“A creative man is motivated by the desire to achieve, not by the desire to beat others” – Ayn Rand
Competition has always been taught to us from very young age in order to become something, to achieve and to survive. We are taught the virtue of competition in every aspect of life in order to succeed and to win. When competing against another, we tend to draw on to our untapped reserves and this brings the best in us because of the inherent instinct to better the other. This very basic nature of competitiveness has always been an integral part of us from the early centuries as we had to compete for resources like food and shelter. Those who are able to compete and strongest would win the best. Competition is inevitable and being competitive is important when it comes to academics, sports and work. Those who make an effort and draw on their own strengths and possibilities turn out as winners. There are benefits to having a competitive nature like you learn the importance of setting goals, following rules, to cope with stress, to take risks,and to be committed. But is it that only competing against other can bring the best in you? Or can you do better even by yourself? Or Is it always important to define yourself in terms of being better than others?
True competition is about competing with and not against
Competition brings out both the best and the worst in us. And though it is a natural instinct, nurturing it is equally responsible. There is always a danger of ignoring moral values in favour of winning or succeeding. While competing, we learn the virtue of selfishness, being all-out egotistical, and demonstrate superiority on others. We tend to believe that true competition is about breaking others and we constantly compare ourselves to others which leads to insecurities and fears. This further leads to unfair practices like where the aim no longer remains to better yourself or to succeed, but to pull down or belittle another.
But true competitive spirit is about growing, bettering and prospering together while competing with, rather than against another. If you learn to work along with, you will be able to build better strengths and qualities to succeed. Focusing on working together to solve problems, and helping each other to get the job done can result in mutually beneficial outcomes rather than focusing on a short-term, one-sided win.
Compare to your former self and not to others
When you are competing with others, the achievements made by others makes us crave the same achievement when we believe it’s within our reach. There will be always people who are better than you. Accept and use them as inspiration for pursuing your own instead of comparing yourself to others. In other words, comparing yourself with someone else is an inaccurate way of measuring your success. How well you do depends on improved version of yourself. If you question the logic of your comparisons, most of them rather turn out to be irrelevant in their reasoning.
Instead of comparing yourself externally, redirect your comparison within. Question yourself as to how you can continue to become a new and improved version of yourself. It does not matter how you perform relative to your opponents, so long as you perform better than your former self.
Know that your only competition is you
Our natural instinct is to compete with others and not to compete with ourselves. However, if we choose to, we can also compete with ourselves which leads to our self growth. We get so caught up in the competition with others professionally and personally that it is easy to forget that to improve ourselves and reaching our potential is more important than competing against others. It is important to remember that your competitor is not other—your competitor is yourself.
why you should compete with yourself
Always running after the competition will make you less enthusiastic. When you compete with yourself, whether it’s in your learning or work, you can focus on the process of getting better each time. This small shift in your perspective allows you to progress faster and to focus on process.
True competition is not always about beating or outdoing others, but about growing and improving. You should condition to compete constructively by measuring your success not against others but against yourself.
Here are some benefits in competing with yourself than against others.
Can measure your success
If you take a look around, you come across people who made some amazing achievements in their life. Someone is always going to be better than you at something. When you learn to be competitive with yourself, you can have a better measure of your success rather than stressing out on someone else’s. You know success will come to you at the right time when you put in the right effort.
Can improve your capability
Knowing your strengths and weaknesses gives you an opportunity to assess whether or not your goals are right for you. Once you know the things you are not so good at, you can decide upon improving your weak areas in order to achieve your goals. Looking into your own shortcomings rather than outwardly at other people paves a way to improve your capabilities.
Can increase possibilities
When you are competing with others, you are only competing in arenas that others have set up for you. But if you continue to do so, you will end up limiting your possibilities. Only when you use yourself as a true measure of your success do you open yourself up to the infinite things and possibilities. These things might ultimately lead ṭo your passion and happiness.
