In high school, I ran track and field. High jump and long jump were my specialties but I also won points for the team in some of the sprints. Track is a completely different animal than most other sports. Although it’s a team competition, most of the events are competed as individuals. Much of a track meet is spent waiting around for your event to take place. So they end up being long affairs because all of the races are run on the same surface.
The longest race that was run in my area was the two mile. It could get time consuming if there were slow runners. So the officials would have the slow 2 milers move to the outside lanes and start the next race. It was pretty easy to tell the difference between someone running a slow 2 mile and the 400 meter relay, so it was an effective way to use the common space. Imagine though that the officials ran every single race at the same time. It would be chaos! Tracking who was leading which event would be difficult if not impossible. Despite this fact, it begins to paint a picture of the challenge that many people have internally and society may have externally.
The metaphor of a track and field competition is a useful one. Although time and distance are the two major measurements used, there are other factors that play heavily into certain events. A javelin thrower cares very little about the time of his run up but very much about his arm mechanics. The fact that all of the athletes are focusing on different components in order to get different results mirrors much of our perception of success in life.
People are gauging their success in different ways and for different reasons. Much like the simultaneous track events, it’s easy to get confused about whether you’re leading or trailing when comparing yourself with others. If you’re focus is on having a spectacular family life, you may feel like a failure when comparing your wealth to someone who is judging themselves only on the monetary metric. It’s a fool’s errand to try to beat someone at a game that you’re not even playing.
So the thing to do is Decide! Decide on the games that you’re playing. For sure you can play the family and monetary game simultaneously but recognizing that your attention is split between the two will keep you from caring about the 30 other games that are going on. Win on your own terms in the things that are important to you. You’re much more likely to enjoy the game when you set up the rules and keep score!
Ready? Set! Go!