Growing a business is all about standing above the competition, but excessive focus on what others are doing can derail you before you hit your stride. What if your most important goal is an internal one? What if you get fulfillment from hitting your highest expectations of yourself rather than concentrating on beating out someone else?
Prize-winning athletes have described "racing against themselves," reaching unthinkable heights once they’ve realized they themselves were their biggest competition. This concept--looking inward to create outward results--applies to business as well.
Here are four actionable ways to look inward to generate real, outward results for your business:
1. Don’t Psych Yourself Out
You’ve got a killer idea, you’ve done the work, put in the time--then what? Suddenly, you are faced with the voice in the back of your head saying ‘maybe my work isn’t good enough, maybe my product falls short of the competition’. Even top CEOs and entrepreneurs in business suffer from imposter syndrome.
Imposter syndrome is the pervasive inner suspicion that you lack the skills or smarts to deserve success, and that it is only a matter of time before others find out you are a fraud. While impostor syndrome is not an official psychiatric diagnosis, it is a prevalent phenomenon among success-driven people in high stress situations such as a competitive business field or even an advanced degree program.
There are some solutions cited to curb this mental mayhem. One of those solutions is to talk your way out of it and “act as if”. Learn to identify these feelings and call yourself out, flip that negative self talk on it’s head, notice when you are engaging in compare and contrast. It could also be helpful to redefine your idea of failure--a great question to ask yourself is ‘What if I just stop thinking I am an imposter?’ More than likely, positive thinking will reap positive energy and positive results. Don’t let worry over potential outcomes slow you down. Those are external--inside of your mind, and your business, is where real productive change happens.
2. Create the Product That You Want To See
When you are bringing an idea to the table--own it! Remember that it’s backed up by your own valuable experience--both successes and failures. So, show up with the knowledge that your product or idea is valuable because what you bring to the table is valuable. But patting yourself on the back isn’t all you need; make sure your intentions are focused on the bottom line. It is business after all.
A way to set yourself apart is to remember that none of your work is happening in a vacuum. In other words, be sure to stay in touch with your original intention while keeping an eye on current trends and customer needs.
3. Don’t be afraid to pave your own path
Avoid the pitfall of playing towards your competition's goals. You have your own targets to hit, so don’t lose sight of your personal expectations. Some compromises are inevitable to adapt to customers’ inclinations, but having clear intentions will pay off in the end.
Jumping onto someone else's bandwagon can water down your product. In fact, what’s available to your intended market becomes homogeneous if you don’t present an original product--even if the product is superior customer service.
And it’s okay to go against the grain--successful entrepreneurs often do. We’ve all heard the story of an innovative person being told “this will never work, people won’t buy it” and it turned out to be a game-changing success!
4. Sharpen your focus when needed
Let’s say your competition is killing it, and with an idea that seems very familiar. Perhaps someone else has come up with the same brilliant idea as you. It’s important to realize that it is very rare that someone (even you) can come up with a never-before-seen product every day. So, instead of reacting out of anger or spite, harness that feeling instead towards fueling your growth. Concentrate on what you do best, not what you think will show up the competition. Instead, show up for yourself and for the product.
This kind of external signal can be the boost your work needs to truly shine. Looking outward for approval at the right stage is of course a necessity, but constantly seeking outside affirmation is the wrong way to stay motivated. Your own high standards should be the reason to make the best product or service possible.
Last but not least, know who you are--always. Self assuredness and confidence can be everything in a competitive business environment. So suit up and show up, believe in what you have to offer and don’t get in your own way.