When I was competing, from the time I was in high school as a football player, and eventually cross country and track distance runner, I always thought everyone wanted to win as badly as I did. I could only use myself and my own mentality as the measuring stick, and those I beat I thought I was just more talented than, and those I lost to were just better than me.
Then I got into coaching, and my perspective changed entirely. It became clear when I was coaching high school athletes that they simply didn't think like I had, where I was willing to go to the limit or edge that I had always been willing to go to.
When I stood on the start line, I judged myself and my preparation based on the standard of "I am here to win," but what I found out was there are few on the start line that had that same mentality. This is why I beat guys who were much more talented than me, and competed well against guys who I had no business being so close to. I learned at a young age in elementary school that I was not athletic, nor had the ability of many of my peers, but it only drove me to compete harder. I refused to accept losing, or having less talent be an excuse.
I especially try to bring this home with my juniors, that they can choose to win. They might not actually win the race, but if they really want to win, and choose to make the effort to win, they will go a lot further in the sport, and especially in life, if they take the mentality that they race to win.
When you toe the line, you have a choice. Choose to win. Choose to be at the front. Once you truly make that choice, you change as an athlete. And it really is that simple.