I love competition. I think it is my favorite 11-letter word. I love try- ing to be the first, the best, the fastest, and the smartest. That’s not
to say I win everything—there are better people out there—but I love
to try! Competition motivates me. When I know a prize is involved I work and play harder. The
actual prize is not as important to me as just getting the prize, even when a prize doesn’t exist.
Jo DaMato, caM
For example, I am currently training for my first half-mara-
thon. With the icy winter we had I had to move my workouts
indoors and joined a guided group workout class for the first
time since college. I go to this amazing place called Orange-
Theory where you get “splat” points based on how hard your
heart rate monitor says you are working in the 60-minute
class. I am not happy unless I get the most points and that’s
not even the point of the workout. There are no prizes asso-
ciated with the points. The points are to help you reach your
own personal goals that day and not to beat someone else’s.
That doesn’t stop me from stealing frequent glances at the
leaderboard to push myself harder if anyone—man or wom-
an—looks like they are getting close to my point count. I even
went so far as to categorize one of the women frequently in
my classes as my nemesis—unknown to her. Every day when
I come home my kids eagerly want to know if I beat “Patty.”
My husband and I have fun with competition too. In our
15 years of marriage we have competed over IQ tests (yes,
we each voluntarily sat for one at our kitchen table), credit
scores, and dental health. One of us beat the other by a few
points in the IQ test while the other has a slightly higher cred-
it score. I won’t say whom. As for dental competition, my hus-
band can’t stand that I am still in the no cavity club and is
waiting for the day I come home from the dentist with a—
gasp—cavity. You laugh, but the last time I went to the dentist
he sent me a text from his overnight trip that didn’t say the
usual, “Good morning, how are you?” but instead said, “Any
cavities yet?” It’s all meant in good fun.
Lately though, as I go through this half-marathon training
program, I am learning more about myself. It must be those
long lonely hours where it’s just me and the pavement. It is
giving me so much time to focus on just one train of thought
and to turn off all of the other multitasking noise in my head
that we all experience all day every day as working parents. It
turns out that I am competing in my mind and in my actions
with the wrong people. My real and only true competition is
me, myself, and I. Each step I take out there makes this real-ization more clear to me.
Every day I should strive to be better than the person I was
yesterday. I need to ask myself these questions every day. Was
I a good mom today? What can I do better tomorrow? Did I
lose my patience too quickly when my 10-year-old refused to
practice his saxophone? Was I a good employee today? What
can I do better tomorrow? Did I stick to my task list or let my-
self get way off track? Was I a good spouse today? What can
I do better tomorrow? When my husband called me from his
overnight did I stop what I was doing to focus on our conver-
sation or was I still channel surfing? Was I a good friend/sis-
ter/daughter/neighbor today? What can I do better tomorrow?
When people needed my help was I truly available to them?
While Facebook status updates and Instagram pics are as
close as I get to journaling, I am going to try to be more self-aware by taking an inventory of my day’s performance each
night and to start each new day committed to performing better than I did on the previous day. Just like running, I expect to
go faster on some days and slower on others, up hills and down,
but I’ll be moving forward in an emotionally healthy way.
I still think competition with others can be healthy and fun
too. While writing this piece I thought about how I’d like my
kids to view competition. Do I want them to grow up to be
fierce competitors? Probably, yes, but only if they play within the rules of the game. In my mind these rules are that they
had better play fair, exercise good sportsmanship, and, if on
a team, always put the success of their team before their own
successes. These are the same rules that I play by and they
have served me fine over the years. I mean it’s not like I’d replace my husband’s toothpaste with mint-flavored sugar or
pay the bills that are in his name late. If I am going to win
then I want the satisfaction and feeling of accomplishment
that comes with knowing the win was both fair and square.
As for the half-marathon, I can tell you now that I will not
be the fastest. I won’t even be in the top 50 percent. But I will
run and not walk, I will not stop, and I will cross that finish
line. Along the way I will be cheering for those in front of me
and behind me for being there and doing their own personal
best. And then, the next day, I’ll contemplate what’s next. I
still have the Air Race Classic on my bucket list… ✈
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Joanne M. Damato, WAI 6829, is a mom, pilot, and director of
operations and educational development for NBAA.