Don’t let competition block happiness

By: Annie Sragner, Associate Arts and Life Editor

This past week, I attended the Tim Wise event on campus where he spoke about systemic racism and how it influences our daily lives and interactions with each other.

During his speech, Wise frequently pointed out how certain groups are able to surpass others in life based on their circumstances and resources. While listening intently, Wise indirectly confirmed a theory I have that explains almost every social problem we face: life is one big competition.

Competitive nature is what keeps every being in the animal kingdom alive, and those who establish dominance over others have access to more favorable circumstances and resources.

This aspect of life is present in all parts of our development. As kids, we are encouraged to get the best grades with the incentive of an arbitrary Honor Roll or maybe a bumper sticker our moms can proudly slap onto their minivans.

After a couple of years, we are encouraged to take the big, intimidating standardized tests that numerically rank us based on “intelligence,” and how well we do affects how many career options we have.

Fast forward another few years and the “American Dream” encourages us to make the most money in order to buy the best house and the most luxurious car. We send our kids to the best schools so they can have the best shot of reaching these goals and finding the greenest grass.

The quest for dominance plagues and divides us, which prevents us from seeing each other and ourselves as only human.

I saw an equation online that has stuck with me over the last few weeks. It said that “Happiness = Reality – Expectations.”

The quest for dominance and prosperity is essentially a quest for happiness. We grow up with all of these expectations of how to be the best, and with social media broadcasting who is achieving what, it is hard to escape this system.

A core value in this country is that success equals happiness, but that depends on what happiness means on an individual level. If happiness means having a bunch of commas in your bank account statement, then chase that dream. If happiness means having a family and meaningful relationships, then that is just as valid.

With a system telling us that certain groups are dominant, it can be hard to shake that mindset and see others for who they truly are without preconceived notions. Try to live life authentically the way you want it, not the way others tell you to want it.

One thought on “Don’t let competition block happiness

  1. Research has shown that everyone wants to be happy. It has also show that helping other people feel happy is one of the best feelings you can get. The Dalai Lama says this is one of the best ways to happiness – make someone else feel good. Be nice to someone even if they are not nice to you. At least you come out with positive feelings instead of both people having negative feelings.

    It takes lots of practice but it costs no money and you get no money in return but isn’t feeling good what’s most important?

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