Overcoming Challenges - Part 3

GM Illingworth
Apr 11, 2019, 9:42 PM |

You may be wondering: what was the inspiration behind last week's post

Well, I noticed a common pattern among my student's questions - which, by the way, were among the best I've been asked in my 15+ years teaching chess! Namely, several students appreciated that they didn't handle 'loss' in chess - be it a lost game, or making mistakes - as well as they could. 

These questions really hit home for me, because it made me realise I'd been dealing with the same demons, albeit in a different way.

For the last few weeks, I had become increasingly frustrated with my recent lack of results in various areas of my life. Despite my best efforts, I had momentarily allowed the negativity of my family's adversity (and the news) to affect me. I was buying into this story that I'd had trouble looking after my health and increasing my wealth recently, rather than focusing on the journey and making the changes I need to get to where I want to be. 


Focusing too much on the result (financial freedom and amazing health) was in a certain sense pushing it away from me, as I would exclaim with anger at every 'mistake' or every little thing that went wrong, seemingly pushing me away from the life I felt I had to provide for my family. This was causing a lot of distress and pulling my energy away from my purpose and passion for helping others as much as possible.


Now I remember to focus on what I can control - such as my work, my mindset, my efforts, my learning, and my response to events - and let go of the things outside my control. It goes to show that the competitive mindset, and improvement in general, is not something we do once or twice and never have to worry about again - it is a lifelong process, and neglecting this can cause us to revert to old habits that don't serve our current interests. 

As an extension of this point, I would recommend expressing gratitude each day for what we have and see our goals as something that is coming our way, as opposed to things that we want. And if we make a mistake? Grant permission to laugh at yourself, and not always take everything so seriously. I will probably delve deeply into gratitude practices in another series. 

Next week, I will give you some simple and powerful techniques on how to recover after a game you lost (or drew, but felt you should have won). In the meantime, check out my detailed interview with Chess.com as the first Chess.com 'Coach of the Month'