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Why You Are Your Own Best Competition

Why You Are Your Own Best Competition

If you find yourself comparing yourself with your friend, co-worker, neighbor, or partner, you need to stop this minute. Comparing yourself with others is the easiest way to lose focus and distract yourself from your goals. As a human being, the best favor you can do yourself and the world at large is to be laser-focused on your personal goals and on your definition of what success with those goals means to you. What do I mean by this?

Focus on your art

Seth Godin often talks about how we should focus on figuring out what our art is and on sharing this art with the world. By its very nature, everyone’s art is distinct and unique. We can only develop our best art by looking deep into ourselves and sharing what makes us special with the world. To him, art is anything that is creative, passionate, and personal, and great art resonates with the viewer, not only with the creator.

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It only makes sense that competing with others distracts from the distinctiveness that makes our art special. By comparing ourselves with others, we lose the magic that developing our core art affords the world. Competition with others in a sense makes us ordinary. It encourages imitation and, if we are not careful, makes us lose our essence. How boring.

Perhaps the best illustration of the magic that competing with oneself can bring to our art is Steve Jobs. Steve Jobs’ maniacal obsession with his art was apparent to all in the careful attention to detail observed in most Apple products. This was clearly born out of his internal vision, which would not have seen the light of day if he did not stay committed to tapping into his inner creativity. We owe it to the world to bring our originality and insights to the work that we do.

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What is your art? Are you currently focused on making it the best possible version of your art that the world has ever seen? What are you doing to improve it and to make it delight and connect with your audience?

Here are three ways I keep myself focused whenever I find myself trying to compete with others:

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1. Write down your goals
Writing down your goals is one of the easiest ways to keep in touch with your inner purpose and see where you’d like to be in a given time frame. Research has shown time and time again that writing down your goals dramatically increases your chances of achieving them. When writing your goals, it is important to write down the steps you have taken or plan to take to accomplish them. Also, make sure your goals are Specific, Measurable, Active, Realistic, and Timed (S.M.A.R.T) to increase your chances of success.

2. Track your progress
Next, track your progress. This would give you a sense about how far along you are in your journey towards improving your art. Getting a good sense of your progress, helps you determine areas in which you need to improve or work harder. It also reassures you that you are on track if you are meeting all your set targets for yourself.

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3.  Devise a plan for improvement
Now that you have reviewed your goals, devise a plan for improvement that can help you perfect your art. Since you have the best understanding of what the best expression of your art should look like, come up with action steps that can help you improve to the best of your ability and that can help you reach your definition of success.

These three steps have never failed me because they keep me focused on my inner compass and help me continually review and evaluate myself for improvement.

Have you tried any of these out? How have they helped you compete effectively with yourself?

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The Gentle Art of Saying No

The Gentle Art of Saying No

No!

It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments — you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time.

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But requests for your time are coming in all the time — through phone, email, IM or in person. To stay productive, and minimize stress, you have to learn the Gentle Art of Saying No — an art that many people have problems with.

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What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.

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But it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here are the Top 10 tips for learning the Gentle Art of Saying No:

  1. Value your time. Know your commitments, and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it. And tell them that: “I just can’t right now … my plate is overloaded as it is.”
  2. Know your priorities. Even if you do have some extra time (which for many of us is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time? For myself, I know that more commitments means less time with my wife and kids, who are more important to me than anything.
  3. Practice saying no. Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word. And sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.
  4. Don’t apologize. A common way to start out is “I’m sorry but …” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm, and unapologetic about guarding your time.
  5. Stop being nice. Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. But if you erect a wall, they will look for easier targets. Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.
  6. Say no to your boss. Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss — they’re our boss, right? And if we say “no” then we look like we can’t handle the work — at least, that’s the common reasoning. But in fact, it’s the opposite — explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.
  7. Pre-empting. It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting, “Look guys, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”
  8. Get back to you. Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, simply tell them: “After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.” At least you gave it some consideration.
  9. Maybe later. If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say, “This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].” Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands.
  10. It’s not you, it’s me. This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time. Simply say so — you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization … but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true — people can sense insincerity.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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