How do you succeed as a competitive gamer?
How do you rank up faster and ultimately succeed as a competitive gamer?
Well first consider how not to rank up, and honestly this probably what you’re doing right now.
To not improve as a competitive gamer, you should blindly move in a general direction, never knowing exactly what you want or how to achieve it. This means aimlessly grinding and stumbling into skill plateaus.
To fix this, you might start setting goals. That way you identify what exactly you are trying to accomplish rather than aimlessly grinding. But chances are even if you understand that goal setting is important, you’re still probably doing it wrong. You might be setting goals like ‘I want to climb to the next rank by next season’. But goals like this rarely work.
Yet on the flip side, research shows that when we set proper goals that align our desires with effective action, we are actually 3x more likely to succeed. Meaning you’re 3x more likely to reach your desired rank. So let’s figure why most goals fail and how to set better ones, so you can greatly increase your chances of ranking up and succeeding as a competitive gamer.
- Gollwitzer and Brandstätter, “Implementation Intentions and Effective Goal Pursuit,” Gollwitzer, “Implementation Intentions: Strong Effects of Simple Plans. – https://www.researchgate.net/publication/232586066_Implementation_Intentions_Strong_Effects_of_Simple_Plans
Intro to Goal Setting
Why set goals in the first place? We know that having goals gives us direction and allows us to measure our progress as we move towards our dreams.
You’ve likely been told the countless benefits of having goals. You may have even heard the standard lecture about goals needing to be SMART goals (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-based). But still, after knowing that goals are helpful, even the smartest gamers among us struggle to set goals properly.
Goal-setting might come across as straightforward; just write down what you want to accomplish and then do it, right? Well, if you really want to make those goals a reality, there’s much more that Performance Psychology can teach you about the different goal-setting approaches and how to best use them to climb the ranks.
And, if not set properly, goals can be the source of constant anxiety, disappointments, and dips in confidence. So why don’t some goals always work for us, and what techniques can you use to ensure your goals help you achieve your full competitive potential?
Goal Setting Method
What if reaching your performance goals was as simple as brushing your teeth?
Now, chances are you didn’t really have to think twice about brushing your teeth this morning, nor did you have to put a lot of thought and effort into it as you moved the brush around. This is because brushing your teeth is an automatic habit. And that same mechanism of automatic habits might just be the key to improving your skills faster.
Habits expert, James Clear (1), explains in his book Atomic Habits that the most effective way to move toward our goals is through setting up a system of daily habits.
Imagine, instead of using willpower to get all your training done, you rely on some simple habits to get you there.
Here’s a step-by-step method you can use to effectively turn those daunting to-do lists into a system of habits that helps you crush your goals:
Step 1: Write your goals down. This isn’t always possible, but try and make sure that they’re specific, measurable, achievable, and challenging but doable. For example, Let’s say that you want to get more kills per round (KPR) in CSGO. Your stats show that your average KPR score over the last year has been 0.54, but you want to boost that to 0.6 within the next 6 months. That’s a good and specific goal!
Step 2: Write down the daily behaviours you need in order to reach your goal and make a list of them. In the case of improving your KPR, these could be spending an hour per day practicing your aim, spending 30 minutes per day doing visualization and imagery training, and spending 30 minutes per day exercising to ensure that your body and mind stay healthy to support the training.
Step 3: Try and focus on maintaining these behaviours every day with the aim of turning them into habits. You may fail at them from time to time, but that’s where step 4 comes in.
Step 4: At the end of each week, rate each of your new habits in a score out of ten based on how often and how well you did them.
Let’s say for example, that you stuck to regularly doing your aiming practice and visualization training through the week. You’d then likely give your aiming practice and visualization scores an 8 or 9/10. If you only ran one day this week, though, you’d probably give yourself a 2/10 for that habit.
We recommend that you get a mentor or coach to keep you accountable to stick with these tasks and check your scores weekly until they’re all consistently scoring between 8 and 10 out of 10.
If you can do this, then you’ve successfully built the habits you need to reach your goal of 0.6 KPR. Who knows? It may even be higher than that after 6 months.
Advantages to This Method
There are a number of amazing benefits to using this method to reach your goals. The first is that it shifts your mind from being outcomes-focused to be more process-focused.
Psychology tells us that there are two different kinds of goals: Outcome and process goals. The goal of achieving 0.6 KPR within 6 months is an outcome goal because it’s an ideal outcome you’d want to achieve sometime in the future. Similar outcomes goals could be to win a certain number of games by the end of the season or climb 2 divisions from your current rank.
In order to effectively meet your outcome goals, you need to set process goals as well (6). Process goals are the ideal ways to reach the desired outcome. Setting an outcome goal without setting up process goals is like knowing where your destination is but having no idea how to get there.
