Is too much focus on the competition making you run at half pace?


A company that is too focused on what others are doing, hampers its own growth. For a company to achieve its true potential, it must be intrinsically motivated.

Recently, my partner Steve was looking through my mobile running results on the Strava App, when he said: “You know you actually run faster when you run on your own than when you run with me.” He then said it didn’t surprise him because, when he runs with his friends that are faster and better runners than he is, he struggles.

Comparing myself, I panic

Thinking about it, I realised that the issue I have is that when I run with him I compare myself to him. I know he’s finding it easy and so I immediately start to focus on how much harder it is for me. I then think I’m running faster than I usually am because I know he runs faster than me, and I panic that I can’t keep up.

Once I panic, I become more aware of the pain in my body and everything feels harder. The irony is that I’m actually running slower than I usually would.

When I run on my own I let go of all that. I’m not a great runner but I run because I want to. I run because I want to be fit and I like to know I can. I’m not comparing myself to anyone else. I have some goals in my head – I know the distance I want to achieve and the speed I would like to be able to do it at.

When I approach my goals I stretch them out because, as soon as I get close, I realise that I can achieve more. This is how I approach everything in life. I give it the best I can each and every day.

On my own, I go within

Out on the road, I’ll ‘go’ inwards and feel how my body is that day. When I’m running on my own, I have a constant awareness of how my body actually feels and I push it to my limits. I’m not comparing myself to anyone other than myself. Once I’m on the edge of my limit I run a check through how every part of my body feels and make a decision, ‘can I push myself further?’ ‘Do I have more to give?’ and if the answer is ‘Yes’, then I pick up the pace.

I’ll focus on my breathing and the positioning of my body to feel where is most comfortable. If I feel pain I have a mantra that repeats “Let it go”. The more I ‘let go’ the more relaxed I feel. I reach a place that feels like flying. It feels really good. It doesn’t last for the rest of the run. It comes and then goes and I have to recreate it, repeating the patterns above.

I have no idea if this is how you should do it. I’ve never had a running coach. I would probably benefit hugely from one. But it’s my way, and it works because the end result is that I continue to get better and faster.

The power of intrinsic motivation

I believe that this is the power of intrinsic motivation. When I’m on my own I’m not comparing myself to anyone else. I’m not distracted by what they’re doing. No one is telling me to do it. I do it because I want to, and because I want to, I give it everything I’ve got.

I believe that this is what purpose give us and it applies to how we approach work.

The research backs it up to. A study of more than 11,000 West Point military cadets by Amy Wrzesniewski, Barry Schwartz and their team of Yale University researchers found that those who were internally motivated (I want to be a better leader) were more likely to graduate, receive promotions and stay on in the military, compared to those who entered because of external motivations (I want to earn more money).

“Helping people focus on the meaning and impact of their work, rather than on, say, the financial returns it will bring, may be the best way to improve not only the quality of their work but also – counterintuitive though it may seem – their financial success,” said Wrzesniewski and Schwartz.

If we are focused on our vision, and our journey and we are only competing with ourselves then we are focused on being the best we can be, doing the best that we can do. Nothing else matters and so all of our energy is focused in the right direction.

Keeping an eye on the competition can drain us

The end result is that we get better than if we are trying to keep up with someone else, or following in someone else’s footsteps, or in competition with other people. All of these mean that we’re channelling energy that could better be used to push ourselves forward to something else.

For an organisation and its leadership, those ‘internal motivators’ can be found in the company’s vision, and the more aspirational the reason for being in business, the better you, your team and your business are likely to do.

Anyhow, we’ve written a short e-guide (yes I know, very professional!) and if you’ve made it this far in my blog, I think you’ll find it interesting and helpful. 🙂

Click here to download: “How to inspire your employees and get them excited by your company vision”.

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