Competition is a strange thing. On one level it pushes us to do our best. On another level it creates destructive thoughts in our head, and sometimes destructive actions. The issue is how do you turn it off or on? I mean competition gives people goals, motivation, a purpose, which is great when you are struggling into a run on a 13 degrees Fahrenheit morning in March and need some motivation to get out of bed. However, we humans can be so small minded and look at other members of our team and get competitive with them.
Teams can be a fickle entity. From the locker room to the board room to the Vatican, power struggles can cause problems. How do you turn off the competition? How does one get competitive with one group, but not with another? If you want to win a race, don't you want to beat everyone in that race including friends and teammates? If you want to get a promotion, don't you want to get the promotion instead of your coworkers?
How does one balance the competitive desire to improve and excel without degrading the other interested parties? My only solution is clear cut goals. For example, I want to run under 2:18:00 in the marathon so that I can run at the Olympic Marathon Trials. If that means I get 437th place in my qualifying marathon or dead last at the trials, so be it. Similarly, in my career I know what I want to do, and honestly it is not get a promotion every 2-3 years. That would be nice for now, but certainly not the goal of my career.
When I go into races I often tell people that I hope we stay safe, and all set personal records, even if that means I get dead last. The best competition is within oneself. No one will know exactly what it took you to achieve whatever it is you are awarded. They were not there to feel the despair. The best motivation is intrinsic motivation.