Billy Ryan
11 Jan 2022

Know Why You Need To Win

Competitiveness has an evolutionary background and is what has driven humans to survive. In our ancestors, those with the most competitive spirit or desire to win were those who survived. So those who won were those who flourished.

This still seems to contribute to our desire to win, even in non-competitive situations. Our human competitive spirit comes from that primal instinct. We seem to have a base human drive for survival. But now that many of us are no longer concerned about surviving against an animal of prey or neighboring tribe, those instincts to win come out in other ways.

We often strive to win because it feels good. Winning or losing a competition provides us with a flood of the chemicals in our brain that make us feel good – serotonin and dopamine. In fact, according to psychologist Craig Dike, his paper theoretically elaborates that the rush of good emotions we experience when we win is a huge motivator. He also states that the challenge of competition is great for “brain growth and overall adaptation.”

Our desire to win is not only helpful in life but can improve organizational behavior. Setting up a competitive and strategic environment at work can provide real time motivations for employees.

So of course many people experience the desire to win. Our competitiveness for winning, even in non-competitive situations, demonstrates an inherent survival instinct, boosts our mood when we do win, and helps improve our brainpower.

Finding Motivation Through Understanding What You Are Fighting For

The desire to win can be fueled by what we are fighting for. The thing that fuels competitive motivations is often associated with what we believe is important. When the desire to win was related to our survival, then motivation often led to success. So an important way to harness competitive motivations is to create a “why” for your desire to win. This means finding something worth fighting for.

If we argue that the fuel for competitive motivations is no longer about survival, then what in reality keeps people motivated and provides us with the desire to win? The answer to this may be that our naturally occurring motivation has become transformed into a narrowly focused desire to win. This can often be referred to as competitive arousal.

What is Competitive Arousal?

Competitive arousal refers to a way of making decisions that is no longer focused on making the best decision but rather winning or over bidding others at all costs. The external elements that fuel this competitive arousal are things like rivalry and time pressure. The desire to win becomes heightened when rivalry and time pressure coincide.

Determining what you are fighting for can fuel competitive motivations by creating situations that include rivalry and time pressure. Are you competing for a job? Trying to outbid someone on an important item? Competing on getting a deal with a high value client?Or wanting to win at a sport? Whatever you are fighting for, adding head to head rivalry and time pressure might improve your desire to win.

The Downside of Competitive Arousal

It is important to note that competitive arousal can lead to poor decision making. When there is an especially high pressure, head-to-head game or rivalry, research has shown that people tend to make bolder, less thought out decisions. The pressure of a ticking clock can also make the desire to win overwhelming to the point of poor human decision processes.

Now combine head-to-head rivalry and time pressure. When rivalry and time pressure coincide, this has the potential to affect human decision processes by increasing psychological arousal and decreasing the ability to make reasoned judgements.

So how do you stop your competitive arousal from making poor decisions and costly errors? Learning to manage competitive arousal can help you harness that desire to win without making poor choices and costly mistakes.

Managing Competitive Arousal

Being able to harness your desire to win starts with managing your arousal level, especially when an audience, rivalry and time pressure coincide. The arousal we experience when we engage in situations can trigger our fight or flight response. This heightened response occurs when we’re under stress or anxiety. Your rational human decision processes get shut down as your body focuses on getting you out of the stressful situation.

Fight-or-Flight Response

So managing and harnessing competitive behavior and arousal starts with managing the fight or flight response. This can be done by practicing relaxation and deep breathing – or other techniques that a professional athlete uses – to calm down. This will help you to be able to think rationally.

Creating a Strategic Environment

Other ways of managing competitive arousal to harness the athlete within and desire to win, are to attempt to reduce time pressures, decrease the intensity of the moment of rivalry, and deflect the spotlight away. Of course, this does not mean completely avoid these situations because as previously mentioned, when rivalry and time pressure coincide that can fuel competitive motivations. But learning to manage and harness these situations can provide a strategic environment for winning.

Improving Your Desire to Win

Moving away from allowing our competitive arousal to affect those basic human decision processes can be difficult. We may feel defeated and lose that intrinsic motivation if we keep making rash decisions and failing. Creating healthy competition can help keep motivations salient.

Start with Small Wins

Fueling competitive motivations and finding the desire to win might mean setting up situations and environments that foster winning. Create situations or challenges in which you can meet your full potential and succeed. Start with the small things, things you know you’re good at. For example, if you know you’re really good at basketball, then set up a team and focus on playing for fun.

Create Personal Goals

Personal goals matter in determining your motivation point for winning. If you don’t understand what you’re aiming for the sense of healthy competitive elements gets lost. It’s important to understand your own motivators and discover your deepest “Why” so that you know which competitions will benefit you the most.

Make It Fun

When you compete in a game or in life, it’s important that you don’t lose the enjoyment in it. The importance of having fun can play into improving happiness, which can help make motivations salient. Improving motivation can fuel the desire to win, which will help make the competitiveness more exciting. This, in turn, will help make it more fun. No one wants to be involved in a boring situation.

Ways to Harness Your Desire to Win

Creating systems and situations to improve motivation can help you to harness that inherent drive to win.

Fuel Competitive Motivations Through Accountability

Tell people what your goals are and what you want to win at. You can create motivation by competing against yourself. Accountability can improve commitment and performance. In organizational behavior, constructive accountability can improve work satisfaction and morale.

Join A Community To Add Rivalry And Time Pressure

Find support groups, workout groups, churches, clubs, etc, that allow you to have friendly competition and to see and feel the goals of others at work. Creating a safe place to push yourself can help keep up the motivation to win. If you are competing against others who help support your goals, you’re more likely to push yourself harder to win. For example, many people join fitness organizations where they can compete with others to provide real time motivations.

Challenge A Friend To Head To Head Rivalry

Set up competitions with friends for your smaller goals. Many people join sports teams with friends to be able to challenge themselves to improve. Friendly games with a team can also lead to organizational behavior. Learning how to succeed as a team can help to improve self-confidence and inspiration.

Match The Goals Of The Best In Your Industry

In organizational behavior, look at the industry you are in and seek to emulate the individuals and businesses that are excelling. Look at their goals and try to be one step better, or provide just a little more value than they do. In business and organizations, it can help to find the very model and people you look up to and model their behavior.

“I am lucky that whatever fear I have inside me, my desire to win is always stronger.” ~ Serena Williams

Quotes That Embody The Desire To Win

Winning behavior is ingrained in all of us through survival instinct. These quotes can model good winning behavior.

“You were born to win, but to be a winner, you must plan to win, prepare to win, and expect to win.” ~ Zig Ziglar

“Champions aren’t made in the gyms. Champions are made from something they have deep inside them-a desire, a dream, a vision.” ~ Muhammad Ali

“Champions are made from something they have deep inside of them-a desire, a dream, a vision.” ~ Mahatma Gandhi

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