Skip to main content

I had the pleasure of sitting down with the incredible Kim Perkins to delve into the dynamic world of competition. Kim is a former pro speedskater and former journalist who has devoted her life to adaptation. With a Ph.D. in positive organizational psychology, Kim brings a unique perspective to the playing field and this conversation.

Together, we explored the multifaceted nature of competition, including how it can be both a source of inspiration and a powerful challenge in our lives. From reframing rivalries to embracing self-compassion, we discussed powerful strategies for cultivating a more adaptive mindset around competition.

Competition as Connection

Join us as we dive deep into the heart of the matter, discovering how to approach competition with curiosity, compassion, and authenticity.

After all, competition isn’t just about winning—it’s about growth, resilience, and pushing beyond our limits. Join us as we explore how competition shapes our lives and the power of an adaptive mindset.

Whether you’re a seasoned competitor or actively avoiding competition, this episode is sure to spark insights and inspiration.

Competition key takeaways:

  • Differentiate: Look for ways you are different from competitors rather than focusing on similarities, to avoid unnecessary rivalry.
  • Finding compassion: How to extend understanding to yourself and others, and cut people some slack rather than being overly critical.
  • Enjoy the ride: Focus on the activity itself rather than outcomes or social comparison.
  • Lead with curiosity: How to approach competition with curiosity rather than judgment of yourself and others.
  • Set realistic expectations: Lowering perfectionistic standards can support you and others

Listen to Kim’s episode

If you found today’s episode enlightening and want to hear more, make sure to subscribe and leave a review on your favorite podcast platform. Be sure to share this episode!

___

Episode Chapters

  • Competition, flow, and meaning-making in sports. (0:02)
  • Staying harmonious in competitive environments. (8:03)
  • Focusing on performance vs. self-judgment in competitive sports. (10:52)
  • Positive psychology and competition. (15:21)
  • Gender roles and expectations in competitive environments. (19:30)
  • Social comparison and perspective-taking. (26:54)
  • Mindset and competition in sports and business. (30:43)
  • Resilience in competition and managing anxiety. (35:03)
  • Negative bias, assumptions, and curiosity in decision-making. (39:36)
  • Self-compassion and accepting accomplishments. (43:22)

___

Transcript

Sonya Looney 0:02
Kim, I’m so excited about our chat today.

Kim Perkins 0:04
Me too. This is one of my favorite topics. And I’m so excited to get dig in with you.

Sonya Looney 0:10
Yeah, so we connected through a mutual friend and podcast guests, Oren Davis, who was telling him about my interests in competition. And hive often talks about competition, and you sent me your way. And you and I had a very interesting conversation. So tell us about the book you’ve been working on.

Kim Perkins 0:27
You know, I wrote a book that I called winner take none, which was about sort of like the taboo side of competition in a way, sort of the stuff that we don’t talk that we think about, but we don’t talk about. So. This book is based on some of my for lack of a better term journeys and athleticism. So I was a I was a pro speed skater before I was a psychologist. And one of the things that I found while both working as a researcher and in as an was comparing it with my experience as an athlete, and feeling like the research didn’t really cover my experiences very well, especially when it came to some of the positive stuff about competition. And so that’s what I wanted to explore in the book, and also talk about the ways in which competition can hang us up and some ways that we might overcome it. So

Sonya Looney 1:20
something I’ve been wondering is, if being competitive is a trait, or if it’s something that we learn?

Kim Perkins 1:26
Hmm, I think that is such a great question. You know, a lot of the literature really treats it as a trait. There was a research article that influenced me quite a lot, Dean Carnivale, it was good news for competitive people. Because competitiveness gets kind of a bad rap in the literature. You know, it goes back to like Karen horn I who had who talked a lot about competition, actually, she was a student of Freud’s. And so in the early psychoanalytic days, she was talking about how the competitive person wants to simultaneously dominate and be loved, which she did not think was possible, and which to her was definitely a sign of something wrong. And I, you know, but I kind of resonated with that. And I, as a person who specializes in motivation, I think that people kind of want what they want, you know, and that, therefore, it’s not so much about how to get them to be different, but how to help get them what they want without also having that wreck everything set for a wiggly answer. So

Sonya Looney 2:33
no, I liked that answer. And I liked that quote, or from that researcher, Ford student, because I think that we compete for different reasons. And the reasons that we compete changes over time, or it could be multifaceted. But I think that actually one of the reasons that we compete is because we want to feel special. And whenever you’ve gotten these external rewards on something that was previously intrinsically motivated, I think it impacts your self worth, and then your self worth becomes tied to how well you perform. And then that can create a difficult situation whenever you’re in a competition, because now you have to be better than in order to feel like you’re a worthy person. So can you talk about that a little bit? Oh,

