Being competitive might seem like a prerequisite to getting ahead at the office. You need to be cutthroat, consistently winning and constantly pushing to be your best self.
We’re often told that only ruthless people are competitive, but having a competitive streak is not always a bad thing and can lead us to stay committed when the going gets tough.
Knowing when and how to be competitive can be a learning process, but listen to this week’s episode of the rich & REGULAR podcast and continue reading below for insight into how to use your competitive streak to your advantage.
Competition is neutral.
Competition is neither good nor bad. Human beings evolved to compete w ith each other over available resources and mates. We all have a certain amount of competitive drive, but that drive isn’t something we’re born with or necessarily maintain throughout our lives. It can fluctuate based on our time of life and our surroundings.
Although it does have a natural component, competitiveness is more influenced by how we grew up. If the culture we were raised in emphasizes competing and winning over others as important values, then we’re more likely to believe competitive personalities are good and something to strive for.
If our family or culture emphasized everyone working together or selflessness, then competition may be seen as wrong or going against the norm.
It’s essential to find the balance that works for you and helps you meet your goals without alienating the people in your life, or tipping into ultra-competitiveness, where you lie, cheat or steal to come out on top.
Compete against yourself.
When you’re learning how to balance your competitiveness, remember the old cliche that you only have to be better than the person you were yesterday. Having a friendly rivalry with a coworker or teammate can be beneficial to keep you focused on your goals and striving to be better, but when that rivalry tips over into obsession or cheating, it’s time to reevaluate your priorities.
Be cautious of feeling like you constantly have to prove something to yourself or other people. Having a goal to focus on is good, but not if it causes you to neglect family and friends or damages your relationships.
Be prepared to fail.
Not everything will go your way, but one of the benefits of healthy competitiveness is the drive to work on a problem, even if you’ve failed a couple of times already. Having grit and tenacity often means more in the working world than winning every time, and knowing you have what it takes to solve a problem can help you find the next solution faster.
It’s important to pick yourself up when you fall, and even though failing hurts, it’s often the fastest way to learn.
Learn to evaluate data.
Part of being competitive healthily is learning to gather and evaluate data quickly so that you can take advantage of opportunities as they arise.
There is so much information in the world that no one can synthesize all of it, so you need to be competent at taking what applies to you and discarding the rest. Businesses often use a strategy called process analysis that helps them determine whether an idea is worth pursuing.
Although there are different ways to develop a process analysis, it usually consists of defining your ideas and goals as well as defining the metric you will use to evaluate the information. Once you have that framework for evaluation, collect the data and interpret the results. Depending on the conclusions when you interpret the data, you can choose to either continue or shelve the idea.
Take risks but do your homework.
Knowing how to evaluate data and having the process analysis framework in place can help you take calculated risks that give you a competitive edge. We have to be ready and willing to take risks in life, but the trick to avoiding reckless decisions is doing your homework and knowing what you’re getting into ahead of time.
Investing in a restaurant or other opportunity only because a friend of a friend says it’s a good idea will probably not end well if you haven’t evaluated the investment information impartially.
Use the process analysis from above to evaluate the opportunity, and if it passes the test, you might have a viable opportunity to gain a competitive edge. There are no guarantees in life, but knowing how and when to apply your process analysis can take a lot of the gamble out of a risk.
Develop the skill.
Competitiveness is a skill that you can develop instead of a personality trait that is fixed from birth. It’s not wrong to be competitive, but knowing when and how to apply that part of your personality to situations is essential to creating and maintaining good relationships in business and life.