Are you an achiever or a competitor?

Are you an achiever or a competitor?

The slow and sometimes passive lifestyle of Lockdown in 2020 encouraged me to spend more time running as our escape and entertainment options were very limited.  Teams and Zoom also have their limitations for human interaction and fun! I have always been a lover of the great outdoors, so it felt good to apply my tekkies to tar with the added bonus of becoming fitter and staying healthy.  An unexpected bonus was that I was introduced to a group of running enthusiasts who I now consider my tribe, my running family and dear friends.  Hours on the road invariably lead to beautiful and interesting conversations, especially for those who can run and breathe simultaneously (just for the record, due to the latter, my listening skills have improved rapidly).

“Facebook” (digital bragbook, photo album and data storage) for athletes, cyclists and other sportsmen and women is Strava – new territory to me! This orange app analyses and reflects on all recorded runs, rides and many forms of exercise.  It also allows your Strava friends to give you kudos, compliments, chirps and interesting comments.  In my lovely running group, the rule is simple – “if it’s not on Strava, it didn’t happen!”  My friends and family think I am a little crazy – but us, the running fraternity, know we are all really crazy to run in rain, sunshine, cold and windy conditions chasing PB’s, goals and ultimately personal satisfaction.

This competitive nature is both fun and inspires people to great heights in their professional and personal lives, but many people run, live, work and operate in a non-competitive space in their heads. This other alternative is to be an achiever.  Being an achiever also allows you to enjoy the view and breathe deeper as there is less of a rush to be better, faster, bigger and have more bragging rights.

  Not only my Cape Town friends can brag about magnificent views – early mornings in Gauteng are equally spectacular!

Recently, I’ve talked with many other athletes, delegates on my virtual and face-to-face training courses, friends and family about the differences between being an achiever or a competitor. It might seem, at first glance, like the two are very similar. However, there is a significant difference.  And one is not better than the other as both serve a purpose.  If you are racing up the corporate ladder or chasing another goal, being a competitor might work, especially for the short term.  However, staying at the top, growing a team or an organisation, being an achiever will will give your more scope to reap success as you don’t glance sideways what the others are doing – you are following your own dream.  Being achiever means that although you are aware of the outside world, you live consciously, but you live authentically true to yourself.

I first came across this concept when I was introduced to a business skills programme in Dubai (Skils21 by Arc Skills) for high school children. I loved this idea as it says so much about what drives us to be successful. Education systems often encourage children to compete, rather than teaching them to become achievers in their own right too by chasing their own dreams, in their own context, at their own unique pace.  We need to create a society for the next generation where we don’t preach that everyone is a winner as coming second really sucks.  The next generation should rather understand and believe that being the best version of yourself is good enough.  Celebrate life!

Am I an Achiever or a Competitor?

Think of how you think about a pull-away from a red traffic light when you are waiting in front and there’s another car next to you…

In this situation, what’s more important to you?

  1. To feel that you have performed the best compared to others in the team?
  2. To feel you have achieved your own personal best?

The first description describes competitors and the latter achievers. This is the crucial difference: competitors have a desire to compare their progress to others to gain a sense of a achievement. Achievers are driven to achieve too, but they aren’t so obsessed with comparisons against other people or marks. Improving on a Personal Best is more important than exceeding another person’s latest achievement.

Which do you think you are?

Achievers: focused and driven internally by their own goals

Being an achiever means that you set your own goals and work hard to achieve them in order feel successful. This requires self-discipline and having an internal locus of control. It means that you are driven and feel rewarded by reaching your own goals and dreams as a result of your own efforts. Importantly, what other people around you do and achieve, is not a threat or sign of failure – rather an inspiration.  Applause or kudos is a side-effect, not a goal.

Competitors: focused on their own goals but driven by comparing and outperforming their competition

Competitors love the chase of constantly improving their game and tactics by observing what the competition is doing and then work hard to be even better. They look sideways to benchmark themselves and push themselves harder to be one step ahead. This behaviour works very well in sales environments, individual competitive sports and many people are naturally competitive. Goals and incentives are powerful drivers for competitors and help them perform and produce extraordinary results. On the flip side though, they can also sometimes be sore losers or become disenchanted when not ahead of the competition.  We don’t always receive the kudos and applause we deserve and disappointment may set in.

Having a blended approach of ‘achiever’ and ‘competitive’ traits are important in dealing with life’s challenges and becoming successful.

Organisations also need both skills to ensure that they stay competitive and ahead in the business environment. It is important to deploy staff in positions where they flourish as individuals in order for the organisation to grow the bottom line, customer satisfaction and brand awareness.  Customers will feel the passion and drive too – after all, we all prefer a happy, successful brand!

For me, I’m an Achiever through and through. Now that I know this, it’s helped me know myself a little better, especially when I’m working in a team and running to achieve another personal goal.  I don’t need to win or receive a trophy – I just need to feel my heart beating faster and inspired to work on my next goal to truly live with purpose.  And when my emotional tank is full, I can help others to fill their tanks.

What does it take to fill your tank?  And the people you care about at home and at work?  For we do not just live for ourselves…. let’s not forget the lessons we have learned during Covid and Lockdown.

So are you a competitor, or an achiever, or a bit of both?

PS – photo credits go to a few of my running buddies who can multi-task and take beautiful photos too.


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