Can be free of people’s judgment
When you compete with yourself, you are letting go of people’s measure of success. and defining your own measure of success. You are free of what they think of you and their expectations. You chose to follow whatever it is that makes you happy. This makes you answerable to yourself in doing everything you could possibly do to achieve your goals and not because of other people’s judgment.
Can intrinsically motivate yourself
While competing against others, you feel that you achieved something only because it gives you a sense of being better than what everyone else is doing. But that is not the true measure of your success and that feeling is fleeting. But when you compete with yourself, you will be intrinsically motivated to accomplish things that are true to your abilities. You can strive to improve yourself and to challenge yourself in new ways.
To conclude, although competitiveness is innate, do not hold yourself to the standards of other people, wishing you could be better than them. May be this is motivating you, but an even greater skill is to be better than yourself. How about pushing yourself to do better each day. Goal setting is a great way to compete against yourself. You select the end result that you want and that you choose. Then, it is up to you, to work to achieve those goals. Thus, you can push yourself towards your goals, rather than creating unnecessary competition against others. Develop a desire to achieve and always strive to push yourself to become better.
“The principle is competing against yourself. It’s about self-improvement, about being better than you were the day before.” – Steve Young
We all struggle with our frequent mood changes and disappointments which are an inevitable and inescapable part of life. They can be from various reasons and arise as a result of specific events or situations. They have high influence on the way we react and in the actions we take. We all have expectations like winning at something or to succeed in something that we care deeply about and so on and so forth. Each time something falls short of our expectation, we tend to feel disappointed and this leads to our mood changes. Some of the disappointments may not make much of a difference, but there are some that can make huge difference. The feelings of disappointment may last for a short while, or might hang over for long period of time depending on how we deal with them. If not dealt with properly, they affect our behavioural, cognitive, emotional and physical well-being.
With frequent mood changes and disappointments, we lose the ability to concentrate and may experience lapses in memory. Some experience irritability and prolonged period of disappointments may result in depression and sadness. Most of the times, our expectations lead to this complex and confused feeling. When faced with disappointment, some tend to attribute it to their personal failings and resort to self-blaming. They direct their anger inwards. This makes them feel they were not good enough. Others turn their anger outwardly which makes them feel bitter and vindictive.
Your mood changes can destroy your efforts
In order to avoid the feeling of disappointment, some distract themselves by turning to random, mindless activities instead of facing the problems head on. This may make them happy in short run, but does not resolve the actual problem and makes them underachievers. They tend to deny their goals by conditioning themselves not to set any expectations. This leads to self-depreciation and to a discontented life. Others seek to avoid by setting high expectations. They come under their presumptions that their expectations are realistic and when it turns out to be not true, it often leads to disappointment.
Getting caught up in your mood changes can cause feelings of isolation and low self-esteem. You avoid taking risks to prevent yourself or others from being disappointed. Focusing on your disappointments for long can destruct your efforts and have a negative impact on your confidence. When you are preoccupied by disappointment, you fail to put in the right effort. Instead if you treat them as learning experiences, they can become stepping stones for growth.
Know the reasons for your disappointments
You cannot snap out of your bad mood and feeling of disappointment quickly if you are not aware of what is causing them. Here are some reasons.
• The main reason for disappointment is the gap between the reality and your expectations. Having higher expectations can make you feel not being good enough.
• Feelings of guilt can lead to negative emotions and have a big impact on your mood.
• Rejections cause an emotional injury and thereby lead to your disappointments.
• Out standing tasks and mental to-do lists can nag at you and make feel discontented and disappointed.
• Brooding over past occurrences can get you stuck in replaying them over and over again.
• Feeling of failure and getting caught up on small annoyances can ruin your mood.
• Hanging on to false perceptions and negative beliefs like, “nothing works”, “not good enough”.
• Attachment to certain outcomes and too much fixation on your unrealistic goals.
We can deal with our disappointments constructively and more appropriately if we can differentiate between situations that fall within our control and factors that are beyond it.
