posted by Doranna
I was startled the other day when a friend defined me as competitive. I've always considered myself to be anything but. Indeed, the very antithesis of a competitive soul! I'll even opt out of activity rather than mess with a competitive feel...no board games, no gift exchange games, and no pretty much anything else where the only goal of the experience is to win something. I've been that way since I was a wee one.
On the other hand...I spend a great deal of my energy on agility activity (with rally trials on the side and obedience now in the wings). When I'm at a trial I count on myself to give 110% to supporting the dogs, and I don't let socializing or dehydration or food poisoning interfere with that (well, at least not until I faint). We're often in the ribbons, and Belle the Corgi takes High Score in Class (fastest perfect score across jump heights for Excellent B Preferred) just often enough to give us a modest collection of fancy ribbons on the side.
So at this point you're probably startled that I was startled to be considered competitive in the first place...
Thing is, I've never considered my goals to be about being better than this or that other dog. It's about being the best we can be. If I come off the course without a qualifying run but feel my dog and I worked as a team, then life is good. If we come off the course and we've qualified but it didn't feel like teamwork, then there's not a lot of happyhappy joyjoy. It's about how we did together compared to my expectations, and not how we did compared to others.
To me, this approach is just another facet of an admittedly perfectionist (I will restrain from saying anal retentive) nature. And honestly, what good is winning if you can't enjoy all facets of the journey? You know, those stellar, isolated moments where you and the dog are completely synchronized regardless of whether the run is a Q? For Belle the Morale Marshmallow, if she's running with Propeller Butt glee, then it's all good. If Connery runs with focus, then hallelujah! Qs are great, but even then that's relative to what I expect of us, and not what I expect us to do compared to others.
And that's pretty much the thread that runs through my life--to meet my own expectations, not achieve something relative to what others are achieving. Am I the only one who feels there's a distinction between high expectations and competitiveness? My friend's comments make me wonder. And the one certainly sometimes translates to the other...but I guess I think that one approach offers more than the other. For one thing, with perfectionism...you never stop trying to get better! Not with the dogs, with writing...with life.
Ironically, as I wrote this post, I learned that Connery is currently ranked #12 in the nation for Beagles in MACH competition. It won't last--we have a short winter trial season in this area with only one more trial before fall, so we'll be hiding from the sun and monsoon while others continue running. But the very nice thing about the perfectionist approach is that it also leaves space to celebrate competitive accomplishments such as this, no matter how fleeting. I'm not sure it works as well the other way around.