Kim Perkins 3:16
I’d love to talk about that a little bit is that was the that was something that I investigated. My master’s thesis, which I was working with Jean Nakamura at Claremont, who works with my kicks me Hi. And in that I’ve the, the literature on flow. So let’s just talk about flow for a second. Flow is a state of kind of relaxed, losing yourself in an activity, it’s considered like a peak experience. And so people, the literature always said that people who were worried about winning are going to have less flow, less positive experience in competition, because they were by nature worried about winning, and so they were having anxiety and worry about their self, self worth and self concept. And one of the things that, that that didn’t really sit well with me, because my experience was that competition kind of added to the challenge of the game. And that that was therefore something that could produce more flow, as we know that flow comes from a balance of like challenging activities where you’re in a little bit of over your head and not enough to make it full of anxiety, but just a little bit to give it a little space, you know, and so I thought it might have to do with what we thought we were doing here in competition. So I did a study where I surveyed triathletes and runners and compared, what their version of competitiveness was, basically, were they trying to demonstrate their dominance or were they trying to benchmark themselves and challenge themselves against other people. And when it was the latter, they experienced more flow and Competition and when it was the former, where they were trying to demonstrate that they were better than they experienced less flow. And so the meaning that we make of competitive events and the meaning that competition plays in our life has a lot to do with how we experience it.

Sonya Looney 5:17
So how do we learn how to change the meaning because when stakes are high, I can be really challenging to make adaptive meaning out of competition, especially if you lose.

Kim Perkins 5:29
Nobody likes to lose. I mean by nature, right, but but also, it depends on what you think about it. So so as a competitor, myself, especially in the beginning days, I did my first few races, I was racing Pro, I didn’t just lose, I was like, last by a longshot, I was like, way behind the pack coming in over the finish line. And honestly, it was difficult and demoralizing. I spent a lot of time like in bathrooms crying, right. But at the same time, I kind of loved what I was doing. And I felt that I would rather do it and lose the not do it. Because losing was hard. You know. And so I think that it comes down to your love for the activity. You know, there’s a Robert Fowler on is a researcher on passion. And he has a definition of passion that is harmonious passion means that it’s kind of fits in with your other activities. And, and it feeds your life and obsessive passion means that you’re really stuck on something that isn’t feeding you and is sucking energy away from your other activities. And so I think that that’s what a person really has to take away with this is whether this is, in general feeding your life, you know, you’re the you’re you as an organism, you as a unit who’s connected to other people who eats and sleeps and loves, you know, is this feeling it? Or is this something that is like a need that you have to do in order to do anything else, and it’s sucking energy away. And that’s how you can tell the difference there. And if it’s sucking away, then this is time to maybe, you know, rethink what you’re doing. Because also, my belief is that, that a lot of competitiveness comes from fear. So, I used to joke that I won a lot of races as a skater. Because I just trying to not come in last. You know, so it wasn’t for me about winning, it was about avoiding being less than I know, for myself, that was a lot of because I come from a background where I was bullied a lot and, and it felt really good to, you know, be on top and throw my weight around. And frankly, you know, I don’t know if you’ve experienced this, but as a woman, there are very few places you can actually be aggressive. And it’s okay and not, not experienced social fallout. And skating is one of the I think a lot of sports is one of them. And so it felt good to just, you know, be out there on the field. And that kind of worked for me. And then I could be relaxed in other ways. But I think that’s not always the way it works for everybody.

Sonya Looney 8:03
That’s a really important point that I’ve actually never thought of before. I’ve always been in male dominated environments in my background, like engineering, cycling. Yeah. Okay, so you said that people can have their harmonious passion, loving an activity, finding true joy in an activity can become an obsessive passion where their identity gets tied up in it, where they’re doing it, even though now it’s detrimental to everything else in their life. And they continue to do the activity. Regardless of that. I think where it gets complicated with competition is that a lot of times we start doing something, we’ll just stick to sports, because that’s an easy metaphor. We start with a sport because we like it, it’s fun. And maybe we realize, hey, like maybe I’m kind of good at this. Or maybe I want to push myself. So I’m going to do a competition just to see you know how much I can actually do. But then you but then you start getting accolades. And that impacts your relationship with the activity because now it’s no longer I’m just doing this because I love it, it becomes well now I’m doing this because I want to win or make it even more complicated. Like I’m getting money to do this now or I’m getting attention to do this now. So you know, how can someone stay harmonious? What are the things somebody needs to do to stay harmonious whenever they start engaging in a competitive environment where they start getting these external rewards for the things that they’re doing?

