rather competitively in my youth. I tried to ace out that guy weaving in and out of traffic. I refused to give way to that jerk trying to edge a few spaces ahead when traffic was getting bogged down. I fought for position, even if it was just one car length.

These days I watch for that guy weaving in and out of traffic. I try to make room so that he (or she) can just move right on past me. I figure my sleight adjustment of position and speed won't significantly impact my own journey, and this person is just going to do what they are going to do no matter what I do. If nothing else I have made sure that Mr. Bob-and-weave will have his accident somewhere far from me.

I give way. I try to make the journey of others around me go more smoothly. I have found that giving way does not make me late to my destination. In more than one case I have pulled into a parking lot at my destination and found Mr. Bob-and-weave just getting out of his car. He gained mere seconds at the cost of great risk to himself and others. Seconds.

What has happened is that I have switched from viewing my journey as a competition to one of participation. How can I make traffic flow better? What can I do now that will make the shared journey go more smoothly? They are usually tiny things. Mostly just not insisting on having something of little value, such as one car length.

My perception has altered. I actually perceive traffic flowing better as a consequence of my new attitude. Is this just an illusion? I really don't know. I don't particularly care, as long as my experience is made better. As long as my participation seems to me to make things better, things are better.

Today (while driving) I realized what I was doing, and gave it a name. I came up with the title for this blog as a description of what I was doing. Participating in the journey I was sharing with all of the people on the road. We may not all have had the same destination, but for a time we were all together and moving in the same direction. It cost me very little to try to make the journey better for all of us.

I have to wonder if this kind of thinking could be applied to other situations. Granted, in a game or in a true survival situation head-to-head competition may be the better way. However, in most of life participation might well be the better choice. Politics? The economy? My local community affairs?

My purpose in the future is to keep an eye out for opportunities to be a participant rather than a competitor. It will always come down to little things. Small courtesies performed to make my journey and the journey of those around me a bit more pleasant. Kindness need not be costly, and courtesy is an affordable luxury.

Live long. Live well. Choose wisely.

2 comments:

Carol said...

I love it, I too "participate" It's amazing, my cars last longer and I enjoy the ride more. When people ask why I drive so slow and non aggressively, I tell them I'm in no hurry to die!

jbchicoine said...

I guess this really resonates for me since I'm one of the least competitive people I know. I'd much rather yield to someone in a hurry to get what they feel they need, rather than get in their way. Less stress, too...and it does breed better relations with others...
...smart, Michael...