We entered the final lap. Phil showed no sign of slowing down. He’s not even tired. My eyes were fixed on the tropical surf design on the back of his light green T-shirt. I’m not going to let him win. I can beat him. My chest was tight. My head felt like it was going to explode; I pushed harder. My legs were on fire as I barreled through the finish line, then took three steps before collapsing into the grass exhausted.
Six minutes and forty four seconds. Great job! I could barely hear the congratulations over the pounding of my heart beat inside my head.
It was my fastest time, but I had lost.
The mixed emotions of failure and triumph set in along with the muscle cramps.
I had finished the race seconds after Phil who cruised through the line, cool as the wave on the back of his T-shirt.
Losing to Phil pushed me to shave an entire thirty seconds off of my personal best.
This story is hardly surprising as many people can think back to a similar experience where competing with a Rival propelled them to new heights.
This phenomenon (let’s call it the Rival effect), stems from our natural inclination to compare ourselves to others. The discomfort we experience when we notice our peers doing better than us is a powerful source of motivation. In fact, one study found that friendly competition boosts performance to a far greater extent than social support.
What makes having a Rival such an effective tool in accelerating our personal development (whether athletic or otherwise)? The clue lies in seeing your Rival for who they are conceptually: a living goal,
a useful data point,
context for your results.
Goal setting and performance research teaches us that ambitious goals create better results - in fact the relationship is linear: the faster Phil runs, the faster I run, too. The second lesson of goal setting research is that a quantifiable goal works better than a vaguely formulated one such as: “Do your best”.
Ensuring your goals are ambitious and quantifiable may sound trivial - but it forms the basis of a goal-setting system that several of the world’s leading corporations swear by: Objectives and Key Results. OKRs are considered the secret sauce of Google and were deliberately designed with this exact research in mind.
What works for major corporations can work for each of us. Why not give every individual personalized, measurable and ambitious goals to guide them towards realizing their full potential? This is why we created Rival - a fun, data-driven way for athletes to compete with their peers and achieve greatness over and over again.