Kim Perkins 9:22
That’s such a great question. I think, you know, as a it reminds me basically if like the standard movie locker room, speech, right, where the coach is urging the play there, it’s you know, it’s halftime and they’re down and the coaches coaches urging the players like get out there and play like it’s The Sandlot and you’re 11 years old that just joy of the game right and then they come back and then they can concentrate on the game and they win and you know, it’s a cliche, but I think that’s really what’s going on here. Is that you have to do it for the love of of Have the activity and not for the accolades. Now obviously, if you’re a pro athlete, you’re going to there’s a lot more complicated. You’ve got careers and other people’s careers riding on this too. And and at the same time, I still don’t think that change is my answer. Because one of the things that’s pretty clear from the flow research too, is that if you concentrate on getting the rewards or getting the external rewards, then you’re not concentrating on doing the work and then your performance flips. So I don’t really think that there’s a substitute for that. And it might seem the lights to tell somebody who’s got you know, millions of dollars riding on the line for this, that they need to pretend that they’re just 11 years old, and doing it for the joy of it. But I think that’s the only way to go about it. That actually makes any sense. And that allows you to really concentrate on what you’re doing and not concentrate on who you are. And all of the other BS that you know, because when you’re and you know, this from being pro se, when when people people attribute a lot of things to you that are not really true, or that you didn’t earn, you know, people will, will I mean, you’re when you’re a pro people will, will make up stories about your performance and what’s going on. I remember after skating, I read some of the message boards and people interpreted race, and I’d be like, it has nothing to do with what was going on out there. I can’t believe you brought that up. Right, that is so wrong. And and I think if you get too involved in all of those trappings, you’re gonna it’s going to be really hard to put in a good performance. Yeah,

Sonya Looney 11:39
I heard you say, focusing on the game and not focusing on the self. Or put another way, like, instead of evaluating how I’m doing every single minute, focus on what you’re doing every single minute, and then you can have more flow experiences, because you’re not self focused. Beautiful.

Kim Perkins 11:55
Exactly, exactly. You know, and everybody has good days and bad days, everybody falls. You know, one of the things that was enlightening to me, when I first started skating Pro, and I was I was getting the chance to follow around some really amazing people and see how they treated their sport and how they, they they, you know, took the course was that often the people who are the top pros would would look like crap in terms of their technique half the time, they would be like, falling and pushing the envelope and doing dumb things. And you know, that’s because they were not trying to be that cool guy, they were trying to, you know, they were playing with gravity, you know, they were figuring out what they were doing. They were concentrated on, you know, the relationship between them and the track, and there are them them in the road, you know, and that’s what made them great.

Sonya Looney 12:49
Yeah. So, self judgment is a big part of competition for a lot of people we just talked about focusing on the self are people who are very competitive, more likely to be more self critical. Oh, my

Kim Perkins 13:04
goodness, yes, absolutely. I think this is where we get into, you know, I think that if somebody if that’s one of the things they have, oftentimes, it’s not always a good fit with a feminine role to be openly competitive. You know, in my sport, I used to joke that the guys would, you know, on the finish on the start line, they would be like, Oh, I’m gonna kick your ass today, it’s gonna be, you know, you’re going to eat my dust and the girls would be gosh, I hope I can keep up with you today. You know, and it would basically mean the same thing, but just not overt. Right? Inside

Sonya Looney 13:38
your thinking, Eat my dust. Yes.

Kim Perkins 13:42
I know that if I say Eat my dust, it’s going to come back to haunt me. So I can’t do that. Right. Yeah. So kind of go into perfectionism as a way of I think, I think a lot of women go into perfectionism as a way of experiencing their competitiveness, where we’re trying to do everything right and hit all of the different things. We’re trying to do all the right things and look good doing it and be nice to everybody. And it’s, you know, that’s just, you know, that’s a great way to not focus on having a good performance. Right. When I one of the things I learned from trainings, the guys is that they would often come across the finish line, it looking in this terrible forum, but first. And I would run into a lot of people who are more perfectionistic, who would rather keep perfect form, even if it meant that they couldn’t like dig deep for that extra bit. You know, and I think that perfectionism is a is a really difficult trap for competitive people. Because we not because I think and I think perfectionism is the wrong word a lot of the time. We have very high standards, obviously for ourselves, but it’s not so much about trying to be perfect. As much as it is a feeling of survival. I think that people who are very perfectionistic feel like they need to hit all these marks and be excellent, excellent, so that they can be accepted or Okay, or trying to avoid something bad as opposed to trying to promote something good. And that’s where I think it goes wrong a lot

Sonya Looney 15:20
of the time. Yeah. And that really makes me think about the whole point of positive psychology which and that your PhD is in positive organizational psychology. Correct? Organizational Psychology? Yes. Yeah. Like positive psychology isn’t about isn’t only about fixing the bad, it’s about promoting the good. Yeah, yeah.

