The Cambridge dictionary describes being competitive as ‘wanting very much to win or be more successful than other people’, whereas it describes being un-competitive as not liking, not inclined, able or willing to compete. Every driver will have different level of ‘natural’ competitiveness; they will be at either extreme or somewhere in-between. Where you are on this scale will have a direct influence on the level of success you achieve over the course of your career. It is not essential to be hyper-competitive but it is important to be competitive and to know what competitive looks like.
Competition is everywhere in life, from school, careers, sports and even to keeping up with the neighbours – competition drives so much in our lives without us even knowing. Obviously our egos contribute significantly to this but it is also everywhere in nature and is at the root of how humans have evolved up to this point, as according to Charles Darwin we are a product of the ‘survival of the fittest’.
Competitiveness - When people compete, they strive to obtain a limited goal (for us this would be winning a race) and to compare favourably to others who are similarly striving. The amount of preparation, focus, determination, attention and intention that a person puts into striving to win is often referred to as their competitiveness. Competitive people have a strong desire to achieve and succeed, thereby demonstrating their competency to themselves and others. Quite simply if you're competitive, you want to be the best. No one likes to lose, but if you are a competitive person, it will be especially disappointing to see someone else win.
Competitive people - Competitive people tend to be competitive in all situations. They don’t give up easily, whatever they are doing they will typically persevere until they reach their desired goals whether this is in sport, life or their careers. These types of people are very confident in themselves and this sets them up to succeed, no matter what obstacles get in their way. Many competitive people are in direct competition with themselves, striving to be better than the previous day/week/year.
“The harder I push, the more I find within myself. I am always looking for the next step, a different world to go into, areas where I have not been before.It's lonely drivinga Grand Prix car, but very absorbing. I have experienced new sensations, and I want more. That is my excitement, my motivation”. Ayrton Senna
In motor racing there are three broad types of competitiveness that drivers can portray:
1. Competitive – Podiums are not good enough,they are determined to win and show their greatness whatever the cost.
2. Dependable – Likes to win but they are very happy achieving podiums – generally brings the car home.
3. Passive – Enjoys driving the car but does not enjoy the risks associated with the cut and thrust of close competition.
Competitiveness / skill balance - In general, competitiveness is a key ingredient of success in all sports and motor racing is no exception. But for competitiveness to make a difference it needs to be balanced with a high degree of skill, it is not sufficient to sit back and rely on your competitive nature to win you championships. It is also important to remember that when competitive people lack skill or are blocked from or cannot achieve their goals this can lead to increased aggression and poor decision making.
Understanding your level of competitiveness - Competitiveness is a very individual thing and as we are involved in a dangerous sport it is not for third parties to judge whether drivers are sufficiently competitive or not. But... it is important for those drivers who want to win championships to ask themselves the question – is my level of competitiveness in line with my goals? If they are overly competitive they will need to keep this in their awareness (and be fully aware of the downsides), and if they are too passive they will need to recognise it, and decide if and how they might need to change.
Competitiveness and goal setting – We talk a lot about the importance of goals and how behaviours, training, etc., need to be aligned with one’s goals, but when it comes to setting our goals it’s our goals that have to be in line with our degree of competitiveness. Competitive people tend to have long term goals and have a clear picture of who they want to become.
Examples between competitive and passive attitudes in motorsport:
📏 Always looking to measure themselves against others
🏃 Tend to avoid competitive situations
😍 Love competition and the excitement that comes with it
😨 Don’t enjoy the anxiety and stress that comes with competition
😎 Higher levels of ego
🥺 Lower levels of ego
🎯 Superior goals
❌ Vague goals
⚠️ High risk factor
🤗 Lower levels of risk
😤 It’s never good enough–I am always looking for more
😃 I am happy with my performance
🔥 Can maintain high levels of intensity for prolonged periods
📉 Intensity varies with motivation
💪 Driven to train hard and loves to train hard
🦥Does just enough as there is no need to push themselves
Ultimately in a contest of competitiveness between two drivers of equal technical and physical skill, it is the more competitive driver that will keep going the longest before they break.
Making Changes –Your current level of competitiveness is generally fixed but may vary with motivation. If you feel it is something you need to work on you need to respect the fact that it is deeply imbedded within you and that you will have to be very careful making changes as they will inevitably put you outside your comfort zone and into an unfamiliar and unpractised area.