I am for sure one of the most competitive people you will know. It’s just how I am. However, is it a good or a bad thing?
Striving to always be the best is a very good thing. It means that you will progress in whatever you are doing a lot faster than most. To start off, you have to understand the 2 kinds of mind-sets people use when they are competitive:
- Ranking Mindset – A ranking mind-set towards competition is characterized by a ‘win at all costs’ approach driven by insecurity and the need to prove one-self. People who are competitive in this way compete at every possible turn, even when they lack expertise. It is about proving that you are better than another person. Even when the competition is long over, a person like this still competes and compares him or herself to others.
- Excellence Mindset – An Excellence Mind-set is characterized less by focus on ranking and competition and more by a focus on developing yourself to your fullest capability. People who use this approach use the spirit of competition as an opportunity to get better – not as a way to prove that they are necessarily better than someone else, but as a way of challenging themselves. They welcome, even honour, competition as a way to improve and develop their expertise and abilities.
Downside of always competing…
How many times have you heard coaches or sales managers set up a ranking mindset in terms of competition? The focus for the team becomes beating the competition as opposed to being their best. Managers think this technique will get s bit more zip and energy from their players or salespeople – and it might in the short-term. But it is not a sustainable source of fuel. Far more powerful are the reinforcing behaviour and positive performance of an excellence mind-set.
A ranking mind set that focuses on ‘win at any costs’ behaviour can have another unhappy side effect: It encourages people to cut ethical corners -to cheat- in the pursuit of their goals, whether in a business deal, when taking an exam, or when playing sports with the help of sports enhancing drugs.
The Solution –
There are several steps you can take that will help you keep from being victimized by competition. First, remember to frame competition as a way to become better, not as a way to prove something to someone. There will almost always be someone who is better, richer, prettier, more handsome, smarter – these factors are out of your control and focusing too intensely on them by continually comparing and thinking you have to be better than everyone else will only breed frustration and diminish performance. Shifting your mind-set from beating others to simply doing your best will also help you feel les anxiety.
Second, practise relaxation. Competitive people are easily aroused than those who are less competitive, and arousal frequently stimulates feeling of hostility towards you opponents and you are apt to do anything to win, including violation your ethics. By being more relaxed, you’ll be less influenced by competitive arousal and hazards it creates. So you can try a relaxation apps or books. I recommend an app called Welzen!
Third, remember that feelings of competitiveness are hardwired in us. It is not a bad thing. In fact when it is framed in the proper way, competition is a powerful motivation fuel that can help us and the people and the people we are trying to influence achieve things no one might have previously thought possible!
So make sure that you use competition to your advantage! Control it!