The Olympics were a wonderful opportunity to reflect on competition and its impact on performance.
As a coach who works with many female executives, I think there is an interesting lesson we can learn from the athletes’ performance at the Games about corporate America for women. Many top-performing athletes look at their competitors as motivators, not enemies, but this isn’t always the case for women at work.
A common challenge emerges for many women in business, a sense of having to compete against their peers to meet their objectives. It takes many shapes and forms at work. Too often, women are allocating their energy to look at what is wrong in other women, sometimes criticizing them openly, hoping they will be discredited instead of focusing on what is great about themselves. In this situation, women position themselves at wanting to be “The Winner.” The energy related to “I win, you lose” can be exhausting and damaging in the long run and cause burnout.
But when one approaches competition with a sense of win-win, the concept shifts from competing against peers to competing with peers. Work life becomes a challenging game where everyone can be a winner as they work to expand and surpass their previous performance. The process becomes fun, empowering and regenerative.
How fun would it be to see in the workplace what we have recently seen with Aly Raisman and Simone Biles? Support, love, care and enthusiasm as each of the gymnasts performs to be their best, not to be the best.
Likewise, did you see the faces of Usain Bolt or Andre de Grasse at the Olympics compared to some of the other contestants? Did you notice the energy they exude? What about their charisma? They entered confidently, not arrogantly. They were prepared to do and be their best, whatever the outcome would be. Being powerful does not require being forceful.
When you compete with others things become easier, and it seems almost an effortless process. Your level of energy increases as you feel stimulated by the challenge, not obsessed with the potential outcome. It is the same concept with internal competition. We can compete against ourselves or with ourselves. It’s the difference between reaching extraordinary performance and good performance.
How can you shift your mindset and reach your highest potential?
1. Become aware of your thoughts and beliefs. Are you competing against or with others? At the internal level, how do you compete with or against yourself?
2. Connect with your inner strengths instead of focusing on comparing yourself to others.
3. Support other women in a loving and genuine way, whether or not they are ready to compete with you instead of against you. You will see how interesting things shift when healthy competition is experienced.
4. Use competition in a healthy way by surrounding yourself with people ready to compete with you and encourage you to perform your best.
5. Monitor your own performance several times a day and identify which mindset you’re experiencing: competition with or competition against? Feel the difference at a mental, emotional and physical level.
By channeling energy and time toward growing oneself instead of fighting someone else, women will reach new heights and experience all of their relationships from a place of ease. Practice, and let me know what your new paradigm is.
By Belinda MJ Brown, executive coach and founder of Equanimity Executive, a firm offering coaching services to professional women and diverse organizations.
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