In yoga, intructors often remind us that we’re ony competing against ourselves. We’re told over and over again to ignore others in the room and focus only on our own practice. And it’s an easy enough thing to embrace this in yoga — because we are independently struggling to not faceplant into another person — but harder to sustain in other parts of life.
This is how real growth takes place though: when we intentionally wear spandex.
Kidding. It happens when we focus on our own progress, devoid of comparison to outside influences. If we start to base success on a comparison to others, we put ourselves at a disadvantage (in yoga, this is when you fall over). But when we stay focused and support others’ success, we all can grow in tandem.
It’s a lesson you learn in any introductory business class — how supporting your competition strengthens your market niche. When others in your sector succeed, it also positions you for success. But when you strive to be the only player in a space, you isolate the demand for your services and limit your growth potential.
There’s certainly a need to differentiate your product and offer something unique, but it doesn’t need to come at the expense of eliminating others. I can name my favorite provider in any market from airlines to donuts, but I can’t think of a thriving industry where only one player is successful.
Your toughest competition usually isn’t among those doing something very similar to you, but in those who threaten your operation through something you can’t deliver. If I’m an average grocery store, I don’t need to be threatened by other stores like me. Should I watch them and monitor their performance? Absolutely. But I should pay closer attention to stores poised to offer things in a different way at a more competitive price point (here’s looking at you, Costco). There are enough people who need groceries for all of these entities to exist when operated efficiently, but generally speaking, competition fuels innovation and growth for everyone.
It’s this way in our personal lives, too. When we fixate on others and try to “surpass” them we gain nothing but a false sense of validation. It never ends. It’s freeing to recognize that there’s no limit to the good things that can occur around us, and we grow the most when we learn to celebrate all of it instead of just our own.