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How to Win at Everything: The Rules of Healthy Competition

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Want the Win

While this seems like a no-brainer, the reality, says Rimm, is that many women downplay their talents to avoid making others feel bad or resentful. "A big part of the female identity is caring for others, so women may have doubts, and even some shame, about putting self-enhancement first," says Carole Oglesby, PhD, a sports psychology consultant at California State University at Northridge. Yet to achieve any goal, from sinking a basket to landing a client, you must be unambiguous about your desire to succeed, she says. Doubt can lead to hesitation, which can cause you to falter and ultimately fail if you are in a high-performance situation.

One of the benefits of competition is that going up against talented people often leads us to sharpen our skills and raise our own performance bar. Capitalize on that by thinking of your objective as "improve my personal best" rather than "kick her butt." According to Oglesby, research shows that taking this approach can make the contest more enjoyable by dampening anxiety and enhancing your focus, which means you'll learn more from the experience. If you're vying with a colleague for your company's top salesperson slot, for example, don't focus on beating her numbers; concentrate on bringing in 15 percent more business than you did last month or last year.

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