Got a Competitve Edge?

A good friend just got engaged and promoted. You:


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 toothers," says JoAnn Dahlkoetter, Ph.D., author of Your Performing Edge (PulgasRidge Press, 2004). Even if your friend is thinner, richer and happier thanyou, focusing your energy on her takes away from concentrating on yourself."Get back to your own goals," Dahlkoetter advises. "Think about what youwant to do rather than how you're not matching up. If your objective is to getpromoted, then implement a plan of action to get that done. Compare yourselfto your own timeline - where were you last year? Are you taking steps to getwhere you want to go?" And don't forget that happiness often begets happiness:By genuinely sharing in her good fortune, be it a simple congratulatorye-mail or an all-out festive shindig, you'll feel good about yourself and maybebe 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 isinherent in competitive mentalities," Dahlkoetter says. "But whenyou're in line or stuck in traffic, you lack that control." The key is toseparate the things you can control from the things you can't. Youcan leave work earlier to allow for a few extra minutes in thestore. You can't determine how manypeople will be shopping when you getthere. If you still get caught in thatabysmal line, make the time productive,says Patricia Farrell, Ph.D., authorof How to Be Your Own Therapist(McGraw-Hill, 2004). Chat withthe person next to you, ormentally prepare for yourbig meeting. Or best ofall, use uplifting self-talk,such as "I'm stayingpositive today regardlessof 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 forgetthat they need to take a break," Dahlkoetter says. "But you need time offevery three to four months." Even theEnergizer Bunny eventually fizzles out,and studies show that downtime givesyou a much-needed opportunity torecharge. You can't perform at 100percent every day without resting.

If your mind-set (or budget) won'tallow for a decadent week in Hawaii, trytaking baby steps. "Schedule a day offahead of time," Dahlkoetter says. "Ifyou claim you'll take a break when youneed it, it will never happen. Plan totake one Friday off a month, or giveyourself incentives - if you ace a project,book a spa day." And if you stillcan't pry yourself away from the office,at the very least, avoid your e-mail orcellphone on weekends.

Your firm is putting together a softball league. You:

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

b. bring the beer and chips!Even if you're not the bestsoftball player, thescore is irrelevant.

c. worry that you'llstink, but sign upanyway.

Instant insightLooking foolish isby far a competitor'sworst nightmare,so ratherthan embracingthe opportunity to have fun,a hypercompetitive personmight sit out the gameentirely. "Or, she'll go to thebatting cage and practicebecoming a power hitter,"Farrell says. Rather thanobsessing over what could gowrong, why not turn your attention tothe positives of the situation? Forexample, if you play, you'll build companymorale, squeeze in some afterworkexercise and shine as a teamplayer. And if you strike out, so what?"If you want to be the best you can be,you have to make mistakes and learnfrom them," Farrell says. Remember,most of your co-workers are there tohave fun. You should be too.

The last time you yelled at someone was:

a. yesterday. Your assistant screwedup a meeting.

b. Does your dog count?

c. a month ago, but you apologized.

Instant insight People who go forthe jugular are more easily irritatedand stressed, Dahlkoetter says. Sowhen a situation goes awry, they usesomeone else as a punching bag. Doesit work? Rarely. "Yelling is counterproductivefor you and the people atwhom you're yelling," Farrell says."They quickly learn to disregard it andsee you as someone who is a poormanager." So when your husband onceagain forgets to pick up the drycleaning, pipe down."Instead, take adeep breath andconsider yourpossibleresponses," Dahlkoetter advises. "If Iyell, is it productive? Does it hurt therelationship? What about if I speak withhim firmly and explain why this annoysme 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 whetheryou're too often vying to win, listen tothe feedback of those who know youbest. If you're constantly forgetful, lateand overbooked, you're not onlyneglecting appointments, you're alsoneglecting the relationships fosteredduring them. And studies show thathypercompetitive people are less happilymarried and less effectivebosses. Allow yourself toslow down by prioritizing yourschedule, Dahlkoetter suggests.Create an A list, a B list and a Clist; only the most crucial things(your A list) get your attentionfirst. If you have time (andenergy) for more, carefully tackthem on from your B and C lists.

Your best frienddropped 15 pounds andlooks better than ever. You:

a. hit the gym until you ache - you'redetermined to look hotter.

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

c. pass her number out to your cutemale co-workers.

Instant insight "Our society greatlyemphasizes physical presentation,particularly for women," Dahlkoettersays. "The way a woman isviewed by others most oftendetermines the relationship she haswith herself, which makes her proneto constantly comparing herself." Sohow do you stop? Try boosting yourinner strength, Dahlkoetter advises:"The greater one's self-esteem, the lessneed there is to gain someone else'sapproval." OK, so your friend lostweight. Focus on what you've gained inlife, rather than the pounds that you(or anyone else) have lost. That's howyou really win.


If you answered mostly A's, you:

Play to win You're a textbook example of a competitor who defines herselfby 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 theirpersonal bests. Make this your goal. Letting go of the need to control eachsituation and instead concentrating on the need to control your role in eachcircumstance will free you from the stress and anxiety that comes fromhaving 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 theroses. But that might be just about all you do. Competitive drive, in and ofitself, 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 tennisgame or stronger public-speaking skills - and push yourself to be the bestyou 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 theante and, conversely, take it down a notch. While you thrive on competition, itdoesn't rule your life. Because of this healthy mix, you're able to ascend thesuccess ladders in a variety of areas. Winning, as you know, is only half thebattle. How you get there matters too.

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