Use your disappointments positively
You need not always get discouraged by your disappointments. If taken in positive way and dealt with constructively, they can strengthen you. Remember that your disappointments actually show your passion and can motivate you to succeed.
They help you manage your expectations
When we feel disappointed, our expectations fall out of line with the truth. By understanding the gap between your expectations and the reality, you can use them to correct your assumptions and adjust your expectations accordingly to achieve your goals.
They provide opportunity for growth. You can learn to deal with them in a positive manner and use them as opportunities to improve yourself. What you originally thought was sufficient to achieve your goal may not be enough and may need to increase your effort or change your approach to get the results you want.
They align you with your inner-self
Sometimes disappointments provide us with a better emotional state to get in touch with your inner self. By focusing on your underlying desire for your goal, rather than the external projection, you can create other possibilities to realise your desire.
Here are some strategies to get over disappointment and to deal with them constructively.
Put it in perspective
Often, small annoyances can become exaggerated and ruin your mood. You might feel disappointed about things you are unlikely to remember in a month’s time. If your disappointment is significant, try to focus on the larger picture and remind yourself of all the things you are grateful for. If not, it is not worth getting disappointed about.
Don’t dwell about what might have been
The more you dwell on the disappointment, the more it will hurt and disrupts your ability to focus, concentrate, solve or be creative. Give yourself a limited time to feel bad and move on. Do not internalise feelings of sadness and anger. Hanging on to these for long can make them part of your identity and deepen your emotional hurt.
Don’t be too self-critical and don’t get pulled down by your thoughts. Do not indulge in self-pity as it takes away feelings of empowerment. Look for positive activities and those that you most enjoy to recharge your consciousness to a positive level. This will help you gain some clarity and you can learn other perspectives which you may not be aware of.
Identify the next opportunity
There is always a next opportunity regardless of what disappointed you. Live in alignment with your abilities and inner desire. When you lose, use it to learn, and then go on to win next time.
Increase your possibilities
Do not limit yourself on a single goal and believe that it is the only way to make your dreams come true. There is always more than one reason why you are committed to a path. Increase your possibilities by creating other paths to realise your dreams.
Reevaluate your perceptions
Attaching yourself to a certain outcome causes anguish and prevents you from putting effort in moving on. Becoming aware of false perceptions or unrealistic expectations you are clinging on to and by releasing them, you can overcome disappointment and can move towards your goals.
Finally, Realign your focus
Don’t be discouraged by momentary disappointments.Everyone experiences disappointments. By being hard on yourself and thinking you are not good enough will not take you forward. Remember that you are much more capable at focusing on the positive than you think.
Next time, if you struggle to deal with your disappointments, try to reevaluate your expectations by asking yourself: what expectations do I have from my self?, what false perceptions am I getting hung up over?, could I have done something different to arrive at a desired outcome?. Reframe your disappointments as learning experiences. Cultivate a capacity to deal with them more constructively and start again to pursue your dreams.
“Life is not always a celebration; so be ready to courageously face disappointments when they come, and be sure to grow stronger and wiser from them.” – Edmond Mbiaka
There is an inner critic inside all of us who is constantly scrutinising and criticising our every action. Our inner Critic can be far more vicious than that we might hear from the outside. Our inside have intimate knowledge of us and can zero in on our weak points. This can be damaging to our self-esteem and self-image and holds us back from achieving what we want to. We end up beating ourselves up about not being and doing good enough.
Your Inner-Critic is developed by your constant self-talk. You might be told by this critic that you are not competent or intelligent enough, and the other things that you don’t like about yourself. Sometimes the guilt of what ifs caused by this critic can make it difficult to accomplish your goals and you can have tough time to let go of the never ending story of imperfections that are created by it.
Is Your Inner-Critic always damaging?
