Friday, June 3, 2011

Why we aren't competitive enough

We are the primary determinant of our own success. We can push ourselves to achieve things or, more often than not, we can stand in our own way.

We don’t “struggle” enough – we don’t stick our necks out there and take enough risks. We aren’t competitive enough, we don’t question the status quo enough, we aren’t “hungry” enough.

Why? What happens that prevents a more competitive perspective?

Negative internalization – we get down on ourselves too easily. We fail at something and assume it’s our fault. Stop doing that. Messing something up is rarely a negative reflection of you as a person – so you’re not a failure just because you didn’t get a job offer or got fired two weeks later (unless, of course, you did something like steal thousands from the company. Then, yes, that’s a reflection on you.)   

We tend to be perfectionists or pessimists – if we aren’t certain something is going to go perfectly, we hesitate to try. And if we don’t have complete control over it, which is true by its very nature, how can we ever be certain that it’s going to go perfectly? The answer is we can’t. And therefore need to learn to relinquish that. You’ll never have anything but mediocrity if you don’t disrupt your comfort zone.

• Absolutism – many of us handicap ourselves by thinking that if we don’t win, we’ve lost. There is no “second” or “almost.” If we don’t realize the best possible outcome, we have failed altogether. And therefore we're better off not trying at all. The reality is, though, that many of humankind’s greatest achievements have been borne out have countless preceding failures – you just never hear about them. So if at first you don’t succeed…

• Too much empathy – if we win, it means someone else didn’t. When we get the job offer, there are others still unemployed. If we get that awesome parking spot right up front, it means the little old lady behind us will have to walk (no mind that she does yoga six times a week and has the health of a champion.) We worry about what others will think or feel; we worry that our best friend will resent our promotion. We worry that we have a better life than our parents did. We forget that those people should want those things for us. And that, more importantly, we do too.

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