Kim Perkins 15:39
And that’s a framework that I think is the positive framework, which is why something other than pain points, let’s actually promote, see what good is and make more of that proves, for example, you know, building on exemplars rather than trying to fix problems. And that often leads you to very different conclusions and very different answers. So

Sonya Looney 15:58
people listening to this, they’re like, I am highly competitive, I am just trying to survive. So to prove that I’m good, what are some things that they can do to kind of reshape their mindset around competition to make it more adaptive for them. One

Kim Perkins 16:12
of the things that I like to focus on with my coaching clients is rivalry. Because often, especially my my female clients, we will be focused more on what one specific person is doing. And I found that rivalries tend to come about because of similarities, we tend to feel rivalry with people who are similar to us in some way that makes us think that we should be, we better be better than them or that they’re a threat to us in some way. So like this comes out in the literature, it’s like, it’s not the person who was first in 10th ranking don’t really feel a rivalry, it’s like third and fourth, for example, or first and second, they feel or rivalry. And so what I often have my clients do is to first list the ways that they in this person that they’re having an issue with, and maybe it’s not really a hot competition, maybe the other, the other person may have no idea, right. But if we’re having feelings about it, it can still wreck our relationships, it can take us can draw, focus off our work, other people on the team may definitely know even if we’re not really completely dealing with it. And so it’s good to deal with your feelings of rivalry, you know. And to deal with them, I’d say let’s, let’s take a look at the ways you’re similar to this person. And let’s look at take a look at the ways you’re different than this person. And usually that has a tendency to go oh, they, I’ll use myself for an example I there’s a person that I felt rivalry with as a skater, who had been skating a lot longer than I had, she had really grown up in the sport, and I had not I came to it as an adult. And once I realized that I felt a lot less pressure to beat her at her own game, shall we say. And that way, I found the ways that I could excel like, for example, I’m a very tall skinny person, I am not a sprinter. I am the opposite of a sprinter. But I will beat anybody in a long distance, because I can just I can go and I can do hills. And so I it really helped my game, because then instead of trying to feel like I should be a better sprinter, so that I can beat this person, which was never going to happen, because they completely different job than me, then I could really focus on what I couldn’t do well. So seeing the similarities, and then seeing the differences I find really helps interpersonally for company for quelling negative competition.

Sonya Looney 18:34
Most wonder if people that have more empathy, have a harder time with that, because they can really feel, look and look at ways that they’re related to somebody else. How am I similar to you?

Kim Perkins 18:46
Yeah, yeah. I mean, I’ve had times when there was another person who I wouldn’t say we had a rivalry, but they definitely felt that they had a rivalry with me. And I could feel that energy all the time. And I remember one time we were having just it was it was not in a race. It was just like a friendly little sprint out. And I suddenly remembered in the middle of the sprint that they had recently hurt their knee and I was all like, I should edge up a little bit because they don’t need to be like going that hard. This second. That was empathy on my part. I was thinking, if I won the race, I would have just lost right there. So it’s kind of a it’s kind of a weird line, right?

Sonya Looney 19:30
Yeah, I’m gonna go here. So competitiveness with whim among women versus competitive competitiveness among men. We’ve talked about that a little bit. We but I haven’t specifically asked you. What are some ways that women whether it’s in the business in the in the business world, or the sports world are different in a competitive environment, and how can we create better competitive environments among women? Oh, great, great, great question with a million dollar answer that will take years to answer probably, but

Kim Perkins 20:05
I feel okay, so talking about it in business, I’m gonna get out of sports for a second. So when I was first researching competitiveness at Claremont, I did a focus group with some of my other, the other women and in behavioral sciences there. And it was hilarious because nobody would cop to being competitive. Nobody wanted to talk about this. And yet, I would watch these women, I would be like, Oh, come on, you guys are so competitive. I know that this is the case, I know that you’ve been in so many competitive environments, but nobody wants to talk about it. Meanwhile, the guys would talk about it all day long, I, I couldn’t get them to stop talking about their experiences competing. So it ends up being very gendered whether we think it ought to be or not. And I think that and that’s because it just has so much to do with gender roles, how we how we go about this, when women that are my age, I’m going to say make some vast generalizations. And I want to say I am not a gender essentialist I don’t believe that women have, it’s I don’t believe that women are from Venus, and men are from Mars or whatever. But I do think that there are still patterns that are out there that affect what we do. And it’s certainly affect the way we do it at work. And in terms of leadership. And there’s women, often with their competitive with somebody arrival versus somebody, then they’re they’re fighting or racing 24/7, whereas men turn it off and on. So with, when I was training with men, we would go out there and try to humiliate each other for, you know, 90 minutes during the workout, and then we all go have a burrito and be fine. And I found that it was almost impossible to do that with women from other teams who would visit because if they were trying to kill you, they’re trying to kill you, like, all the time or forever in every domain. So they wouldn’t, you know, so. So the burrito would become competitive in some way, or like, meaningful, and then add all these extra meanings. And I think that that’s as women something that we can just kind of stop doing maybe, because it’s not necessary. It’s a fear based reaction. And I think that might be my pet theory, I’ve not tested this, right, in terms of research, but I think that women are at least also in business expected to be all things in such a way that you know, post a look good and be nice and still be aggressive and have that, you know, that’s the gender roles that get pull you in 16 different directions. And part of that is because we don’t feel like we can, we can show any weakness in any of those domains, even if they’re super, even if they’re not super germane to the business of what we’re doing. And that that, really. And that we can stop doing this by stop by give cutting other women more slack, we can start cutting women like not making it such a small needle to thread to do everything right and not cutting people down all the time and not constantly judging, because I think that a lot of people are doing that in the back of their minds. And that is both hurtful to other people. But it’s also really hurtful to ourselves. Because that’s where I think a lot of the perfectionism comes in, is that we see things we wish other people would do a little bit better. And we try to do that ourselves. And pretty soon now we’re just we’ve just taken on way too much too many things. And I think that that culture can that that can change. And I think that that would change. If we start doing that, like actively cutting women more slack, it changes our relationship to ourselves, and it changes our relationship to other women. And that that’s how we change the world.