In short, knowing your process is essential in reaching outcome goals.
Setting up habits as your process goals gives you a clear and simple framework to work from, helping you reach your goals. Relying on daily habits to help you reach your goals is effective because it gives you a sense of control over your gaming journey.
Therefore, you’re spending less time on constantly measuring your current performance with your goal and spending more time in the present, working on what you need to do today and what’s ultimately in your control.
How do I develop the discipline to build habits?
Researchers Lally and Gardner (2) express that habit formation largely has to do with how we set up our environments.
James Clear builds on this through a concept he calls friction.
He defines friction as the small motivational factors in your environment that can make habit formation harder. A task that has a lot of friction is a task that requires several mini-tasks to get through the said task.
For example, let’s say that you want to improve your aim through shooting practice in CS GO, but when you go to sit at your PC to train, you realize that you first have to look for your earphones which you previously lent to your roommate, find your blue-light glasses, close the program you forgot to close earlier and run an unexpected update on the game before you can start practicing. That’s pretty frustrating.
According to Clear, these mini-tasks (or friction) can easily discourage us from doing the difficult tasks we want to turn into habits. They can obviously eat into the time we could be using more productively as well.
So how do I decrease friction so that I have more time to practice? Plan ahead.
Let’s look at how we fix the example I mentioned earlier. To reduce the friction so you can train more seamlessly, stop allowing your roommate to borrow your headphones, always keep your blue light glasses next to your PC, ensure programs are closed properly when leaving your PC and plan for updates by reading up when they’re due to be scheduled or turning on auto-updates.
This ensures that all that needs to be done when sitting down to practice is to sit down and dive right in.
Still, struggling for discipline? Try the “Switch on” Method
Psychologists say that habits can be learned quickly if you can “switch them on” through using a familiar ritual, object, or environment (3).
It isn’t easy to learn a new habit if you’re always trying it at different times of day, in different locations, or with different people.
Therefore, it’s important to keep your environment and routines constant because this helps make difficult tasks easier to adapt to and learn quicker.
Just like pro basketball players do repetitive routines before free-throws, pro games have regular pre-game routines, which help them get into the zone for big games and help them maintain discipline (4).
So how would you “switch on” the task of drill practice? Maybe you have a favourite baseball cap or hoodie that you wear just before sitting down to play. Psychology says that if you keep wearing this same thing every time you sit down to train, that it will be easier for you to adapt to that behaviour and make it a habit in the future.
Psychologists term this system Classical Conditioning. It’s a technique that’s been successful for psychologists in forming discipline and healthy habits for decades (5).
So consider what’s your “on switch” for difficult tasks? Taking time to think of a regular ritual to pair with your tasks could make the difference between turning training into a habit or allowing it to be something you can afford to skip from time to time.
Healthy habits go beyond Performance.
Developing healthy habits don’t just help you reach performance goals. There are certain habits that all high performers need to sustain their careers, physical health, and Mental Health.
With many eSports athletes typically practicing anywhere from 6 to 14 hours per day, they are at massive risk for burnout and mental illness, and injuries (5).
Many pro gamers only have careers that span a year or two, and it’s no surprise given the pressures and demands of the job.
Former sport psychologist for the 100 Thieves League of Legends team states that the length of the grind does not guarantee a long eSports career and that long stints of training without looking after the body can have a devastating effect on up and coming players (5) (16:07).
Building the discipline for healthy habits can be really tough but believe me when I say that it’s the most fulfilling thing you can do.
Taking these small steps will make all the difference between you ultimately being a good player or one of the greats. It could also be the difference between a long, successful career or a 2-year flash in the pan, so I want to challenge you to start writing down those goals and working on those habits as soon as this video ends.
Commitments are strong if we share them with others who can keep us accountable. This is why writing down your goals isn’t enough. Think of that friend or family member who will be strict on you following up on your habit building, and text them your plans right away.
If you can’t think of anyone to keep you in check, then I recommend getting a coach whether that’s through our coaching programs or elsewhere.
It’s likely that there’s someone out there who is already a step ahead of you in terms of their discipline and pro-level habits. If today is the day you start taking healthy habit building seriously, then today is the first day of you getting to your full potential and surpassing the competition.
You owe this to yourself in terms of your ambitions, health, and untapped potential.
- James Clear’s Book: https://jamesclear.com/atomic-habits
- Lally & Gardner: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/17437199.2011.603640
- Gardner & Rebar: https://oxfordre.com/psychology/view/10.1093/acrefore/9780190236557.001.0001/acrefore-9780190236557-e-129#acrefore-9780190236557-e-129-div1-2
- Importance of Routines in Gaming: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OIwj1_CTK5Y
- CBSN Documentary: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=box4SFtGvA0
Filby et al: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/10413209908404202