Regardless of your age or profession, competition is bound to influence your work. To some, it can be a motivating factor that drives and produces results. For others, it can overwhelm and inhibit, actually limiting their ability to thrive on a daily basis.
Competition arises naturally out of an impulse to rate one’s own success against others'. In our social environments, it becomes natural to put yourself up against everyone else in order to feel accomplished. In an effort to prove yourself to those around you, it can be easy to take the competition too far. But, used in moderation, competition can actually be a healthy way to work effectively. The following steps illustrate ways to channel competition to work in your favor.
1. Figure out who's helping and who's hurting
Not everyone will be a harsh competitor who ruins your productivity. Isolate who (or what) makes you overwhelmed; certain people tend to be overly competitive, or maybe someone in particular just drives you nuts. Prepare yourself mentally for disregarding unneeded comments, and ignore the satisfaction others get out of beating you at something. The difference you have to learn to see is the same one that appears when someone laughs at you rather than with you. Make sure that any competition you're a part of, you're a part of willingly.
Remember, though, some of the most amazing scientific discoveries have come out of a bit of rivalry. Make sure not to rid yourself of all competition; while self-motivation is useful, outside motivation can supply a push you may not be able to conjure on your own.
2. Set goals for yourself
Instead of focusing all your efforts on competing with others, try setting goals for yourself. Compete with who you were in the past. You will be sure to improve—improvement does, after all, come naturally with age and experience—but you will also, at the same time, be able to monitor how much you're pushing yourself. Just be cautious of becoming your own worst enemy; just as others, such as parents or coworkers, can ask too much of you, you yourself are also capable of demanding a little too much at times.
This can also be the time to take a moment to recognize your strengths and weaknesses. It can be easy to dwell on your insecurities, especially when they're areas of strengths for those around you. However, at times, it can be better to realize that you have your own strengths that make up for your flaws. We've all got our own minds, and part of being successful is learning to use your strengths to your benefit. Work on improving your weaknesses, but keep in mind what's worked well for you in the past.
3. Realize that it's OK to not be the best
With so much pressure nowadays to get into the top schools or land a prestigious job, it can be easy to forget that a 4.0 GPA or 2400 SAT score won't guarantee you much. Experience counts for something, as do personality and attitude. Although numbers are a strong addition to your resume, they're not worth your youth and happiness.
At the end of the day, it's the balance in your life that matters. Work and school should be equally as important as happiness and health, and sacrificing one for the other is hardly worth it. Make sure that your competitive side isn't getting the best of you, and the competition present in your life is the kind you want—the kind that motivates you to excel and achieve.