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Got a Competitve Edge?

A good friend just got engaged and promoted. You:

a. wonder "Why her and not me?"

b. throw her a party.

c. shoot her a note of congrats.

Instant insight "Competitive personalities constantly compare themselves to
others," says JoAnn Dahlkoetter, Ph.D., author of Your Performing Edge (Pulgas
Ridge Press, 2004). Even if your friend is thinner, richer and happier than
you, focusing your energy on her takes away from concentrating on yourself.
"Get back to your own goals," Dahlkoetter advises. "Think about what you
want to do rather than how you're not matching up. If your objective is to get
promoted, then implement a plan of action to get that done. Compare yourself
to your own timeline — where were you last year? Are you taking steps to get
where you want to go?" And don't forget that happiness often begets happiness:
By genuinely sharing in her good fortune, be it a simple congratulatory
e-mail or an all-out festive shindig, you'll feel good about yourself and maybe
be even more motivated to reach your own goals.

There's a long line at the supermarket checkout. You:

a. feel your pulse race, then decide to leave the store.
You don't have time for this!

b. grab one of the tabloids to read while you wait.

c. ditch a couple of items so you can head to the express lane.

Instant insight "The need to do 10 things at once and be in control is
inherent in competitive mentalities," Dahlkoetter says. "But when
you're in line or stuck in traffic, you lack that control." The key is to
separate the things you can control from the things you can't. You
can leave work earlier to allow for a few extra minutes in the
store. You can't determine how many
people will be shopping when you get
there. If you still get caught in that
abysmal line, make the time productive,
says Patricia Farrell, Ph.D., author
of How to Be Your Own Therapist
(McGraw-Hill, 2004). Chat with
the person next to you, or
mentally prepare for your
big meeting. Or best of
all, use uplifting self-talk,
such as "I'm staying
positive today regardless
of what happens."

The last vacation you took was:

a. so long ago you can't remember — you're too swamped with work.

b. last Monday. You call in sick every few weeks.

c. three months ago.

Instant insight "Competitive people have a hard time switching gears and forget
that they need to take a break," Dahlkoetter says. "But you need time off
every three to four months." Even the
Energizer Bunny eventually fizzles out,
and studies show that downtime gives
you a much-needed opportunity to
recharge. You can't perform at 100
percent every day without resting.

If your mind-set (or budget) won't
allow for a decadent week in Hawaii, try
taking baby steps. "Schedule a day off
ahead of time," Dahlkoetter says. "If
you claim you'll take a break when you
need it, it will never happen. Plan to
take one Friday off a month, or give
yourself incentives — if you ace a project,
book a spa day." And if you still
can't pry yourself away from the office,
at the very least, avoid your e-mail or
cellphone on weekends.

Your firm is putting together a softball league. You:

a. don't sign up; you won't risk striking
out in front of others.

b. bring the beer and chips!
Even if you're not the best
softball player, the
score is irrelevant.

c. worry that you'll
stink, but sign up

Instant insight
Looking foolish is
by far a competitor's
worst nightmare,
so rather
than embracing
the opportunity to have fun,
a hypercompetitive person
might sit out the game
entirely. "Or, she'll go to the
batting cage and practice
becoming a power hitter,"
Farrell says. Rather than
obsessing over what could go
wrong, why not turn your attention to
the positives of the situation? For
example, if you play, you'll build company
morale, squeeze in some afterwork
exercise and shine as a team
player. And if you strike out, so what?
"If you want to be the best you can be,
you have to make mistakes and learn
from them," Farrell says. Remember,
most of your co-workers are there to
have fun. You should be too.

The last time you yelled at someone was:

a. yesterday. Your assistant screwed
up a meeting.

b. Does your dog count?

c. a month ago, but you apologized.

Instant insight People who go for
the jugular are more easily irritated
and stressed, Dahlkoetter says. So
when a situation goes awry, they use
someone else as a punching bag. Does
it work? Rarely. "Yelling is counterproductive
for you and the people at
whom you're yelling," Farrell says.
"They quickly learn to disregard it and
see you as someone who is a poor
manager." So when your husband once
again forgets to pick up the dry
cleaning, pipe down.
"Instead, take a
deep breath and
consider your
responses," Dahlkoetter advises. "If I
yell, is it productive? Does it hurt the
relationship? What about if I speak with
him firmly and explain why this annoys
me so much? What happens then?"
Chances are, he listens.

Friends and family often:

a. tell you to slow down.

b. ask if you're bored.

c. admire your balancing skills.

Instant insight To find out whether
you're too often vying to win, listen to
the feedback of those who know you
best. If you're constantly forgetful, late
and overbooked, you're not only
neglecting appointments, you're also
neglecting the relationships fostered
during them. And studies show that
hypercompetitive people are less happily
married and less effective
bosses. Allow yourself to
slow down by prioritizing your
schedule, Dahlkoetter suggests.
Create an A list, a B list and a C
list; only the most crucial things
(your A list) get your attention
first. If you have time (and
energy) for more, carefully tack
them on from your B and C lists.

Your best friend
dropped 15 pounds and
looks better than ever. You:

a. hit the gym until you ache — you're
determined to look hotter.

b. drown your jealousy in some Ben &
Jerry's ice cream.

c. pass her number out to your cute
male co-workers.

Instant insight "Our society greatly
emphasizes physical presentation,
particularly for women," Dahlkoetter
says. "The way a woman is
viewed by others most often
determines the relationship she has
with herself, which makes her prone
to constantly comparing herself." So
how do you stop? Try boosting your
inner strength, Dahlkoetter advises:
"The greater one's self-esteem, the less
need there is to gain someone else's
approval." OK, so your friend lost
weight. Focus on what you've gained in
life, rather than the pounds that you
(or anyone else) have lost. That's how
you really win.


If you answered mostly A's, you:

Play to win You're a textbook example of a competitor who defines herself
by winning. Rather than aiming to whip others, aim to compete with yourself.
Top athletes don't just focus on beating their competitors; they strive for their
personal bests. Make this your goal. Letting go of the need to control each
situation and instead concentrating on the need to control your role in each
circumstance will free you from the stress and anxiety that comes from
having to be numero uno all the time.

If you answered mostly B's, you:

Need to get in the game You already take the time to stop and smell the
roses. But that might be just about all you do. Competitive drive, in and of
itself, isn't a negative quality. It can spur you to better results and higher selfesteem.
Try to home in on what's important to you — such as a better tennis
game or stronger public-speaking skills — and push yourself to be the best
you can be in that specific area.

If you answered mostly C's, you:

Have a competitive clue You're a team player who knows when to up the
ante and, conversely, take it down a notch. While you thrive on competition, it
doesn't rule your life. Because of this healthy mix, you're able to ascend the
success ladders in a variety of areas. Winning, as you know, is only half the
battle. How you get there matters too.


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