Compete or Retreat? Creating a Healthy Competitive Mindset

Motivation & Inspiration

For many of us, it’s the off season. We’re working hard, having fun, learning things, and feeling challenged. Training is going well. The off season is all about gaining muscle, learning new skills, pushing yourself, resting, and repeating. 

But as the sun rises and sets, competition season is nearing. Did I say nearing or fearing?

The next deadline, the next competition, looms ahead. You must put your skills to the test and compare your efforts against others. 

For many athletes, even the very thought of competition can make their stomach turn or cause goosebumps. And this is exactly why having the right mindset can make such a huge difference.  If thoughts can cause a physical response such as butterflies or sweaty palms, then thoughts can also be used to create a healthy feeling of competition and a more positive physical response on game day. If thoughts can make you nervous, thoughts can also make you focused.  If thoughts can be negative, thoughts can also be positive.

So why do we compete? To gain information.

Competition means learning. It is a place to test our abilities and get feedback on our progress. Competitive feedback can be painfully honest, but a reality check is often motivating. Every competition is an experience and an opportunity to learn and grow. Whether the result is good or bad is less important than what you take away from each opportunity. Competition gives us the chance to reflect on areas of success and areas that need improvement. 

However, these results can sometimes be misleading. You can have your best performance ever and still lose the game. You can feel like you made a million mistakes yet walk away with a medal.

Having your own personal set of competitive goals and performance outcomes will help you approach competitions with eagerness. Go into each competition with an open mind, asking yourself, “What will this experience teach me this time?” And at the end reflect on the question, “What should I work to improve for next time?”

If you are looking to create an easy competitive experience, where you avoid challenge, failure, and adversity, where you compete only when you know you will win, and when you don’t need effort to succeed, won’t you be bored? Did you really win?

If every competition experience turns out the same way or feels easy, did we really accomplish anything? It’s the grind and the challenge and the determination over time that creates champions. Not one win or one loss.