Tag Archives: self improvement

Using Chess To Learn About Yourself

Art imitates life. We all know this, especially if you are creative in any way. You’ll experience something, be it a cascading waterfall silhouetted by a sunset or two dogs chasing a ball and their owner’s attention, and you’ll be inspired to take action. Maybe you sketch an image or write a poem or construct a story. However you do it, the process is the same: experience something, get inspired, create something.

The same is true in reverse. Life imitates art. You see a painting, watch a movie, read a poem and something clicks. You get a fresh new perspective. Maybe you get inspired enough to take action, to do things different, or maybe you just sit back and think new, deeper thoughts. In either case, the very way you see reality has changed. Shift your perceptions and what you perceive shifts as well.

I find this interesting, as I’m a chess player. Chess is a game, but it has artistic qualities. Moreover, it’s a thinking game. It’s a direct portal into your own mind. If art imitates life, then chess definitely imitates life as well.

It’s not called the Royal Game for nothing.

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If Something Is Worth Doing …

Here’s a question for you: let’s say you are at school and have a test coming up. You study for a few hours, you do everything you are supposed to do and you wind up with 85%, comfortably in the A range. How do you feel?

I suppose there’s many possibilities, but I see two in particular. First, the positive reaction. Most people would be thrilled with an A. That’s honour roll material. You could get a 20 on the next test and still have a passing grade. Heck, it’s almost impossible to fail now, assuming you at least pretend to try. That 85 likely put you in the top percentile. You are one of the top performers. An 85 is a great mark.

Well, it’s a great mark for some people…

The other possible reaction: “85? Dang, where did the other 15% go?” Continue reading

Changing My Life, One Habit at a Time

There are good habits and there are bad habits. By and large, we spend too much time focusing on bad habits. “If only I didn’t do X,” we think, “I would be so much better off!” Maybe it’s over-eating or smoking or watching too much TV, whatever. We spend a lot of time focusing on what we don’t want, on what is holding us back.

A dog not eating food? I smell photoshopped!

Often, when you try to change this behaviour, you find it really tough. Bad habits are hard to break, and brute willpower only gets you so far. There is an alternative, though. Instead of focusing on what you don’t want, focus on what you do want. Create good habits. Instead of lamenting on what you should not be doing, do thing you should be doing. This change in approach has, literally, changed my life over the last two months. Continue reading

One Month of Building Good Habits

I wrote last month how January wasn’t too kind to me, or perhaps more accurately, I wasn’t very kind to myself. I set out to accomplish a lot this year, and I spent those first 31 days failing as hard as possible. In short, I tried to do too much, and that’s a recipe for disaster in just about every area of life. I then vowed for February to better, and by the Goddess it has.  Somewhat oddly, it’s all thanks to Thrive, a GymnasticsBodies nutrition course.

Let’s be honest, we all want to look like that, at least a little. Well, guys at least. Girls might prefer something different.

It’s a behaviour-based nutrition course, which may not sound very intelligible at first glance. It’s founded on the principle that trying to do too much leads to disaster. Gee, that sounds familiar. Most diets fail because people try to make rapid, wholesale changes in eating habits, and after a week or so all your willpower is used up and you fall right back into your old eating habits. 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

On Not Watching Television

“Making a Murderer? Have you seen it yet?” For the past week this is all I’ve heard, both from online and off-line friends and acquaintances. It’s all anyone seems to talk about. I ran into three different people in the space of an hour all talking about this new show, all saying how wonderful it is and how addicted they are. At some point, when they realize I’m not saying anything, they ask if I have seen it yet.

The first time I saw this is when I went looking for pictures for this blog post.

Notice the keyword there: ‘yet’. It is simply assumed that if I am not currently watching it that I will. The thought that I might not watch it doesn’t seem to cross anyone’s mind. “You will really like it,” my one friend said, after he spent about five minutes gushing about how he binge-watched all the episodes in two days. “It’s right up your alley.”

He’s probably right, but there is one small problem: I don’t watch TV. Continue reading

Being the Best Person I Can Be

Do you remember being a kid? You thought completely differently, mostly because people treat you differently. Actually, maybe it’s the other way around. People treated you differently, so you thought differently. If an adult and a child spend any length of time together, sooner or later the adult will say something like, “So, what do you want to be when you grow up?”

Just look at that question for a minute. Look at what it is saying, and what it is not saying. It is opening up an entire universe of possibilities. There is no wrong answer. The child can say literally anything and the adult will go with it. About 80% of the time the child will say something completely ridiculous, such as being a professional athlete of some sorts. Statistically, there is almost no chance of making that dream a reality, but we don’t tell the child that. We usually just smile and nod, and perhaps say something like “you will have to work hard to do that.”

Look what Michael Phelps did with a little hard work! And talent … opportunity … resources … proper training … ungodly genetics …demon magic…

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Trial Runs for Resolutions

2015 is nearly over. In two short weeks we will be saying goodbye to this year and hello to the next. This time of year is usually associated with two things, staying up until midnight and failing New Year’s resolutions. The statistics say that something like 50% of all resolutions are broken by Jan 2 and 95% by Jan 11.

Even that ‘first week’ part is pretty generous.

That’s a shame. I support New Year’s resolutions. Heck, I started this blog as a New Year’s resolution. Many people, though, see the above statistics and think ‘why bother?’ If they aren’t going to work, what’s the point? The point, of course, is you trying to improve your life. If you don’t try, you will never change. If you are living the perfect life of your dreams, I suppose that’s not a bad thing. For most of us who aren’t, though, resolutions give us a chance to inch closer to such a life.

The problem isn’t with the resolutions per se, it’s the way we try to make them work. Continue reading

A Look at Rewriting

If you’ve looked at my blog at all the last week or so, you will a notice I have fallen in love with rewriting. The last four posts including this one are all about it, and I rarely go two posts in a row on the same subject. Heck, I doubt I’ve gone a whole month with four posts on a single subject, and yet here we are this week, four posts about rewriting. How about that.

Somehow, this is only my second Simpson’s reference on this blog so far. I need to step up my game.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, this topic means a lot to me. Before I learned to rewrite, I was an average writer. I had a lot of potential, but potential means little if never developed. If I never learned the skill, than I never would have became a better student, and I almost certainly would never do well enough to complete my MA. So yeah, this does mean a lot to me.

It means enough for me to write three posts in a row, plus this one, which will summarize them. After this, no more posts about rewriting, I promise. At least for this week. Continue reading