More often, your Inner-Critic is the baddest and biggest bully that keeps you from making progress and delays you from becoming the best version of yourself. But at the same time, this may not be true always. Your critical inner self can also be an effective motivator and a protector. Your Inner-Critic is judging you in order to protect you from hurt and pain. It helps you in being cautious, in perfecting something, in getting successful and intelligent.
Most of the times, It tries to fit you into a perfect ‘self’ by prescribing some rules and attacks you when you try to violate them. Even though it gets you acquainted with your imperfect self or with the things you don’t like about yourself, it need not make you less acceptable. Instead, by establishing a positive connection, you can come up with constructive self-criticism and can turn that into a taskmaster. This will get you to work hard or to be disciplined or to avoid being mediocre.
Know what your Inner-Critic is doing for you.
Your critical self is made of opinions that come from the environment you live in, parents, teachers, peers, media and from your own conclusions. It is a voice based on your so formed beliefs. To know whether your inner voice is helping you or lowering your self-worth, it is important to know which type it belongs to according to the following:
If your inner voice has high standards of behaviour and performance then it tries to get you to do things perfectly. On the downside, it might prevent you from creating anything for the fear of not being good enough and can make you work forever trying to perfect something.
This inner voice tries to point out mistakes and attacks you for some of your past action or behaviour that has been harmful to you or to others. Because of the violation of a deep-help value, it takes you on a guilt-trip.
This critic tries to control your behaviour that might not be good for you or might be risky. It tries to be harsh in certain situations where you slip up.
This kind of inner voice tries to make you feel worthless and undermines your self-confidence. It undermines your confidence of taking up to difficult tasks and keeps you away from taking risks so that you won’t fail.
This critic tries to state facts like — You are a loser, You will never amount to anything and so on and attacks on your fundamental self-worth. It shames you deeply thereby stopping you from taking action.
This critic tries to get you to fit a certain mould. It attacks you when you aren’t and praises you when you are thereby making you feel inadequate.
This gets you to work hard and to be disciplined in order to be successful. It can also lead to over-striving and workaholism.
By having a clear sense of what your Inner-Critic is, what it sounds like and how it is directing your behaviour, you can decide to either work with it or try and make necessary changes to make it into a constructive critic. You can do this by being aware of both its benefits and its consequences. Follow these steps to establish a positive connection with your Inner-Critic
Know your thought patterns
How you respond to your inner voice depends mostly on your thought patterns. Analyse your critical thoughts. Certain thought patterns may make you experience motivation and achievement. Others might be negative patterns acting as your enemies. Ask yourself the question: would you put up with a person saying negative things constantly about you? If you wouldn’t tolerate, then why put up with you own negative self. Identify the triggers and content of these negative patterns in order to break out of them.
Make a list of your self-critical statements
Writing down your self-critical statements heightens your awareness and allows you to take a closer look at their usefulness. Look at some of your statements that you wrote down and ask whether they are guilting or are they trying to protect you or improve you. Some of them can be negative beliefs you hold about yourself. How well these statements are serving their purpose? Come up with some alternatives or constructive statements to use next time when any of these pop into your head.
Challenge your Inner-Critic
Challenge your critical inner voice or statements to test their logic and authenticity. You will come to know how realistic their concerns are or if they are just unnecessary fears. Analyse how likely each of those things are true. Reframe some of these statements and get a correct perspective. Find the positive things about you — you as a person or your achievements and focus on these when your Inner-Critic tries to break you down. Next time you hear your critic, ‘turn it off’ by replacing negatives and shifting your attention to something more positive.
Work on your self-esteem
People with very low self-esteem have a more vicious and demoralising Inner-Critic. It makes them stop being challenging and since they can’t live up to their own critical voice, they lose trust in their abilities. If you base your confidence on the evaluation of your achievements and the validation or approval of others, your confidence keeps varying every day. Keep it irrespective of these factors. Seeking validation from others leads to negative and unproductive thinking. Don’t let others’ opinion take control of your thoughts. Be confident in your own abilities. Higher the levels of your self-esteem, the more productive will be your Inner-Critic and its critical analysis of you.
