Every year, thousands of competitive gamers attend tournaments. Each tournament coming with the promise of prize money, glory, and recognition for the select few who can prove their skill.
Each attending player has likely invested hundreds, if not thousands of hours into the game and is now putting their full emotional weight on the line. In the back of their head is the driving hope and belief that they might just be the one to make it to the top.
Of course, only a select few really do make it to the top, and the majority fall short. Meaning that most players are left with broken dreams, questioning if they really have what it takes to be like the masters.
And whether you attend local tournaments or not, I’m sure you can relate to the experience of putting yourself on the line to win an important match or achieve a certain rank, only to fall short of your goal and be left questioning your abilities.
Do you have what it takes to make your dreams a reality? Do you have the potential to become a great player?
For most, the answer is yes. Yes, you likely do have the potential to rise up to your personal goals and become a much better player. But the vast majority of ambitious players like yourself, make terrible mistakes in their approach to their skill development, which causes them to improve at a slower rate, hit skill plateaus and eventually lose motivation.
And chances are this approach is something that has made its way into the back of your mind, and held you back from improving to your full ability. But by exposing this mindset, and adopting a more effective approach, you will begin to develop your skills much faster and much farther than you could before.
So in this post, we’ll look at the approaches to learning that often define our success or failure, we’ll look at the inspiring research lead by developmental psychologists, and we’ll define a new mindset that can help you improve yourself much easier, and help you become a great player.
When it comes to learning and developing your skills, things like repetition and consistency are important. But what’s just as important, and often overlooked is your mindset. Developmental psychologists are well aware of this and have done extensive research on the effects of students approach to their learning ability. And how different approaches lead to drastically different results.
Carol Dweck, a leading researcher in the field of developmental psychology, defines the two approaches to learning as either a fixed mindset or a growth mindset. A fixed mindset is basically this idea that you’re either a genius or you’re not, that your skill level is fixed. It’s that mindset that causes us to look at top players like they have some supernatural talent that we just weren’t born with.
When we have a fixed mindset we don’t want to challenge ourselves because we don’t want to expose ourselves as either good or bad, because if you were born a certain way and it’s fixed then you don’t ever want to fail, you don’t ever want to come up short, because that’s a sign that you just don’t have what it takes.
And with a fixed mindset, we begin to see the effort as a bad thing, because the attitude of a fixed mindset is that if you’re good at something, then you don’t need to work hard at it. And if you’re putting in a lot of effort, then chances are you’re trying to compensate for how bad you actually are. And of course, that would make you a “try-hard”.
Now the growth mindset approaches it completely differently. The growth mindset embraces the process of incremental development. Those with a growth mindset realize their shortcomings but understand that they can improve themselves through persistent practice. With a growth mindset we embrace challenge and failures, we see effort as the key to our development, and we see that greatness is something we make, not something we are born with.
To highlight how these mindsets affect our learning ability, Carol Dweck and Dr. Lisa Blackwell, conducted a study in which they tracked several hundred students with both mindsets over the course of 2 years. Results showed that the students with a growth mindset, those who thought they could change their own intelligence, increased their grades over time while those with a fixed mindset did not.
What this study highlights is that this simple change in our approach to learning can lead to very different behaviors and results. And by having a growth mindset we can bring our game to new levels. But how exactly does this mindset do that?
Well as I mentioned before, those with a fixed mindset perceived effort as a sign of weakness, and are prone to avoiding challenge. As a result, they are likely to avoid opportunities for growth. But those with a growth mindset are subconsciously less fearful of challenge and failure and are intrinsically motivated to apply more effort.
But beyond these behavioral differences, it turns out that this mindset actually causes physiological changes in the brain. Brain scans show that for people with a fixed mindset, the brain becomes most active when receiving information about how the person performed such as a greater score, or how they’ll be judged. But for people with a growth mindset, the brain becomes most active when receiving information about what they could do better next time, allowing them to process the new lessons and learn from it.
The unfortunate part of this is that we all have a certain level of fixed mindset programmed into our subconscious.
Now, this often begins when we’re young and begin going to school or start playing sports. If we excel in math class we might be told that we’re simply just good at math. But if we aren’t the greatest at basketball, we might be told that it just isn’t our thing. This kind of feedback tells us that success and failure are linked to ingrained ability, and for whatever reason, we were born good at some things and bad at others.
This continues to arise in gaming environments when players are called “god-like” as though they were born destined to be good at the game, or some players underperform and are then told they’re a bad player as though they’re genetically programmed to having bad in-game accuracy.
And so it is often our environment that programs a certain level of fixed mindset into us, which causes us to progress at a slower rate without us even being aware of it. But it is critical to realize that we can evolve in our approach to learning.
In fact, studies show that in just minutes, we can be conditioned into having an improved learning approach for any given situation. In one study, students were given different instructions about what the aim of their task was. Some were told that solving certain problems would help them with their schoolwork in the future, allowing them to take on a mastery-oriented approach. Others were told that they would be judged based on their results, thus putting on the immediate pressure to perform.
As you might expect, those who were temporarily mastery-oriented did much better on the tests. So the key to pursuing excellence is to embrace a natural, long-term learning process, and condition the learning mindset in every area of your practice.
With this mindset, painful losses may prove much more valuable than short-term victories. And with every mistake or major loss comes new wisdom that will bring you closer to mastery. Of course, the real challenge is to hold onto this long-term perspective when you are under pressure. And for this, we need to make the growth mindset a habit.
So make this a conscious effort. Start listening for your fixed mindset voice and notice when it arises. If you look to others with high levels of skill and you think ” I’m not nearly that good, I don’t have that level of coordination or accuracy”, add the word “yet”, as in I’m not that good yet. And when you feel performance pressure bubbling up, dismiss it by reminding yourself that you don’t need to perform and achieve some immediate result, you simply need to learn from the experience and make progress towards long-term mastery.
Most players are held back by a fixed mindset. An approach to learning that has been socially programmed into their subconscious and now holds them back from reaching their best selves. As a result, these players slip into the fear of challenge, and the frustrations of defeat. Their fixed mindset slowly drains their motivation until they decide they “just aren’t good enough”.
But as you now know, there is a much greater approach, that inspires us to embrace challenge, process new lessons from our results and apply our full effort towards long-term improvement.
And with this growth mindset, we can not only avoid the pitfalls on the road to mastery, but we can progress down it
much faster and much farther. And as a result we can achieve our full potential.