“Checkmated?! Bulls****!.”

“Wait, why didn’t I see that my queen was hanging?!”

“I feel like throwing this phone across the room!”

These are some of the thoughts that pass through my head while playing chess games. They’re my angry thoughts, and I’m investigating them because I believe they don’t serve me.

Anger is justified in very few specific circumstances, and it is useful in even fewer. Blundering a piece and/or losing a match in chess is not one of the aforementioned cases. Getting angry is a disservice to one’s efforts to improve, and a misinterpretation of what is going on in the journey.

Below are some of the thoughts I have when I get angry at mistakes that I make. I have followed them with a rational, optimistic viewpoint that I can choose to heed instead of angry thoughts.

“I shouldn’t have lost.”

Why shouldn’t I have? It’s part of the process anyone trying to improve goes through, so what makes me think I’m exempt?

“I deserve to win for playing so well for so long. I only made a mistake at the very end.”

That’s the beauty of chess! Either player can come back at any time. I have benefitted from games where I was down the whole game and a slip up by my opponent at the end gave me the game.

“Am I not getting better? Or am I getting worse?”

Let’s think about my ranking. It’s improving, right? So if I’m playing at the same skill level and I’m playing higher ranked people, it would make sense that sooner or later I will run into opponents that expose my mistakes and hand me losses. Therefore I’m not getting worse: I’ve merely encountered players that require me to step my game up.

“Losing sucks, and I wish I didn’t have to endure it.”

Losing only sucks because I am associating negative emotions with it. I have the power to choose what emotions I want to associate, but it’s up to me to choose wisely.

Takeaways

Losing and/or mistakes are actually a wonderful opportunity, and to let it go is a big missed opportunity. Being angry and brooding angrily while not taking action might be my first reaction, but it doesn’t serve me. Think about this quote from How Champions Think: In Sports and in Life.

“What separates exceptional people from the crowd is the way they respond to failure.”

Bob Rotella, How champions Think: In Sports and in Life

I love this quote because it reminds me that winning is easy. Anyone can be happy and profess their love for their sport or activity when they’re winning. But for those looking to improve, winning doesn’t distinguish you. It’s what you do after a loss, or a large blunder, where the largest gains are to be made.

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