Tag Archives: mental

Chess Perfectionism

Perfection. That seems like such a great, powerful word, does it not? Perfect is positive! If you get a perfect score, a perfect ten, a perfect grade, a perfect day, a perfect anything, you are absolutely set. Nothing is better than perfect, and if you have an opportunity to make something perfect, than you should absolutely do it, right? Right?

I’m not referring to the classic game Perfection, though I was quite good at this if I do so say myself.

It’s funny, because perfectionism is one of the most cunning traps out there. We pour more and more effort into something that, frankly, is already good enough. The difference between 99% and 100% is incredibly small, but we often chase that 1% for hours and hours and hours, and we rarely if ever find it. It may even be impossible, but we still strive for it, sometimes unceasingly, and in the end we become nothing more than Sisyphus rolling that rock up that hill.

I have a problem with perfectionism, and nowhere is that more clear than chess. Continue reading

My Obsession With Chess

In everyday life, we use the word ‘obsession’ rather loosely. When we say someone is obsessed with something, we generally mean they have a very high interest in something and spend much of their free time on it. We generally do not mean that they are under mental compulsion and are unable to do anything else.

When it comes to chess, at times I was very close to this actual definition of obsession.

I consider this image really clever.

It didn’t happen right away. Though I learned chess at the age of six, I didn’t get fully into it until the age of 10 or so. I was getting pretty good, considering I only played once a month or so, but I couldn’t beat my grandfather. I got close a few times, but more likely I was simply losing slower. I was putting up resistance, not fighting back. I wanted to change that. Continue reading

The Power and Problem of Potential

I don’t think anything captivates me more than the idea of potential. I love the idea of improving, of taking something and reaching it’s true potential. We sometimes say someone or something has no or limited potential, but that’s rarely true. Take a rock. By itself, you might look at it and not expect it to amount to much. You can’t do much with a rock. Ah, but if you lift it up, it now has potential energy, and if you place it with others it can become a stone pathway.

A simple rock, and yet it can be part of something functional and even beautiful.

Just about everything has potential, potential to be something greater, something more. This idea consumes me. I have a predisposition to maximize all the potential around me. I have a gift, if you will, to see the potential of all things. You can show me just about anything, even a pile of junk, and I can conceive ways to make it better, to make it more. I’m not always capable of doing this myself, and it might not be the best thing in the world, but I can see the potential in all things.

This is great … except for when it becomes a curse. Continue reading

The Pathology of Being the Best

I like being right. Who doesn’t, right? It’s a good, empowering feeling. Whether it’s something simple, like predicting the Superbowl winner, or something big, like deciding on what career to go in, everyone wants to be right. I mean, no one goes out consciously to do something wrong, right?

Unfortunately, there are degrees of rightness for most things. It’s a sliding scale, like a percentage. You can be mostly right, or half-right, or 75% right. You can be wrong about all the little details but still get the big picture correct, and the opposite is also true.

Wow, this may be the most philosophy-thing I’ve seen since leaving university.

In addition to being right, this also relates to being good at something. Take writing. You can be a good writer, or you can be good at certain types of writing, say fiction but not academic essays. You might rate yourself as in the top 70% of all writers, and that’s a fine thing.

Unfortunately, I and many other people view that 70% as not an accomplishment but a failure. It’s be the best or be a bust. Continue reading

Learning to Solve the Rubik’s Cube

I wrote yesterday how I have stopped the NaNoWriMo challenge of writing a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. This produced one slightly unintended consequence: I suddenly had free time I didn’t know what to do with. Previously every spare moment have been devoted to the novel in some capacity, either writing or doing some research. My day revolved around it, and now I need to find something new.

I could’ve just read a book or played some chess, normal things I do every day, but for some reason I wanted something different. I searched around my room, not really expecting to find anything in particular, and then inspiration struck. In a forgotten corner lay a mostly unused object, dust covered, scrambled beyond all recognition: the Rubik’s cube.

The beginning of an obsession.

Continue reading

It’s Good to Be Back

They say you don’t truly appreciate something until it is gone. When it comes to my ankle injury it’s 100% true. I spent one whole week completely resting, not completely by choice. I couldn’t walk for three days, and even then it was quite painful. I could do nothing but sit and wait to heal. Necessary, but not the most fun thing in the world.

This got old after the first day, nevermind the whole week.

To be completely honest, I felt mentally and emotionally terrible, far worse than I felt physically. If I kept my foot iced and elevated it didn’t even hurt. Moving hurt, but that was easily solved by not moving. By the fifth day even the pain wasn’t that bad. I no longer needed my pain medication. I could deal with it. The mental side, though, was much harder. Continue reading

How To Meditate Without Meditating

I’d wager most people at this point recognize that meditation is something they should be doing. Some people perhaps still view it as airy fairy, almost pseudoscience, but the benefits appear undeniable. A quick Google search will easily confirm this. Meditation has been credited with everything from reducing stress to lowering blood pressure and everything in between. You can do it anywhere, at any time, and it’s completely free. Despite all this, many people do not meditate, often because they don’t know where to start.

You don’t have to do this, though it might help.

Continue reading

June 2015 Updates

I’m doing a format change for my monthly updates. Rather than make smaller posts for each individual element (chess update, flexibility update, etc), I will combine all of them into one single, bigger post. It should lead to less clutter, and it will be easier to search for. Also, we can see how my various skills and abilities advance more or less in tandem with each other, at a glance.

Well, let’s get started. Continue reading

My Current Mental Training

On Sunday I outlined my physical training. Today I’d like to show how I’m currently approaching my mental training. Hmm. That sounds odd, ‘mental training.’ It’s not a concept we hear a lot. I’d wager mental fitness is just as important as physical fitness. Our brains can do amazing things, and we can train our mind longer and more often than our bodies. Even better, you can do it virtually anywhere.

I won’t lie, becoming a real-life Patrick Jane, minus the depression and having your family murdered and all, would be pretty awesome.

I would like to say I’m following a master plan from some genius that will take me to the very peaks of mental ability … but I’m not. I don’t know if such a plan is even possible. Googling ‘mental training’ produces very few results, mostly superficial. ‘Think positive’ is good advice, but it’s not making our brains better, is it? I’m not interested in this self-help approach; I want self-learning. Continue reading

My Chess Bio X: The Present

One of the best excuses we can make is not having enough time to do X. It sounds like a perfect excuse: we only have 24 hours in a day, so we can only do a finite number of things. Oh well, too bad. However, if you really look at it, this excuse is saying something different: what I am currently doing with my 24 hours every day is more important than X.

Now this excuse sounds a bit weaker. I don’t know about you, but I spend a fair chunk of my day in a rather idle way: checking and rechecking email, watching TV and youtube, even just gazing off into space waiting to fully wake up each morning. Do I want to say these things are more important than just about anything else? Er, not really. Continue reading