From driven by competition to driven by the satisfaction of growth

Why we are so trained to compete, instead to inspire, cheerlead and motivate ourselves, together with others, towards achievements? 

That thought was carrying me a bit away this June. 

Sometimes people can trigger very helpful — yet surprising — chains of thoughts in us. By that, they can trigger unknown insights into one’s past, but moreover new growth paths for the future. That is what happened to me while I was making my way into Dubai’s social life. I did not realize the new insight right away when I gained it as I was luckily consumed by the enjoyable moments than by psychology. But my subconsciousness – together with my brain – nudged me intensively to process it consciously. Well, half conscious, half asleep – it was already at 2AM that same day… (Do you also have such a crazily active brain like me, which obviously has its own independent existence to keep you up at night thinking?!) 

It was processing and analyzing a simple situation, yet somehow sticking situation which happened on that, because I thought – and still think – that guy, we are going to talk about him in a minute, is a nice person, yet unconsciously I recognized some characteristics which I had to release over the last years while I was creating my own, new perspective on Leadership. This old pattern was: Gaining motivation and creating momentum by focusing on beating someone else (aka., competing mindset). 

That seems now like super obvious and easy, but it was not. So, let’s dive into the situation a bit more how it evolved. 

Let’s call my person – Peter. Peter and I met over a coffee, after we had matched on a dating app. Peter is a director of a large cooperation and hence a quite successful person, if we look from the point of societal definition of success. And, on top, he had just got a promotion. So, Peter is climbing up the ladder further, into an even more important leadership role, supervising and guiding others. 

Peter and I were chatting about all sorts of topics like what we work, what we do in our leisure time, business stuff, the venue, and amusing ourselves with the Snapchat crying filter — so he’s fun, too. Sounded solid for a first date. Well, it was, until he randomly stated this story on which I got so stuck as I think it tells me a lot about some part of his leadership style…

He and two friends of him wanted to lose weight, thanks to C-19. So, they came up with the idea to bet against each other who would lose the most weight in the set timeframe. They got quickly into competition mode as it is normal in your society. I think, to make his own journey a little bit more heroic (easy, we are on a date), he mentioned that both had a better starting point than him, aka. more to lose. So, to speed up his progress — and to ensure that he would win — he went on a 2-week exercises bootcamp: lots of movement and healthy food would of course be very beneficial.

Great, I thought. Self-improver mindset. I like that! But in the very next moment he killed it…. With a guffaw of laughter that reminded me a little bit of an emperor’s heroics — he told me that while he was rocking his bootcamp, he had sent his friends a seducing package of delicious chocolates to rally up his chances of winning the competition. 

My jaw dropped. My eyes were wide open, and I bubbled, “That’s so mean!” He got that and went on explaining himself that he didn’t force them to eat the sweets. They have had a choice. “Yeah, that’s true,” I said, “but they are your friends!” After a pause, I added: “Well, then again, it’s true. It’s a good strategy [defeating your enemies] to win.”

I will stop here the story, as this was, what kept my brain working until late night – and my inner somehow alerted and growing. 

So, what does this have to do with leadership styles? A lot. 

It shows us, that we – as humanity – are still being trained to think that we can only win if others loose; that we think, that the competition mode is the best modus operandi to move us forward as we have never actively learnt or observed a different way; that we still have a lot do to redefine success – and the way towards success. 

I don’t want to blame anyone – and for sure not Peter. I was there myself, in particular while I was fully believing and living in the old-fashioned, patriarchy consulting hamster wheel. I wrote a lot about the pressure of the old paradigm on women and men in my first book, and I still hope more and more people start question the old model. This example just shows how normal, real, and “daily” it still is around the world. Therefore, its perfect to work with it. 

My question: Why did he — the same as many other people in the world — not support his friends in losing weight, instead of defeating them. Why couldn’t everyone win? Why did they even start with a competition where only one can win? Isn’t it, that all are winning if they lose weight, no matter who is the quickest? Why did they not make a bet for the sum of all lost kgs? So that everyone is motivated to cheerlead the others to their common goal.  

I have the impression we urgently need a paradigm shift of “how to win” — from the old-fashioned picture of destroying, beating, defeating the others (the enemy), to everyone wins – CheerLeading ourselves and others along the way, where we 

  • have a wide-open mind to infinite possibilities without comparisons. 
  • can win, without focusing on the other to lose. 
  • move away from competing against each other, to CheerLeading each other into success. 

What do you think? (I hope we’re on the same page. If not, I am also fine. I will still not compete against you. ;))

So, why was I so paralyzed and thoughtful about his sentences? 

Because I really believe that he does not need that sort of thing or mindset to achieve anything he wants. Yes, I believe in the best of everyone because I can see their highest potential; and, I am sure, everyone can reach it. So, can he – and for sure, will. 


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