Sonya Looney 23:51
Now, it also sounds like that means we have to cut ourselves some slack. Because often whenever we look at other people and are highly critical, it’s because we’re critical of ourselves.

Kim Perkins 24:00
Yes, it’s absolutely the same thing. And so so if you know, it’s really fun to be catty and snarky sometimes, but if we indulge in that, we’re also doing it against ourselves in the same way. So it’s not different. And if we can give women more latitude to, to be themselves while leading to be themselves while competing, then it’s really it’s really going to help all of us be more ourselves and be more authentic, which is what we want and to and to help us get out of that bind where, you know, for example, with like women candidates where we want to, we want a woman candidate, but not this one, right? Because they’re too human. They do this, they have that thing. They’re wearing those earrings, you know, whatever it is, right. We and I think I think that that will help us all.

Sonya Looney 24:50
Yeah, so I’ve heard you say in terms of practical application, like number one rivalry looking for ways that we are actually different from people who are similar to us that we might be competing again Just and realizing that we don’t have to do everything their way and be exactly like them, we can be like ourselves and use our own strengths. And then number to extend compassion and kindness to ourselves and to others and cut people some slack. And that actually might involve lowering expectations, because like you said, there are expectations in our culture that women should be everybody should be doing everything, they should be perfect in every way, when really that’s an unrealistic expectation. So how do we set realistic expectations of ourselves and others as women in competitive environments?

Kim Perkins 25:35
That is the million dollar question. You know, the thing about competition is that it measures what it measures, right. So like in my sport, it’s probably like cycling in this way, where you remember what’s first, second, and third, you don’t necessarily remember the times because that can vary according to the course. Right? And you know, if but if you’re a runner, then the time is probably more important. In some ways, you’re trying to beat the time. And so it’s another case of what gets measured gets done. And so I think that keeping to that is actually really helpful and simplistic. I mean, it sounds simplistic, but I think it’s really helpful. But to make things more simple, I had before long before I was a psychologist, I had a friend who was an oil trader. And he used to say, I don’t have to be better than everybody who could possibly do my job. I just have to be better than the other couple of people who show up that day. And then we think about like that, oh, I’m just one metric, right? Just this one metric. Just this one day, just these other five people who show up not everybody in the world who could do it. And I think we reducing it, making the game simpler, in a way reducing it to what gets measured, I think it can be a lot more relaxing and more fun.

Sonya Looney 26:54
When we’re talking about comparison, like comparing to the people around us. And I think that it can be really easy. Now with a click of a button, you can go online, and instantly you’re comparing yourself to millions of people instead of before we had a lot of these social networks, you’d be comparing to the few people at work or the few people in your neighborhood, and the ballooning of comparison to all these different people that you see. And you know, you don’t even see the real things that makes it impossible to have the right expectations for yourself, because now it’s an impossible expectation to meet.

Kim Perkins 27:26
Yes, I 100% agree with that. Absolutely.

Sonya Looney 27:30
And I mean, social comparison is the basis of competition in some ways, depending on how you want to define it. But if you’re in a race, and there’s a race time, and there’s like a list of people or even at work, like there’s a hierarchy of you know, in in the workspace, there’s always going to be social comparison. Some people have a really difficult time with social comparison it they have they avoid their goals, because of the comparison because they’re afraid of what that’s going to mean about them or if it’s going to be permanent. What advice or what have you done in your consulting practice to help people who struggle with this upward social comparison?

Kim Perkins 28:08
Oh, that’s a great question. And basically, I start with downward social comparisons. Yeah. So if you’re if you’re a key to on, you know, if you if you are worried about not looking like Bella Hadid, you know, then we say, well, you know, let’s look at Phyllis Diller. You know, let’s look at somebody who’s not who is not perhaps doing even in the same realm as you. And then you can get kind of a more bigger picture. So much in positive psychology, I find it’s really about expanding the picture that you can see before you, so that you can take in the whole picture. Because otherwise, I mean, you, I’m sure you know, this from your journeys in positive psychology. Humans have a really big negativity bias, we tend to what the things that tend to be problems or threats tend to stand out to us really, men take up the whole picture right in front of us. And then it’s harder to see the things that are going well, the things that are positive. And so what it’s really necessary to do, especially in our media environment, which is so full of everything and is so full of threats and potential problems and amping up the drama on everything in order to get our attention. We really have to take a step back and see what’s going well and what else is there and what’s not a problem and what feels good and what is seemingly Okay, in order to get a true picture of reality, and one that’s not skewed toward the negative. So that kind of perspective taking I think, is a muscle that we can do. And that is especially essential in this time period.

