Competition in academia

Opinions_Competition in AcademiaCan ambition breed success without hostility?

By Margaret Matthews, Senior Columnist

There are some students who have a competitive spirit, who resent their peers for getting better grades than themselves. But a hostile attitude towards a more intelligent and successful student does not get you anywhere, and leaves much to be desired in teamwork and public relations skills. It also robs you of your self-confidence, peace of mind, and happiness.

A better strategy would be to befriend the students with better grades and see if you could glean some pointers. Get tips and ideas on what methods they use during studies. Find out how they do their research and assignments, and emulate their strategies by implementing those ideas into your work schedule. Studying skills are acquired through practice and taught at universities and other educational institutions. There is also the Learning Centre at Douglas, where peer-tutors assist those who need help with their studies.

I knew of a family living in Edmonton, with two sets of twins. The father had his own law firm, and he encouraged all his children to study law and become successful lawyers. The four boys were constantly bombarded at the dinner table with tales of their father’s winning cases, much to the satisfaction of his clients. In addition, in order to boost his own self-esteem, the father entered the political scene and was elected as a member of the legislative assembly. Thus were the seeds of academic achievement sown for his four sons, and their competitive spirit was directed not only to their peers, but also to each other. Sibling rivalry caused the family’s dynamics to suffer, which eventually turned into a dysfunctional family unit.

All four of the sons ended up being successful and prosperous. The downside of their competitiveness though was that they ended up at loggerheads with each other. Each one tried to outdo the others by rushing to the finish line, which fostered a spirit of aggression, pushiness, hostility, and envy. So much for ambition, motivation, and competition!

While ambition and motivation are positive factors to have in developing one’s potential, especially when it relates to professionalism and work ethics, there should be a healthy balance between being competitive and dissuading unhealthy attitudes of hostility to enter one’s mind, should one lose out to another.