We’ve all felt those meager twinges (or perhaps giant pangs) of jealousy when competing with somebody close to us for a job, the a ections of another, or tournament or award of some kind – and that’s completely normal. When you’re vying with a loved one over the same “prize,” the emotions are more complex than usual because you care for and know your opponent on a personal level. Rivalries between friends, family, romantic partners, or co-workers can certainly help push us forward and offer an added drive to reach our goals. It’s a natural part of life. However, there are certainly times when our competitive drive can get in the way and become more obstacle than asset. Here are a few expert-provided tips for how to make the most out of a little competition and steer ourselves away from its potentially negative effects.

Try to avoid comparisons. Professor Tracy Vaillancourt, PhD, said that while envy can motivate and empower you to achieve, getting caught in the undertoe of constant comparison can be a negative waste of energy. It’s great to have somebody in your life who inspires you and helps provide you with concrete targets to aim for. However, if you find yourself constantly measuring yourself against a friend, family member, or colleague, take a moment to reflect on whether or not your perpetual scrutiny is helpful in any way. Try to keep in mind that we are all  unique individuals, with our own strengths and weaknesses.

Stay focused on yourself and your own goals. It’s all too easy these days – especially with the internet and social media – to get carried away and start obsessing over someone else’s life and achievements. Instead of spending too much time focusing on the details of your competitors, channel that energy into building whatever it is that’s driving you forward. If your loved one ends up edging you out, be happy for them and consider the advantages of being close to them and how you can work that into your accomplishments in the future.

Keep context in mind and use it as a guide. Is the competitive side of your relationship founded in something productive (working in the same  eld, moving toward life goals) or is it more deeply rooted in some underlying issue (vying for mom’s attention, proving that you are “better” in some way)? Asking yourself these questions will likely o er insight into whether or not the competitive side of your relationship is working for you or against you – and you’ll be better able to adjust your outlook accordingly.