Being competitive has a bad rap. Let’s face it: How many times have you squirmed at the sight of a colleague who will not rest until they get that promotion? How many times have you felt awful for wanting to win so badly? How about that time you couldn’t get your mind to rest when someone else was picked for the job of your dreams? The Thesaurus offers some interesting synonyms for the term ‘competitive’: Dog-eat-dog, killer instinct, antagonistic, cut-throat, combative…etc When did wanting to win or competitiveness become laced with so much negative connotations? It is true that some people view life as a win-at-all-costs affair. But, is being competitive all bad, all the time?
Everyone feels competitive. If something really matters to you, your most natural instinct is to do what it takes to attain it, keep it or protect it. If you have been eyeing a promotion at work and three other colleagues are vying for the same position, it is completely reasonable to feel competitive and to want to ‘win’ that promotion. Failing to acknowledge competition as a natural, human instinct causes us to fester in negative emotions that affect our progress. For example, by failing to recognize your competitive nature towards your colleagues as a healthy element of the workplace, your competitive feelings could turn into jealousy and ‘catty behaviour’. The first step to leveraging your competitive nature is to acknowledge that competition is healthy, and a natural inclination that all humans experience.
It is said that the Steve Jobs, the Oprahs, the Beyoncés and the Zuckerbergs of this world are usually Type A personalities i.e. they are the competitive types, the go-getters. If you are naturally inclined to do what it takes to succeed, if you are the type who is keen on getting things done, if you stop at nothing until you attain those goals, then you have succeeded at ‘going beyond average’—something that millions of people want to do, but never seem to be able to. On the flip side of the coin is self-denial and lack of ambition. Suppressing the need to win or denying your competitive nature can slowly chip away at your ambitions. Look at it this way: Joe is a graphic designer who is smart, knows what he wants, and does what it takes to get it. He put in an application for a job at a well-known boutique game studio but he does not get the job. He is obviously furious. He can choose to say, “I am no longer going to put myself out there to make a fool of myself.” This sense of suppressing his competitive urge can quickly lead to passivity and a lack of progress. Alternatively, he can acknowledge his natural fury for not getting the job and look for creative ways to land his dream job. Competitive people do not settle until they get what they want—this is what it means to go beyond average.
Embracing a competitive spirit is especially important in the business environment. Competitive types are often the first ones to find new ways to solve problems and challenges that come up along the way. For example, say you develop a new product and as you formulate a plan to take it out to the market, you find out that someone else is selling almost the same product as you. Some people may choose to call it a day, ditch their product and close shop. Some may resort to sending snarky emails to their competitors. Yet, some may acknowledge their fury that their product is already facing competition but find innovative ways to make the product stand out in the marketplace. Competitive types are always at the forefront of making situations work to their advantage, instead of taking a passive approach. There is no shame in wanting to win. And, there is no better way to win than to go the whole nine yards to get what you want. Being competitive doesn’t mean undercutting others; it means staying true to your worthy goals.
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