What's the difference between being ambitious or competitive?Â Some people are competitive by nature. They grew up playing sports, knew they had to study hard and be the top of their class, and now put that same mindset into their jobs or businesses. This makes me wonder, is "competitive" a good thing or a bad thing? Is it only a bad thing if you're overly competitive? Some people are content with their lives just the way they are, never striving for more and never challenging themselves. So is it better to be described as commonplace or competitive? Are the words competitive and ambitious interchangeable? When I hear someone referred to as competitive, it immediately brings a negative connotation to mind – but is that the correct mentality?
It all comes down to perception versus reality.
A negatively competitive person steps on others to rise up, manipulates to get their way, and takes credit when credit isn't due or should be shared with another. Perhaps there is such a thing as a positively competitive person — someone who is ambitious and motivated — always looking for ways to get ahead without sacrificing their integrity or hurting others along the way. Fact of the matter is that people will not always see eye to eye. What you might mean with best intentions could be taken completely out of context by another. This is where perception and reality play a big part in relationship building and tearing down. Many people assume that others will know what they mean by their words and actions, while in reality, the recipient might perceive something completely different than what was intended.
So what are you supposed to do? Be content with laying low as to not offend? Change your actions so others won't feel threatened? These options mean walking on eggshells and likely will lead to a weakened relationship. The key is to be cognizant of how you may be received, and to develop mentors that will be honest and sensitive to your concerns. The more you know a person, personally, and learn their personality, strengths, and weaknesses, the more you will learn how to communicate effectively with them. No good business person wants to get ahead by stepping on others; some do it because they don't know another way, and others because they just don't care. Some of the people who realize they can't please everyone, stop caring about trying to please anyone but themselves. A true leader and role model will work hard to further themselves and their company, but they won't do it at the expense of another. Being ambitious is a good thing, especially when you are kind and you help others along the way. Being competitive can be also be good when you use it to better yourself and achieve your goals.
Maybe the word competitive needs a revamp.
Synonyms include spirited, gung ho, bloodthirsty, ready for action, aggressive, and cutthroat. It's interesting that half of those words have negative meanings, and the others bring to mind energy and motivation. If you want to get ahead, challenge yourself, remember your goals, and never use others to further yourself. Remember that even though some people may not always understand you or agree with you, don't give up trying, and keep reaching for more. So what's your take on this; is ambition or competition the key to success?
Lisa Promise is the founder of Promise Consulting Group, a full-service marketing, advertising, and communications consulting company for small businesses. Read more about Lisa here.