The rear view mirror is one of the most effective motivational tools ever created.
There's no doubt that many people speed up in the face of competition. We ask, "how'd the rest of the class do?" We listen for someone breathing down our necks. And we discover that competition sometimes brings out our best.
There's a downside, though. Years ago, during my last long-distance swim (across Long Island Sound… cold water, jellyfish, the whole nine yards), the competitiveness was pretty thick. On the boat to the starting line, there were hundreds of swimmers, stretching, bragging, prancing and working themselves up. By the time we hit the water, everyone was swimming someone else's race. The start was an explosion of ego and adrenaline. Twenty minutes later, half the field was exhausted, with three hours left to go.
If you're going to count on the competition to bring out your best work, you've surrendered control over your most important asset. Real achievement comes from racing ahead when no one else sees a path–and holding back when the rush isn't going where you want to go.
If you're dependent on competition then you're counting on the quality of those that show up to determine how well you'll do. Worse, you've signed up for a career of faux death matches as the only way to do your best work.
Self motivation is and always will be the most important form of motivation. Driving with your eyes on the rear view mirror is exhausting. It's easier than ever to measure your performance against others, but if it's not helping you with your mission, stop.