How to Compete (And Perform) with Extraordinary Poise

By: Jim Murphy

Note: This is the first in a series on the 7 skills of Inner Excellence.


  • The word compete comes from the Latin word competere, which means to seek together.
  • The ultimate strength and foundation for competing is to have an unburdened heart and a clear mind so you can perform fully engaged, heart, mind and body. 
  • Your ultimate goal determines your ultimate strength. If it’s just more birdies and less bogeys (more wins, less losses), so much is out of your control and you’ll be as stable as your results. But if your ultimate goal is to become whole-hearted, to develop inner strength and grow in love, wisdom and courage—the possibilities are endless.

Check out the mindset of Inner Excellence:

I compete to raise the level of excellence in my life, to learn and grow, in order to raise it in others.

We don’t pursue peak performance for the trophy or adoration, but to discover something within us and experience something we’ve never experienced before. We compete for the competition itself, to fully experience the moment and feel fully alive. We do this to help others—including our opponents—do the same thing, so we can all learn and grow and raise the level of excellence in our lives. We crave adversity and challenges as a means of seeing the truth about who we are in that moment and therefore who we can become.

We don’t climb mountains to get to the top—we climb to see who we can become in trying to get there.  The peak gives us a goal and focus for our behaviors, but the reason for climbing or competing is far more empowering than an expansive view and social media posts.

Consider the journal entry of Olympic speed skater Clara Hughes after winning a gold medal:
        In my heart it is clear to me why I
       go to the line time and again.  I can
       assure you it’s not a medal hanging
       around my neck I’m after.  Medals
       are things I send to my mom in
       Winnipeg, which she in turn shares
       with friends and family.  They are
       not what provide the deep sense of
       accomplishment, which fills my
       sense of self, in turn teaching me
       how to live.

Hughes skates so she can learn how to live.  The most powerful way to live is to raise the level of excellence in your life, to learn and grow, in order to raise it in others. (Note: This section is from the introduction in the revised edition of Inner Excellence).

To raise the level of excellence in your life is to raise the level of love, wisdom and courage in your life.  Love is fearless.  It’s also the source of grit—sustained passion and persistence with no attachment to rewards or recognition (Dr. Angela Duckworth). Wisdom is an understanding heart; an expanded vision with unobstructed views of beauty, opportunities, and connection with others.  Courage is the trust and faith to fully commit to the moment (commit meaning “to unite, bring together + to release, let go; send”).

Have you ever noticed the harder you try, sometimes the worse you perform? It’s usually from being attached to what you want but cannot control. Focus on learning and growing in love, wisdom and courage, learning how to compete, and you can try “easier” and perform far better. 

Extraordinary poise comes from being fully engaged in the moment, heart, mind and body. Far more than a mental thing, it’s a pursuit of the heart, to become whole-hearted, so you can be fearless and fully-present. 

Let me know how it’s going for you!

Love Jim


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