HOW many times have you scoffed at the phrase: “It’s the taking part that counts?”
We’re told winning isn’t everything, but for many of us, the idea of not winning – whether at work, at the school gates, playing games or on social media (64% of us compare ourselves with friends and family online, as well as celebrities and influencers*) – is appalling and to be avoided at all costs.
Here are eight ways to control your competitive streak and stop it ruining your life[/caption]
“A bit of competitiveness can be positive, because it can drive you forwards, fuel ambition and help you be the best you can be,” says Dee Holmes, counsellor and clinical services manager at Relate.
“And it can be fun if you want to win something but won’t be devastated if you don’t.”
However, if you do feel devastated and unable to take a loss graciously, you may be taking competing too far, affecting your relationships, your ability to enjoy activities and get on at work.
So here’s how to keep a lid on your competitive nature…
Model Good Behaviour Early On
Competitiveness usually starts young.
“Parents can have a lot to answer for,” says Dee.
“Sometimes family members are pitched against each other.
“The measure of success is winning and if you don’t succeed, you don’t win, and that may be the way you gained approval or felt your parents thought you had done well.”
Often, it’s done with the best of intentions.
“Parents will encourage children – they want them to do well at school, in games, and to succeed. They don’t want them to walk away from things. But on some level, they’re saying: ‘This isn’t enjoyable or done until it’s finished,’” explains Dee.
“Instead, parents need to think about how to build positive, constructive competition into children’s lives, that will stand them in good stead, so that they will want to achieve, do well and won’t be lazy, but that they can also cope with setbacks and disappointment.”
One way to do this is to make sure you don’t always let kids win at games.
“Otherwise they won’t be able to deal with not winning,” says Dee.
“And try to model good behaviour yourself.
“So if they beat you, be pleased for them!”
Beware The ‘Proud Parent’ Trap
It’s important to respect your child as a person in their own right.
“When parents compete with other parents, there’s an implication that: ‘My child is walking early because I’m such a good mother,’ when actually, your child is walking early because physically that’s the way they’re built,” says Dee.
“It’s good to be proud of those milestones, but be mindful of how you share that with people who may be anxious about their child not walking yet, or if their child is struggling with something.”
Enjoy The Moment
You may need to drag your focus back to the process, rather than crossing the finish line in a blaze of glory.
“Every morning I swim for half an hour and I often find myself looking at the clock, thinking: ‘I’ve still got so many lengths to go!’” says Dee.
“But then I check myself and instead try to think: ‘Stop focusing on ticking swimming off your to-do list and actually enjoy the swim itself.’”
She recommends trying to be more mindful in the moment whatever you are doing.
“If you’re playing a board game, pause, look around and think: ‘I’m sitting here with family and friends, enjoying Monopoly and a glass of wine and actually it’s fun – it’s not about me winning.’”
Consider Why You’re Competing
Think about what exactly you are competing against.
“We’re very good at looking at the negatives, but even if you did swim slower than yesterday, you’ve still done 20 lengths, which is better than if you’d stayed in bed!” says Dee.
“Why are you being so hard on yourself?
“You can get stuck in a cycle of achieving, achieving, achieving.
“But there is a bigger picture.
“Your morning exercise is a small part of your day – and you did it, so focus on that rather than thinking: ‘I didn’t do as well as I’d hoped.’”
Treat Social Media With Caution
While many people do now put the good and bad on social media, such platforms can still make you feel like you and your life are lacking.
Remember that what you see online is only a tiny snapshot.
“When people are showing their kids or their perfect house, part of me thinks: ‘Well, you’re on social media right now, you’re not reading to your child or playing with them!’” says Dee.
“We need to live our lives, not live our lives for social media, and if people are doing that, they’re probably not living their best life.”
She recommends unfollowing people with lifestyles that are massively out of reach.
“But if it’s your friends and family you’re looking at enviously, remember they may have a lovely house, but they probably also have a mortgage they’re worried about,” she adds.
“There is always a downside to an upside.”
Know Your Limits
Ever been told you could do anything if you “just put your mind to it”?
Unfortunately, even if there was total equality and you were as competitive as humanly possible, we still couldn’t all be astronauts or pop stars.
“We have to accept there are lots of things we can do, but that we do have limitations,” says Dee.
“We’re not all going to become Prime Minister.
“You need to think about what it is you want to achieve.
“Focus on that, be realistic about it and be aware of what the consequences might be.
“You can’t have it all, so if you decide you want to run a marathon, for example, you’ll have to get up at 5am every morning to train and miss out on other things.”
Understand The Cost
If you do push yourself in one area of your life, Dee says you have to be aware of the cost to other areas.
Weigh up how much it will matter to you in the future, as well as now.
“You hear people say: ‘I don’t have time for a relationship because I’m focusing on my career.’
“That may be a sensible choice at the time, but in 15 years, they may feel they’ve missed the opportunity to have a family, for instance,” she says.
“It’s about balance.
“Being too competitive can also make you unpopular, because it can bring out a ruthless side, and if you are a sore loser, people may not want to be with you.”
Ask For Feedback At Work
Being competitive at work can take you far, but you also have to accept that things won’t always go your way.
“If you feel that a colleague got a promotion over you that they didn’t deserve, for example, it’s important to ask your interviewing panel for constructive feedback on where things went wrong and what to do next time,” says Dee.
“If you feel dissatisfied, it’s a chance to take stock and think: ‘Why am I feeling like this? What can I do to feel differently? How can I move forward?’ View it as a learning opportunity.”
Source of data and images: thesun