No doubt that working hard, not giving up when early outcomes are not favorable and continuing to have a laser focus and drive are essential. But competitiveness can create blind spots that cloud judgment and lead to regression instead of progress.
There is nuance to competitiveness. Some considerations to make the most of your competitive mindset and spirit:
- Think ethic. Work hard. And work smart. Don’t assume you can just outwork everyone else. Supplement the work ethic with a “think ethic.” Pause to consider different ways of achieving your goals that others may not. This is especially important when your competition may have more resources so you can’t out-spend them or more people so you can’t out-work them. Critical thinking with a specific purpose doesn’t cost anything and doesn’t require more people. It simply requires intent, and investment of time and effort.
- Take pause. It’s better to go a bit slower in the right direction rather than fast in the wrong direction. Sometimes the most efficient path to a goal isn’t at a relentless pace, but at the pace that includes pausing to assess the journey, take stock of the landscape and outcomes along the way and making adjustments, maybe even taking a detour.
- Fresh start. Many who are competitive have had success in the past, understandably giving them the muscle memory to believe they just have to rinse and repeat. In business, sports and just about anything else in life, the environment and competitive landscape changes quickly. What worked well in the past may need refreshing or even discarding. In fact, in this economic downturn, it will be the businesses and people who are most agile and have a will to start fresh – do things and think differently - that will prosper.
- New motivations. Even the most competitive people can become complacent. Once long-term goals that benefit self or family are achieved, the motive to work as hard or smart may decrease. Find new motivation. Such as leaving a legacy for others to follow or learn from. Or to help others to succeed whether it’s at an individual, community or global level. Thinking beyond your own circle’s needs may be the foundation from which that inspiration surfaces.
- Go all-in. Going all-out is a mantra of competitive people, but there is some irony in it. Going all-out generally means working/running as hard as you can for as long as you can, potentially leading to fatigue or burnout. For example, in sport, an injured player who goes all-out and takes the field may be hurting the team. “Going all-in” means a complete investment in the specific steps it will take to win the long race. One of those steps may be to set a pace for a marathon, instead of one that wins the sprint today but loses footing later. Go all-in on a pace and approach that energizes – and re-energizes - yourself and your team day in and day out, including celebrating small wins along the way while keeping an eye on the ultimate prize.
- Share effort & success. In any group of people, everyone has different strengths and levels of competitiveness. Recognize that and delegate responsibilities that match the strengths and passion of individuals on the team. Someone who may not be competitive at “everything” will likely optimize their competitiveness when tasked with something they are passionate about, contributing to a higher level of collective success.