Sonya Looney 29:43
And that requires making time to do that. Because if you just say you’re gonna do that, or you just think of it real quick, like that’s probably not going to be as effective as taking deliberate time to do that.

Kim Perkins 29:54
Yeah, and then it doesn’t have to be like a long period of time. You know, one of the things I borrowed from like it’s chromotherapy is no if you’re checking into your body, and your tendency is to say what doesn’t feel good, like, Oh, my elbow hurts, and my thumb is weird. And you know, and I’ve got a little bit of, you know, digestive problems going on. And it’s like, okay, well, what does actually feel good? Well, I can’t really feel my heel, so it must be okay. And actually notice that you have fair parts of your body that feel okay, and to kind of feel into that. And that’s something that is an exercise that people use just for a couple of seconds, even. That comes from, from somatic therapy. And I find that that is, that’s basically something that you can do at various points during the day to help shift your perspective from running around after problems.

Sonya Looney 30:43
I also think that’s really helpful for athletes, because you could be easily focused on that one little niggle that you have, and then you start making this crazy story of, well, now, I’m not going to be able to do whatever and it’s going to last forever, and you get into this totally pessimistic style of explaining.

Kim Perkins 31:00
So much so and I think it’s important to, to learn how to get yourself out of those spirals. I do with with my clients, I do a lot with nervous system calming, where we where we lean into those feelings, locate them in the body, and start, you know, having a dialogue with them, where we instead of trying to push them away, or worry about them or make up stories about them, we just try to feel them for a couple of seconds. And often it it’s amazing what you can clear, with just a couple of seconds of actually feeling it instead of running away or reinterpreting or telling stories or intellectualizing or the million things we do when something feels a little weird.

Sonya Looney 31:39
I think that there’s a lot of scarcity mindset when it comes. And probably among women more in certain circumstances, because there are limited resources, like especially like in cycling is one of those sports, where you know, it’s women have way less opportunities and men are sponsorships are way less money than men. It’s really challenging. So having the scarcity mindset of I always have to prove myself and I have to compete against the other people not only to do well on the race, but for these resources that can create a really constricted, not good feeling and also breed negative culture. And this is something that I tried to talk about a lot is like, we’re always thinking about how do I, how do I get my piece of the pie and prevent other people the zero sum game instead of thinking how can we make the pie bigger? Um, how can I around? How can I be positively contributing, even if I feel that that constricted feeling, I can still act differently, even if I feel that way? And that changes how we view competition itself? And it changes how we perform like, Can you can you talk about like how we show up when we feel constricted with a scarcity piece versus like this expansive piece, if we are looking at it in a different way.

Kim Perkins 32:50
That’s a beautiful, it’s a beautiful point that you make there. You know, again, if we’re kind of just going back for the joy of doing then it’s kind of open ended and curious, and we can see what we can do. But if you’re going in there with the constricted, I have to make something work, and I can’t let that girl get ahead of me or whatever else it is that we often I mean, it’s really easy to bait people into making bad mistakes, because they’re scared. I mean, I think we’re you and I are both in pack sports. And I don’t know if this was your experience, but my experience is that whenever it gets scared, they get really stupid. And so I’m very prone to making dumb mistakes tactically, because they’re scared. And one of and I I have certainly exploited that on the field. But that I think it’s really important that if you stay open and curious, I don’t think I’ve ever won a race where there wasn’t a point where when I went, Ah, shit, I am in trouble there goes that, you know, every single time there would be a moment where I’d be like, Oh, I am demoralized, I’m in over my head. This is never gonna work. And then But then I have to say, well, I don’t know, we’re gonna have to see what happens. And then things would happen and things would change. And somehow I would end up on the top of the podium, you know, and so I think you have to keep just keep that that open, curious attitude in order to make things go well, because you at least in an eye, this was the case in my sport, and I assume it’s this way. And a lot of things I certainly I think it’s this way in business, is you just can’t control the outcome because there’s just so many variables. You know, this this control is an illusion. And if you spend all your time batting away, people who might you serve what you feel is yours, then you’re not concentrating on the game, and it’s just not gonna go well.

Sonya Looney 34:43
That sounds like attention control is such a huge part of this is like, where’s my attention going? How can people train this off the field because a lot of times people wait until they’re in the heat of the moment at work or, you know, in the race, and they’re like, you know, their mind is already there. And this is something that needs to be trained. Off the field or out of these intense situations? Yeah,

Kim Perkins 35:03
I think it’s it’s working with the meaning and purpose of what the of what you’re doing is really what I think happened. So I will tell you, I love the heat of the moment I have. This is something for with, I think, with competitive people is that I love a challenge. And I can have a bit of a temper because I’m like, oh, yeah, we’re gonna fight Oh, yes, we’re gonna fight, it’s gonna be really exciting. And it’s gonna be fun. And that is our response.

