People in sport misuse the terms competitive or driven, in fact these terms have become interchangeable over time.
If we accept that these two terms and outlooks have very different definitions:
Which is it better to be?
Well lets look at a definition of each.
A competitive person measures their success against others. For a competitive person it is enough to win a championship, put their name on the trophy and the score/level of performance does not matter.
A driven person sets themselves process based targets, goals, things that they have to achieve and defines their self esteem against them. For example a driven athlete would say that it matters more about the performance than the result.
So immediately reading this you are thinking that the driven person is a better model for a sportsman or woman?
Well maybe not.
The driven person ,as I’ve said, sets their own agenda and this agenda may not be the most effective for the situation. They may focus all of their attention on achieving something that is not actually critical or, even, important to the ultimate outcome of their endeavour. A competitive person, well it’s not very English, but they pick somebody or they pick a tournament or a position in a national ranking and they go out to do enough to achieve that.
The people who like the idea of being driven would say these are very shallow goals and driving factors. They would continue, that does the person really understand, do they get the level of happiness or sense of achievement that they achieve through there deeper, “driven”, goals? But being competitive is very, emotionally, clean, it’s very simple. “I need to be this fast“, “I need to do this score”, “l I need to make this much money”. Generally they have come to these goals due to a competitive nature, due to seeing others achieve and deciding “I want that!”, “ I need to beat them“.
The driven person tends to be more interested in esoteric goals that “mean” things to them. That is fine, but it may not be the quickest or most straight forward route to success. So a balance is needed and when I speak to a client who says, “I have no interest in what anyone else achieves”, that is a worry. They will find it difficult to have that simple clarity that allows them to pat themselves on the back when they recognise they have achieved.
So now we have reached the important difference between driven and competitive for the athlete: you may not be in this sport or endeavour to gain other people approbation but you’d better be very clear as to what you are trying to gain. The competitive person just gets to the top, wears the jacket, gets their name on the national, world, whatever, trophy. The driven person can often find it very difficult to be happy, to see what they have achieved, to see clearly what they still have to achieve. A driven athlete very much cannot understand, and often has difficulty with coaches or significant others telling them, that they have achieved. Driven people need to learn to pat themselves on the back, and say, “but what I did was good enough!”
So would I want to be driven or competitive? I would love to be driven. I am competitive. Would I want a client to be driven or competitive? If I had to pick between the two I would like them to be competitive because it is very clear and very simple to see where one is going. Of course, as with anything, the trick is a balance between the two.