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“If you’re a competitive person, that stays with you. You don’t stop. You always look over your shoulder.”

– Magic Johnson

How would you like to feel less pressure at work and in your personal life?

What if I told you that, potentially, a lot of that pressure is coming from your own desire to be “better” and to always win?

What if I could show you how a subtle change of mindset could relieve some of that pressure?

Would that be useful to you?  Read on ….

In my role as an executive coach and mentor I work with a variety of leaders; directors, executive directors and program managers, just to name a few.  I see many people putting pressure on themselves to be “better”.

“Better!!”  What does that mean to you?

This is a question that I ask them when I hear that word.  “Better than who?”  “Better than what?” 

Sometimes they answer …

“Well, there’s this person who works in another section and I like the way they work, so I want to be like that.”

Sometimes, they answer like this:

“I’m into continual self improvement so I believe that I can always get better.”

While on the surface these two answers may seem harmless enough (indeed the second one seems quite noble) there is a hidden and dark undertone;  Competitiveness.

We all love the competitor.  We love to watch our favourite team compete. We cheer them on and we hope they win.  Competitiveness in the market is also okay if a business is to be successful.  In both the examples competition means striving to win.

But what if the person you are competing against, indeed trying to be ‘better’ than, is on the same team, in the same organisation as you? How is it useful to be ‘better’ than them?  Worse still, what if the person you’re competing against, trying to be “better” than, is yourself?  How will you ever achieve that? If you’re constantly trying to be better than yourself then you can never achieve that. This is because you will never be happy with your current level of performance.  You will always be trying to be better than you are right now.  You are failing to acknowledge the value that you are providing, right now.

Is there another way?

There is another way of looking at these situations that still allows for personal development and growth and it is by adopting a small shift in mindset from one of competition to one of learning. 

When it comes to the other person in your organisation, ask yourself what is it about that person that you admire and what can you learn from them that you can apply to your own performance.  This shift in mindset takes you out of competition mode and relieves the pressure in trying to be better than them. 

When it comes to being ‘better’ than yourself, firstly, think back to how you were performing in the past.  In a recent article I talked about taking the longer view of your performance in order to acknowledge your achievement.  This acceptance of how far you have already come is important because you will start to see that your efforts are making a difference.  You are now in place to continue your own development without the pressure of trying to beat the other person or yourself. 

When you change the focus from needing to win (and being worried about losing) to “What have I learned.?” you take the pressure off and start to focus on growth.

So, here’s what I would like you to do ….

This week, I would like you to notice when you are in competition with others in your organisation or yourself.  You will notice this when you start thinking or talking in terms of being “better”.  Ask yourself instead, what can I learn from others or the situation and adopt a learning mindset instead.

Do you know someone in your organisation that is constantly putting too much pressure in themselves in order to be better?  Share this article with them or perhaps coach them yourself around changing their mindset. 

Have you shifted recently from a competitive to a learning mindset?  What was your catalyst for change and what have you noticed?  I would love to learn from your experiences so please leave your comments below.

If you would like some assistance working on adopting a learning mindset, please get in contact with us here at Campbell Leadership Solutions.