Sonya Looney 35:33
I was getting all amped up and excited with you

Kim Perkins 35:36
know, you feel it, right. And so. So I think that there’s no substitute for doing a little bit of deep dive on the meaning and purpose behind what you’re doing, why you’re doing what you’re afraid of what you don’t want to have happen, what would be terrible if that happened, and so that you can get a little bit of distance from it. And the other thing that I think this is gonna sound really funny, but I think that, that I’ve been working with a lot of my clients on this lately, and it’s been really helping them with have breakthroughs, as I think about statistical thinking. By that, I mean, there’s a lot of things that would be bad if they happened, but that are also really, really unlikely to happen. And those are things that we don’t have to worry about as much. So trying to spend our time worrying about things that are more likely rather than less likely. So once we get in touch with like what we’re actually afraid of, then we can kind of say, what are the odds of that happening? You know, is that really likely? What would tell me that that was going to happen soon? Or what, you know, what, how would I know if I was edging into that territory or not. And by kind of eliciting all this stuff that we know, kind of under the surface, it can only help us calm down about a lot of things.

Sonya Looney 36:54
Another thing you’re talking about is resilience in competition, like you said, Oh, that person past me, I guess it’s all over for me. But you didn’t quit like you kept going and you kept trying to get the best out of yourself. Whereas some people they get past they just give up. And they don’t try to keep doing their best because of these these avoidant tendencies. Yeah,

Kim Perkins 37:15
that was part of the fun of racing, because you know, it’s very psychological all the time is if I can pass you with enough speed, then you’ll get demoralized. And that will

Sonya Looney 37:23
help you, you know, pretend I’m not breathing harder, actually, like, in some of these stage races, I raised against men as well. And I’ll actually sing them a song as I’m passing them. Even though I’m dying. Luckily, that’s part of the fun of doing this. Yeah. Making sure you don’t give up yourself. If somebody does that to you, like how do you make sure that you don’t give up and get demoralized and stay resilient in the heat of the moment,

Kim Perkins 37:52
I think you could practice it not telling yourself stories. And I don’t really know another way around this, I feel like this is what it is for. Because we all start off, we all tell stories about what’s happening. I mean, that’s we are meaning making machines, and we make meaning out of, if we see three points, we see a triangle, you know, but that that may not be what’s actually happening out there. And so I think we have to get into a habit of being curious about what’s really going on and not believing our first thought about it. Whatever that is, our first thought may not be the right one and waiting to see how it plays out. One of the things I do with my clients that I think has had a pretty good impact from a lot of them has been to this is something this is an exercise that is very old. It’s something that Peter Drucker came up with in like the 60s, you know, the father of management consulting, which is to make predictions about what’s going to happen, I find that this really happened. This really helps in business, because often it can take weeks or months for something to play out. So I will have people, if they’re worried about say, of certain employees performance, say make some predictions about what you think they’re going to do and what you think you would do about that and what you think would happen about what what do you say, how do you think that’s going to play out? And then you can revisit in a couple weeks and see if you are right, and often you’re like, Wow, that was way off? That wasn’t what happened at all. And in this way, we can kind of fine tune our our suspicions, our intuition, you know, our heuristics that we use to make decisions, we can fine tune them so that we can we can trust them more. And also, most of the time, it means that things are a lot less dire than they may appear.

Sonya Looney 39:35
Hmm, yeah, it makes me think like you’re talking about negativity bias. It’s like we have a negativity bias that creates prediction errors whenever something bad happens. And then we tend to make assume the worst case scenario and apply like these like pervasive, problematic, you know, lenses to the things that are happening. Yeah,

Kim Perkins 39:56
absolutely. And there’s a thing you know, in psychology about ethics. Back to forecasting that it, we have no idea we, we think that we’re going to feel a certain way about something, and it’s going to be really bad most of the time. And then we’ll get there. And it’s like, oh, that actually isn’t that bad at all. We’re really bad at predicting how we’re going to feel about stuff.

Sonya Looney 40:16
Have you anticipation think about being a kid and you’re in trouble. Or you get an email from your boss that says, that might have a tone that you didn’t like, and then you start assuming all these things about what they’re going to tell you. And then you do all this stuff, you have all this suffering, because of what you’re assuming is going to happen. And then it turns out, it’s actually nothing, maybe they want to actually tell you something good. But your mind played all these tricks on you to make you think it’s going to be something bad. That

Kim Perkins 40:42
happens all the time with emails. And when I work with teams, I’m often amazed at how often just like the smallest little bit of tone can set off this chain reaction. And we can’t keep in mind, we cannot control that. But what we can do is assume positive intent. And go question this curiosity as opposed to being defensive all the time.

