Healthy vs. Unhealthy Competition

As humans we are innately competitive. It is this desire to come out on top which drives us to succeed, propelling us to push beyond our perceived barriers. However, competition needs to be carefully monitored. If left unchecked it can leave us constantly feeling unfulfilled and inadequate. It can also make us extremely unpopular.

The difference between healthy and unhealthy competition comes down to your attitude; is it friendly or threatening? In this post, we discover the difference between friendly and threatening competition, and find out how to put the power of healthy competition to use in and out of the ring.

What is Healthy Competition?

Healthy competition is the epitome of team spirit and being a contributing member of a tribe. Someone who partakes in healthy competition wants to succeed, but also derives joy from seeing others succeed. Their competitive spirit stems from a growth mindset, and is used in a positive way to help their team (and themselves) reach their goals.

Healthy competition has a role both in the studio and in life outside of the ring. Sales reps might engage in healthy competition to boost their monthly sales by playing off each others' energy. This approach to getting things done ends up benefiting all team members and the business overall, not just an individual on the team.

Athletes on the same team may engage in healthy competition, driving each other to push harder in their drills and being a source of motivation for one another during training sessions. Racing to see who can sprint faster, shoot more hoops or do more push-ups during a training session helps build skills that will carry over to game day-- as long as it's all in good fun.

What is Unhealthy Competition?

Competition becomes unhealthy when it blinds us to the improvements that we are making. This happens when we focus on the other person rather than ourselves. Instead of appreciating the fact that we that little bit stronger, faster or fitter, we beat ourselves up because we are not as strong, fast or fit as our competition.

Being obsessed with the idea of winning is another sign of unhealthy competition. Of course, we all go into competition with the intent on coming off victorious. However, training and athletics aren't all black and white; there's more to it than just winning and losing. Those who engage in unhealthy competition often engage in unfair practices to keep from losing. This could range from purposefully seeking out competitors who are not up to your skill level to cheating during competition.

When winning becomes the only source of satisfaction, you know you have a problem. If feelings of self-worth and personal accomplishment are linked with another person’s ability to do something, then you will never be satisfied. There is always going to be someone who is better than you. So, comparing yourself to others is only going to lead to frustration.

How to Promote Healthy Competition

Healthy competition encourages us to work harder, push beyond perceived barriers and strive to be our best. It motivates us, giving us a tangible target to set our sights on. Often, competition extends the boundaries of what we think we are capable of.

Healthy competition also teaches us how it feels to lose. Losing gracefully is an important skill that only comes with experience. Loss in competition also develops the vital quality of resilience. The ability to get up off the canvas, dust ourselves off, reflect on our performance and come back stronger is the mark of a real winner.

Here are some effective ways to promote healthy competition and develop a growth mindset:

  • Focus on the journey, not the destination - Whether you're a part of a sports team or a sales team, someone is always going to be better than you and there are always going to be things that don't work out the way you had planned. Think beyond winning and losing, and look instead at the hard work put in to get you to that destination. What did you learn? What aspects of your approach would you consider a success? What improvement have you made since you started along this path? Use these takeaways to challenge yourself to set new goals.
  • Revel in the success of others - friendly competition feeds into the idea of diversity and inclusion, as well as leveling the playing field. There are no limits to success. Yes, sometimes there has to be a winning and losing team, and it can be a challenge to see the positive in a perceived loss. However, developing emotional intelligence and empathy can help you celebrate someone else's success. This skill helps you take a positive, healthier approach to winning and losing.
  • Stop comparing yourself to others - In most cases when you're in a competitive environment, it can be challenging not to compare yourselves to others. However, it's important to get back to basics and remember the lessons you learned as a child: you can only control yourself, not others. Everyone comes from different walks of life. Manage your expectations and don't compare your chapter one to someone else's chapter five.

You Are Your Greatest Competition

The key to success, whether in the ring or outside of it, is to maintain a healthy competition with yourself. This will encourage you to continually improve and reach your goals. Focus on progress, not perfection. With that mindset you will be able to apply set goals for success that go beyond an unhealthy fixation on winning and losing. Then, you'll be able to make a plan and form a positive form of motivation that has more rewards than winning could ever offer.

Every time you walk into the studio, set your sights on improving on what you did in your last workout. This may involve doing an extra five reps on push ups, holding the plank for another 30 seconds, or decreasing your rest period between sets. This goal will be your motivation to dig a little deeper, move a little faster, and push a little harder.

You need to be competing with yourself in order to make progress. If you don’t, your body will get used to your exercise routine and stop responding. However, even when your competition is yourself, you need to prevent that competition from becoming unhealthy. Thus can happen when your desire to more stops you from listening to your body. Training through a niggling injury is counter productive, as is compromising your exercise form to do more. So, training hard must always be tempered with training smart.

Channel Your Competitiveness

Having a competitive spirit can be a constant form of motivation to succeed. However, it needs to be balanced by positive practices. Rather than valuing yourself in comparison to the other person, focus on how your performance has improved and how it highlights what you need to work on next. Instead of taking a loss personally, view it objectively. Allow it to teach you so that you can come back better than before with the intent of winning, not to defeat the other person, but to improve yourself.

Channel your competitive spirit and be a source of motivation for yourself and your tribe during your next Gloveworx session.