Sometimes when you fail to meet your standards, your Inner-Critic because of its protective nature focuses on your short comings, triggers discontentment and prompts you to become defensive and avoidant. When you try to silence your inner self-talk, you tend to intensify its judgement. Instead try to approve yourself by viewing your mistakes with understanding and patience. Express empathy towards the fears held by your Inner-Critic. This way, you are more likely to take responsibility for your part and can focus on mending the situation.
Adopt a positive attitude
Adopting a positive attitude towards your life will free you from your damaging critical and negative self. Your Inner-Critic corrupts your mind and gradually pollutes your behaviour, emotions and your attitude. By developing a positive attitude, you get freedom from your inner voice like ‘How can I achieve that?’, ‘I am incapable of doing that’, ‘No, I am not good enough for this’, ‘I am a failure’, ‘what if something goes wrong?’, and similar thoughts. Inner-Critic makes you succumb to your fears and prevents you from taking a step forward because it makes you feel incapable of doing something. By keeping a positive attitude, you need not surrender to them and you can make yourself strong enough to stand your ground. You become free and liberated and can see different possibilities.
Replace negative words with positive
What kind of words do you usually tell yourself? Are they helpful?, or do they make you feel burdened. When you say things like, ‘I cannot get anything done’, or ‘I am sure I will fail’ and so on can make your Inner-Critic more strong in making you believe that you cannot improve and are incapable of doing something. Therefore these words need to be eliminated. Replace them with positive and affirmative phrases. For instance, When you find yourself thinking ‘ I am not good enough for this job,’ you can tell yourself ‘I may not be the best at this job, but I will learn to improve.’
Stay clear of using phrases like I already know, I’m sure, as they make you burdened with the responsibility of doing something in a certain way as this leads to self-doubt and you might lose yourself to negative thinking. Don’t resign to the fact that you will never be able to do something just because your Inner-Critic is telling you so.
• Be conscious of your Inner-Critic.
• Make your Inner-Critic work for you and not against you.
• Don’t let your Inner-Critic’s ‘you-can’t’ suppress your ‘Can-do’ attitude.
• Remember that your Inner-Critic is just one part of you and not whole of you.
• Take your Inner-Critic seriously when it comes to correcting your faults and weaknesses.
• Practice positive self-talk. Cultivate a habit of using words like ‘can’, ‘will’ and ‘yet’.
All of us do our best to achieve our goals. It is not always easy, there are probably times where we think we could do more. Our Inner-Critic will always beat us up about not doing enough. But if we spend more time feeling guilty about it, the less time we will spend putting positive steps in place to achieve our goals. Do not let your Inner-Critic try convincing you to give up. Instead make a positive connection and work with it in order to reach your goals.
“Stress is caused by being ‘here’ but wanting to be ‘there’.”– Eckhart Tolle
“Anxiety is caused by a lack of control, organisation, preparation, and action.” – David Kekich
Goals are vital part of life, both personal and professional. Goals are different for different people and so is stress in achieving them. To a mountaineer, stress is the challenge of pushing physical resources to the limit of striving to achieve a demanding goal. To a student, it is the challenge to perform well in examination and to executives it is to withstand the competition and ambition of climbing up the ladder. To others it may be addressing different situations from managing work, to family and children.
Because everyone is driven by their goals, stress becomes a major and inevitable problem for many. Being exposed to stress over longer periods of time and without the necessary coping mechanisms can result in burnout and a state of physical, mental and emotional exhaustion. This further leads to feeling tired all the time, failure to meet the deadlines, inability to stick to your goals and experiences of phantom aches and pains. Your personal productivity can be affected if this stress is poorly managed.
