We tend to think of competitive people as being ones who are motivated to win prizes and competitions, the spoils of success. They are often quite sporty too, or are real quiz-fiends. That competitiveness spurs them on to greater heights of endeavour and achievement. We all raise our game a little when we feel we want to win, for whatever reason.
However, there are also a group of people who push themselves really hard and reach high levels of performance but are not chasing the prizes or the glory. Some of them can seem pretty indifferent to competition, in fact. I found this a bit perplexing.
It was when I did my training as a DISC practitioner (or Behavioural Analyst, as I say when I’m showing off) that I found out what lies behind this apparent contradiction.
Our traditional concept of a competitive, goal-driven person is someone who is relatively high D, which stands for Dominance. This is ‘alpha male’ territory and is culturally held in high regard. It’s what we expect sportspeople and business leaders to be like (this is problematical in all sorts of ways but it is the current cultural norm).
However, there is another group of people who are high C, which stands for compliance, who are also high achievers but seem to have a different motivation. They are also competitive, but they are internally competitive. For them, they are striving to reach their own standards, rather than the standards set externally by those they are competing with.
This type of person could be a sportsperson and would perhaps be focused on records rather than medals, the recreational runner who is interested in their PB and never takes part in races. However, its more likely they are focused on some other endeavour, where there is no recognition, such as an artistic practice. The discipline and effort required to master it is substantial but there is no apparent reward.
Just because you aren’t interested in sport or in winning things, it doesn’t mean you aren’t competitive. It could just mean that you are competing with yourself. It could just be that that’s a stronger motivator than any external challenge and will push you to greater heights than those who think they are competing with you.