There’s nothing wrong with a bit of friendly competition. Whether the context is sports or the office, wanting to be the best is a natural response to being within a group of people who are doing the same thing you are. Competitive spirit can spur everyone to give their strongest effort and raise the overall standard, but if you take it too far or allow it into the wrong situations, the results can be disastrous.
Winning or being the best may feel good, but you have to weigh it against the sacrifices you make to get there. For example, if the point of being successful in your career is so you can relax and enjoy your success, it is very difficult to do that if you’re never able to focus on anything but how to get even further ahead. This single-mindedness can be great for your work, but maybe not so much for your home life. If professional competition is the thing you place above all else, step back and ask yourself what your priorities are. Is getting ahead in the rat race more important than spending time with your family? It may be difficult to admit when you’re too competitive, especially if you perceive your ambition as being for the greater good — the thing that pays the bills and allows for a certain lifestyle.
Competitive feelings can can not only affect your attitude toward your perceived opponent, but if you are working with a team, it can affect them, too. Not everyone responds well to being pushed harder, and in some cases it can have exactly the opposite of the desired effect. Wanting your team to do the best they can is fantastic, but alienating them by being bossy or overbearing is not the way to go about it. Part of teamwork is accepting that different people have different styles of working. As important as the finish line may be to you personally, others may be more interested in the journey. You may have to learn to compromise. Most people who work on a team do their best, and although encouraging them doesn’t hurt anything, trying to force them does. Keep in mind that if team morale goes down, so will production.
Your personal social life is not a contest. It’s tiring to be around someone who is constantly measuring themselves against everyone else, so if you are competitive by nature, resist the urge to let this overflow into your friendships. If your friend, partner, or sibling has accomplished something that puts them in the spotlight and you in shadow, be supportive and let them have their moment. You don’t have to go right out and do something even more noteworthy just to prove you can. People do love a winner, but not a show-off. Trying to out-do people close to you is likely to gain you more enemies than friends, so even if you insist on trying to outshine those within your social group, sometimes being gracious and modest is the best way to go about it.
if you are intensely competitive by nature, moderation can be a bit of a foreign concept. The nature of the competitive spirit is to be the best at all times, no matter what, and that is a difficult switch to turn off. The most important thing is to understand how the people closest to you, or the people you are competing with, are affected by your ambition. If seeing you makes them feel inspired and motivated, then you’re doing it right. If, on the other hand, your need to win is crushing your relationships and your ability to relax and be happy, then it might be worth examining just how much you’re actually getting out of the deal by “winning,” and if it wouldn’t be worth it to ease up a little, at least when you’re in situations where competition isn’t really necessary. Sometimes learning the difference is the hardest part.