Stress & goal-striving
Stress is the inability to cope with a real or imagined threat to your mental, physical and emotional well-being which results in a series of psychological responses and manifests into health issues. Stress occurs when one is driven by compulsion to achieve what you are expected to or want to achieve. In striving for your goals you compete with yourself or with others to compensate for what you believe is lacking. At some point, we become caricatures of who we think we should be as our lifestyles become more external and we are driven by others rather than by our judgement of what we truly need.
Stress and work pressure becomes inevitable and solution lies in active management of stress.
Stress-management & Being “in the zone”
It is important to realise that everything is not just about goal-striving. Doing your tasks in a good state of mind and with good health is more important. This can be achieved by being “ in the zone” with your tasks. In many aspects, managing your tasks to attain your goals is more concerned with fundamental issues of doing meaningful work, mindful living and psychological well-being. Being “in the zone” with your goals helps you organise, do outcome thinking, provides clarity, and thereby reduces stress.
Being “ in the zone”
If you are ‘in the zone’ with your goal, you get intrinsically motivated and perform your tasks without being stressed about an external reward. Those who all in zone experience less stress as they are clear about what to pay attention to and have a complete picture of their commitments.
Checking whether you are being ‘in the zone’ is a simple and systematic process and the process involves comprehended check of your present direction with reference to what you truly want. Willingness to introspect lets you rediscover yourself. This can help you in making choices which are in alignment with your goals. This can help you distinguish between those things that dissipate your energies and those that add up to help you build the life you want.
Take little time to ask yourself following:
What to achieve?
Majority of times, stress is caused by the following situations:
• You know what you want, and you don’t know how to get it; and/or
• You don’t know what you want.
Most of the times, we create and identify with things that aren’t yet real on all the levels we experience; and when we do, we recognise how to restructure our current efforts to that particular outcome. Once you know what to achieve, you begin to be ‘in the zone’ and will more or less do your task automatically. If you trust that something you will more or less do automatically will provide direction and reduces stress. Having clear goals help you make better decisions about what to pay attention to.
What’s your next line of action?
Plan your work. Creating a cause-&-effect link in your mind about your next action will result in clarity, productivity and empowerment. You can really define the right action when you know the outcome you are after. When you organise and make plans ahead of time and decide what actions will be carried out in which context, you will be able to bring your attention to the appropriate things at the right time. Identifying those things that need focused attention and planning your next action keeps your mind relaxed and in the zone.
Are you in flow ?
Flow is the state of optimal performance and engaging your attention in what you are doing. Focused attention intrinsically motivates you. It is necessary that your skills match the challenge at hand. If the challenge exceeds your requisite skill level, you will experience anxiety and if your skills exceed the challenge, you likely feel bored and your flow gets affected. Flow is the complete concentration on the given task. When you have clear goals in sight with the right skill set and concentration, your action merges with your awareness and will allow you to engage more fully in the task at hand and ensures forward engagement in your plan.
How to be “ in the zone”
• Focus on what is important. Break down your complex goals into smaller and manageable ones. Once you achieve the little, you can set your eyes on the whole. Always commit to realistic goals.
• Do not expect fast results and easy outcomes. This makes you stressed and irritable. Take a break if you feel like you are on the verge of losing your calm.
• Discipline yourself not to put off until tomorrow what you can do today. Accumulation of undone jobs take up room in the mind and limits your clarity and focus.
• Don’t compare. Remember to calibrate your goals based on your own skill set, intellect and aptitude.
• Do not look for external validation as it can cause discontentment. Your performance depends on your skill set and efficiency.
• Be organised and review your direction of what you are doing and check whether what you are achieving is what you truly want.
• Monitor your mental and emotional state through self-observation and meditation.
Little time spent on getting to know your authentic self and bringing yourself ‘in the zone’ with what you want to achieve helps you lessen your emotional baggage of fears, anxieties and limitations. Make a list of possible sources of stress and attend to the issues that are a source of stress at the current time and work towards managing it.
“Doing something that is productive is a great way to alleviate emotional stress. Get your mind doing something that is productive.”
– Ziggy Marley