Sonya Looney 41:07
Something that’s kind of a sidebar, but something interesting. You’ve used the word curiosity a few times. Are you familiar with Jedburgh work at all? I’m not that’s Tell me. Yeah. So he’s a neuroscientist, and he does a lot around habit change. And he’s written a couple of books about this. But he says, changing your habits, using curiosity, instead of judgment helps you change your habits. So instead of just saying, I have to do it this way, I’m not allowed to drink it’s like, or smoke or whatever the habit is, it’s like, yeah, drink or smoke. But do it, do it curiously, and ask how is this really affecting me? And that actually changes the way that you change your behavior? So it sounds like that, that actually really applies in this environment as well, like how am I am showing up in a competitive environment being open and curious, instead of just saying it has to be a certain way? Or I have to be a certain way?

Kim Perkins 41:56
Absolutely, absolutely. Because, you know, the world is large, there’s a lot of things happening, there’s a lot of variables. And just because we think, you know, we think that so and also we’re just we’re intelligent beings, we’re responding to stuff. You know, if you’re smoking, I say this as an ex smoker, I used to smoke in high school, I was I was making make the joke, when I started working out, I stopped smoking, just make the joke that did like my hobby is breathing, you know, recreational breathing. The, the, when you’re smoking you’re doing, you’re not doing it just randomly you’re doing it because it does something for you. And if you just say, well, I shouldn’t do that, then you end up with an unmet need. That is either you’re gonna keep smoking, or you’re gonna find another way to meet that which may not, which may be as bad or worse, right? If you go in more curiously, then you can kind of do some discovery and see what’s going on here, see what you’re responding to. A lot of times, we’re responding to just weird feelings in our body that we’ve learned, we can either detach from or push down or divert our attention away from by, you know, doing something that ends up being destructive, whether that’s smoking or looking at our phones, or whatever. And sometimes just locating that feeling in your body. And working with that is the easiest way to get yourself to do what you want it to do. And be open about what that thing is, you know,

Sonya Looney 43:21
so for the last couple of minutes, I’m gonna switch gears just a little bit. We talked about perfectionism, just a little tiny bit. We talked about competition. And I was curious if people who are highly competitive have a difficult time accepting their accomplishment. So say they’re really competitive, and they win the race, and they tend to be a bit perfectionistic. But maybe that win is still not good enough, because so and so wasn’t there, or they weren’t perfect in the race like you. And do you encounter that in your work so

Kim Perkins 43:49
much, so much. It’s a time so much of the time, I remember talking to somebody who had just made the world team in my sport. And they were like, Yeah, but Helen wasn’t there. So you know, again, back to my friends, the oil traders thing, you don’t have to beat everybody in the world who could possibly do this. You just have to beat those people who show up today and then it’s yours, you know? And then nobody and really, people can’t take that away from you. Nobody else if you know if if you had an accomplishment and I said you haven’t did that person show up? I would be a bad friend. Right? I would be a little bit of a toxic presence in your life. So why don’t we accept that from ourselves?

Sonya Looney 44:37
Yeah, that really sounds like you know, you look at this the self compassion interventions like how would you how would you treat a friend and like doing that to yourself when it comes to how would you treat a friend and this situation when it comes to your sense of accomplishment and your your accolades and things like that? Are you rejecting them and would you but maybe you would reject your friends maybe you would say that to a friend which is toxic like I actually know P Bull who have actually done that, like, yeah, like I’ve actually, you know, accomplish something in a race. And I said, Yeah, but so and so wasn’t there. It’s like, wow.

Kim Perkins 45:09
Oh, yeah. Now we know. No, it’s true. And that’s that would be something that’s about them. Right? If they say that until you don’t to do that to yourself.

Sonya Looney 45:26
I can’t believe that we’re already out of time here. But I think we covered a lot of ground. I think we gave people a lot of practical things that they can do. The next time they show up to competition and in preparation for competition. It sounds like a lot of this is attention and narrative training and making sure that you’re looking at the whole picture, not just one small part of the picture or making the picture too big comparing yourself to every single person ever. Yes.

Kim Perkins 45:53
Yes, right on all about. So

Sonya Looney 45:55
where can people find your work? Oh,

Kim Perkins 45:57
come find me at Kim perkins.com. Always happy to hear from you. And there. Yeah. And there’ll be some new new things in the new year. Cool.

Sonya Looney 46:07
And is there a launch date for your book at this time? Right

Kim Perkins 46:11
now? I don’t have a launch date. But if you’re interested in you can get on my mailing list, and you’ll be able to find out when it does

Sonya Looney 46:17
when it does. All right. Fantastic. Well, thanks so much for coming on the show. And this was such a fun conversation.

Kim Perkins 46:22
My pleasure. Thanks so, so much for having me.

Leave a Reply