Archive for Psychology Today

Both cooperation and competition are vital to success.

The ability to be simultaneously cooperative and competitive is an art form that requires practice and engages distinctive parts of your brain.

If you are like me, you often find yourself playing ping-pong between being cooperative and being competitive. There are few situations where we are taught how to do both effectively. In an article from the Psychology Today blog, author Christopher Bergland explores why learning to do both is essential to successful relationships of all kinds. He also explores why social media, in particular, is robbing us of the vital skills we need to learn how to do either.

It’s interesting that our brains are wired to focus on one or the other, but doesn’t it make sense? The skills and actions required for cooperation are very different from those required for competition. And yet, to be effective, we must learn to do both. The key is how to balance each and recognize when it is time to apply which skill set.

Although Bergland proposes that athletics is one of the last great methods to learning to balance both cooperation and competition, I propose that he try singing in an opera or playing in an orchestra. In both situations the performers must cooperate or the entire performance is compromised. On the other hand, if the individuals do not remain extremely competitive, their jobs are at stake and they may not have the opportunity to continue in the future. There is nothing more exhilarating or humbling than singing next to a colleague whose voice is more powerful and beautiful than your own and realizing that you were also hired for the same job.

What activities do you engage in that keep you both cooperative AND competitive?


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Some Ways to Practice Are More Perfect Than Others

If you want to truly master new skills, whether those skills be athletic, artistic, or interpersonal, effective practice is essential. In a Psychology Today article, Susan Heitler, Ph.D., outlines how to make the most of practicing. Some highlights from the article:

“In addition to continual analysis and re-programming, effective practice includes breaking down complex acts into small components, practicing each of these, and then gradually putting these small components together into increasingly longer sequences.”

“Top flight coaches know the nuances of how to do the activity they are teaching and therefore are able to give detailed feedback… Each suggestion shapes [my actions] toward immediately better and better performance, especially since [the coach] also designs short drills to highlight and help me master any specific mini-skill that I’m repeatedly missing.”

“[For those who do not have their own coach:] They do a specific action, and then they reflect, figuring out what to do differently the next time. They work on small specific sub-skills, and gradually put these together into longer sequences. By the time they tackle the overall project again… their level of performance has bumped up significantly.”

To read the full article: