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A company I have worked for used to have a value of being “Better Than” and it was constantly used to reinforce a competitive streak that focussed on other companies in the industry. What could we do to beat them, to grow sales at a faster rate, to drive them into submission….

Not for the first time, I tended to see things differently. I’m all for competition, in fact most people say I’m one of the most competitive people they know, but I prefer to see being “better than” as a rallying call to compete against myself not others. To see who I was yesterday and try to be better tomorrow.

This probably sounds a bit weird, I mean aren’t most races, whether in business or in sport, about beating others to a target or outlasting your rivals over a long distance. If you view your success with others as a reference point then you are correct but what happens when you beat the competition – how do you know that you’ve stretched yourself to the limit and given your all? In most instances you haven’t, you’ve just done enough to stay ahead.

So what happens if the competition makes a breakthrough that you weren’t expecting or when a new competitor arrives who is bigger, stronger or has a new USP that the previous competition couldn’t begin to fathom. You’re on the back-foot, playing catch-up and the chances are you are going to be very disappointed.

Reframe that reference point on your own capabilities, however, and every effort you make to get better than your previous self will be rewarded. Imagine focussing on making something 1% better every day – in a month that’s a 30% improvement, in 6 months you’ll be twice as good as you were. Doesn’t that sounds like a better paradigm to start your “better than” programme?

I’m not saying we should exist in a vacuum; we should absolutely monitor the competition and the wider environment. We might be able to learn something to help us improve. What I am saying though is don’t tie your progress to that of others.

So, be your one ambition, show yourself the recognition and get better all the time……!