As leaders, we compete with others (and ourselves) because we are conditioned to see life as a constant contest.
After all, competition drives innovation and improvement in our organization, in our market, and it is likely a significant component of our personal and professional goals.
Simply put, competition drives results. And if we are striving for anything, we are most likely competing at some level.
So this isn’t to discuss the pros and cons of competition, but rather, to question why we so easily embrace the “You must lose so that I may win,” “do or die” mentality, with all its negative effects on our energy, our relationships, and ultimately our long-term performance as leaders.
Unfortunately, when we adopt a competitive mindset we tend to embrace a perspective that has at its core thoughts of conflict, leading to (if we let it) expressions of anger and which result in the disregard for and even contempt for others and ourselves.
We constantly focus on “what’s wrong,” “what’s broken,” and “who or what is to blame.”
This is a perpetual struggle, and it is exhausting.
The truth is we create this ourselves. We author our world and how we perceive it. Once we create the arena, the world happily obliges our “need” for competition and conflict, to come out on top, and to get what’s ours and win at all costs.
We see what we want to see and get exactly what we’re looking for.
How eager are we really, to fill our plate with ample portions of resentment, frustration, defiance, and fear? These emotions validate our struggle. We stand before a buffet of conflict, and we are HUNGRY!
But this endless diet of destructive energy doesn’t serve us at all. We may get brilliant short-term results, but ultimately this way of living and playing will fail.
The effort required to continually create and maintain this mindset drains us and those around us. We burn out. We alienate or take it out on those around us. We have trouble maintaining social relationships. We lack trust, and we soon find it’s “us against the world,” which is ironic because it is exactly the world we created.
But there is another way to look at those aspects of our lives where we find ourselves “competing” to the point of frustration, anger, and exhaustion. And it serves us and those with whom we share personal and professional relationships.
When we release ourselves from the need to “win,” we also release ourselves from the possibility of “losing.” This removes conflict and resentment and allows us to redirect our effort toward a more inclusive, long-term growth, and mastery mindset. We get “in the flow.”
When we begin to reshape the world we knew as black and white, right or wrong, and good or bad, we release judgment and the core thought of conflict because we know it limits our options, perspective, and possibilities.
When we redirect this energy of conflict (which in its pure form is action) toward something that more positively reflects and honors the power we have over our thoughts, emotions, and actions, we build rather than destroy.
When we release fear and aggression as our unconscious foundation, we inspire and motivate ourselves and others to reach new heights of performance and growth.
We trust others and allow them to trust us in return.