I have coached a lot of business people over the years, and by far, one of the most destructive mental habits that I see people engage in, especially early on in a new business, is becoming obsessed with all the ‘competition’ out there. I call this the “I can’t compete” mindset, and later in this post I share 4 simple questions you can work through that will help you overcome this unhelpful mental attitude. But first, where does it come from and what does it look like in action?
It’s pretty much agreed upon that humans are competitive beings. That’s basically because, since the dawn of time, we, like other species, have been competing for a share of the available resources. It’s genetically hard-wired to look for competition. Our whole society is competitive; look at how we actively celebrate the battle through sports, games and tv shows. Yes, we all love to back a winner!
So if feeling competitive is hard-wired into our nature, is it a good thing or a bad thing? And how can we make our competitive minds work for us and not against us?
Well, firstly, I am of the belief that, like everything, competitiveness can be both positive and negative, depending on your mindset.
The negatives of competition include:
• feelings of greed, envy, jealousy, hate
• feeling overwhelmed and under pressure
• elevated sense of insecurity or failure
• losing out on money or opportunity
• becoming a gossip
• trying to bring others down
• feeling cynical
• becoming self-critical
The positives of competition include:
• highlighting what we want
• focusing our activities
• narrowing down our offerings
• lifting our game to a higher standard
• keeping us on the creative edge
• satisfaction of winning
• ego check of losing
• finding our niche
This second list will give you some hints about how to pull yourself free of this destructive mindset.
Let’s take a look at this “I can’t compete” mentality a little more closely…
I Can’t Compete!
Firstly, when someone has this problem, it’s as obvious as the proverbial nose on one’s face. When people are feeling like this, it’s usually the first thing out of their mouth whenever they are in conversation about their business. They can come off as sounding mean, spiteful, jealous, rude, angry and resentful.
And they may be feeling some or all of these things, because, we know that emotions follow thoughts. But acting like a victim isn’t attractive and it isn’t going to win you any new customers or clients.
Telltale Signs: What to look for in yourself:
Here’s some typical comments or thought patterns:
“How can I compete? X has a better website/more clients/more experience/more diplomas/a bigger social media following…I can’t possibly succeed with competition like that!”
“This is my network/my town/my meeting! How dare they show up here. They know this is where I live/eat/breathe/work!!”
“There’s too many in the industry/region for me to be successful…the marketplace is saturated!!!”
After expressing their deepest anxieties, their shoulders may drop and their eyes might look pleadingly at you. They are hoping you will agree and offer condolences that they have it so tough! They probably wish they could just remove all competition from the field and they might want your help, or at least your approval for this line of thinking. Ultimately, their insecurities are saying: “Maybe I should just give up.” In many cases, they have given up before they have even begun.
Phew. It’s a scary and exhausting place to be. And it’s difficult as a mentor or friend, not to side with them. But, I promise you, you won’t be doing them any favours if you do take their side!
What’s The Solution: Be Your Authentic Self
Okay, so competition is natural. It’s everywhere. We are going to feel competitive urges. So what do we do?? Just how do we compete constructively???
Is Confidence the Issue?
In my experience, confidence is not the issue. I have seen many otherwise confident practitioners and business owners fall apart when they enter the marketplace. Often this happens to people who have had the security of ’employment’ and this is their first foray into business for themselves. Suddenly they are hyper-aware of all the other players on the field. From the security of their job, well, that was someone else’s concern.
No, feeling like you can’t compete isn’t usually about questions of competence. It’s about knowing what you are offering and who you are offering it to. It’s about realising that whilst you might be casting into the same river as everyone else, you are casting for a different fish, using a special rod with specific bait…
Yep, basically you need to know exactly who you want to work with…and how you want to work with them…
Knowing Your Niche
be Yourself!! That’s right! If you notice any of the above signals, if you feel overly aware of your competition, then you’re experiencing niche issues.
A niche refers to “a comfortable or suitable position in life or employment…” Niche anxiety is a form of business insecurity that occurs when you haven’t clearly identified your audience or avatar. You are not clear enough about what makes you unique and highly saleable in the marketplace. You look around and see others connecting with their market and you fear there will be nothing left for you or that you will have nothing of value to offer to any that appear on your doorstep!
Don’t fret! Your clients are definitely out there and if you are ‘on message’ you will find them or rather, they will find you. They will be drawn to you like a magnet draws iron filings. You’ll be amazed how little you need to do once you take the time to get clear.
So, forget what others are doing – they have their own niche – and take the time to focus on yourself.
Activity to Complete
Start with 4 simple questions…
✔️ What makes me unique and different? List 20 things.
✔️ How can I express & share my authentic self? List top 5.
✔️ Who is my ideal client or business partner that I’d love to support or work with? Describe them in excruciating detail.
✔️ How can I connect and give maximum value to these people? List 20 ways.
These questions should get you well on your way to defining your niche and start to put that anxiety around competing to bed.
When you have cornered your niche, you will realise there never was ANY competition, only a lack of clarity making it appear that way.
As you move forward and focus on your specific market, and your personal message, your confidence will grow, you will attract more customers, and those customers will rave about you to their friends.
This won’t happen overnight. But it will happen.
Oh, and those competitive urges will still be there. And that’s when I encourage you to return to the list of positives and see how loving your competitive nature can help you to be even better, to offer even more value, and to make a difference to even more people.
To your authentic self – may you prosper!
PS. Here’s a link to an article in Psychology Today about the Benefits of Competitive Feelings 🙂
Copyright 2018 Michelle McClintock. All rights reserved.