Have you surrounded yourself with the best competitors in your industry? Not the people outside of the business you work in, but your teammates and coworkers? If you answered yes, the company you work for has achieved a great amount. Most operations are not as fortunate.

The best performers have technical skills they have learned over time, but what makes them great at their job is not normally listed on a resume. It is more about how their tasks are completed. When you dig deeper into the skills of the best competitors, you find a common theme: they are all mentally tough and prepared.

Performing at the highest levels requires you to slow down, control your emotions, and truly concentrate on the task at hand. Identifying the skills needed to execute this response is simple, however you may only realize them while you are in an active work situation, a meeting, or on a job site. 

According to Jack J. Lesyk, Ph.D. of the Ohio Center for Sport Psychology, there are four basic skills you can develop that will help you to become mentally tough and prepared: attitude, motivation, goals and commitment, and people skills.



Perhaps the most important building block in the group is attitude. The best competitors in your industry will have a generally positive attitude because they choose to be positive. This may be in stark contrast with others on your team who have poor attitudes or generally down dispositions. I am reminded of the happiest man I know in business; he is almost always smiling and meeting friends. After going through a rough period in his life, he decided that he would choose to be happy rather than be weighed down by past events. Although he would have been justified to maintain a down disposition, he fought against the desire to be anything but exceptionally happy.

For both the unhappy person and the happy person, the situation is the same. Their disposition is determined by their attitude. Those who are happy choose to maintain a positive attitude. This choice then leads to other benefits that allow them to perform at high levels. The best competitors will pursue excellence in their craft, making progress toward their goals even if they will never achieve perfection in their pursuits.

great things never came from comfort zones


While the best competitors may never reach their goal of perfection, they still must identify how they will win, and they must find their motivation. This begs the question, if they may never win in their pursuits, how do they continue to work as hard as they do to achieve great results? I believe this is best summed up by the phrase “progress not perfection.”

Competitors identify the benefits of participation, along with what the incremental changes in their life will be from completing the activity. They measure progress in the smallest increments rather than the final result. By determining their motivation, they can work through difficult tasks and times to realize the reward of their efforts.

You can recognize the best competitors by their behavior and the common methods they use to motivate themselves in the workplace. They break down larger goals into smaller personal goals, assume that management or others trust their decisions and actions, prioritize their work-life balance, discuss ideas or concepts freely, and often have a ritual to recognize a task done well. They may use one or more of these tactics to stay motivated, moving closer to their goal of excellence in the office or field.

three women talking

Goals and Commitment

The best competitors set goals for themselves and are committed to obtaining them. This will be a formal process requiring intention and thought by committing them to “paper” and tracking their progress. The act of creating a formal goal leads to the commitment of the person seeking to achieve greatness in the task.

In practice, the goals that an individual sets should follow basic principles as outlined by Dr. Edwin Locke and Dr. Gary Latham in their goal-setting theory. According to Locke and Latham, goals should be clear, challenging, desirable to achieve, receive regular feedback, and be within a complexity that the competitor can achieve. When structured in this way, the commitment is built into how they live, seeking out their progress on a regular basis.


People Skills

In the workplace, we often hear the phrase, “they have good people skills” but very seldom hear it defined. This is not simply an item that we will know it when we see it, but one that can be described as to what makes a person good at working with others.

The best competitors will recognize that they are part of a larger system, or network, of family, friends, managers, and others. They will communicate their thoughts, feelings, and needs to those in their network as well as listen to feedback. They will find a way to deal with conflict, opposition, and negative ideas that do not help them achieve their goals. These traits define what is needed to have good people skills. The best competitors look for opportunities to train these skills and create an inclusive environment.

Are you a competitor in your industry? Would you consider those around you to be the best in the industry?

You may have a significant amount of technical skills and certifications, but to be the best you must prepare to be the best. This begins with mental preparedness and toughness. Identify how you can utilize the four basic skills and encourage others in your office to do the same. The building blocks outlined here will not immediately give you the tools to slow down, control your emotions, and improve concentration, but they will help you and your team build up to greatness.