I was speaking with a relative not too long ago who told me he was struggling with retirement because he craved the competition he had in his former job. Not being someone who is a particularly competitive person, I had a hard time relating to his statement although I could understand the sentiment.
Competition is one important human motivator. But it does not need to be interpersonal. We can compete against our own past performance for individual excellence like competitive swimmers do. Sure, there is often someone in the adjacent lane, but swimmers are always competing against their own prior fastest time. The rival is irrelevant to the process.
I heard now deceased former UCLA basketball coach John Wooden make a similar statement. Wooden said he always prepared his team with little regard for the opponent. He wanted his players to strive for excellence on every play during every game. It mattered little what the opponent brought to the table, only what his team brought to the table – every day. He pushed them to be their best. By the way, Wooden’s UCLA teams won 88 games in a row in the early 1970’s.
All of this has me thinking that being other-directed and other-motivated has its benefits but it may be more advantageous to train yourself to strive for inner-directed excellence every day.
This is a good way to strive for significance. Make each day better than the previous one.