Fishing is a relaxing sport. But in a study, more than 90 percent of fishermen experienced high stress. Music is relaxing, but three out of four musicians experience depression, anxiety, or high stress. A full one-third of musicians have experienced panic attacks.

The same applies to professional golfers, tennis, baseball or soccer players, actors, airline pilots, and others. Every single activity, when it switches from a fun hobby to a job, becomes stress provoking. The question is, what changes?

I believe it is the invasion of expectations, competition, and perfectionism. This invasion is invariable. It is because of the pyramidal structure of most entities. Not every employee becomes a senior manager, not every musician performs at the Vienna Philharmonic, not every actor wins the Oscars. And winning at the Oscars brings the much sought after rewards – wealth, prestige, control, and more.

The problem with competition is its momentum. Once locked in a race, we keep going for longer than optimal. Success creates the appetite for greater success. Within the current design of the world, is there a way out? I believe there is, and this is what I suggest.

Instead of competing with others, focus on achieving your personal best – mastery. Instead of defining success by the money earned, think of the numbers helped. Instead of counting material rewards, think of the values served.

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All of these will convert your work into play. The desire to achieve mastery will help you live an inspired life. Inspired living is full of energy and positive feelings. Inspiration is essential to reaching phenomenal heights. Competition might help you become good; inspiration will help you become great.

What would be the best first step to feeling inspired? Think of the people and the purpose you are serving with all you do during the day.

Take care.

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Dr. Amit Sood answers your questions about stress, resilience, happiness, relationships, and related topics in his column. Email