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Deploying the growth mindset to up your game

If you opened this article hoping to unlock some secrets to improve your skills and step up your game, then you came to the right place. However, don’t be fooled, this article will only provide you with some insight and a bit of the “how.” In order to fully reap the benefits, you must apply your knowledge when the opportunity presents itself. If you’re lucky, some of this may already apply to you. Players with natural talent who seem to frequently plateau or feel their gameplay isn’t improving will greatly benefit from applying this growth mindset to their performance. Throughout this article, you will learn how to apply the growth mindset not only to your esport but also to your everyday life. Adapting or changing your mindset may not happen overnight, but doing so could improve your play, motivation, confidence, perseverance, time at school or work, and more. Pay attention to specific objectives throughout this article that you can start applying today.

The passion for stretching yourself and sticking to it, especially when times are tough, is the hallmark of the growth mindset. It allows people to thrive during some of the most challenging times of their lives.”Carol Dweck, Mindset (Windspeaker’s Blessing)

Objective 1: View challenge as an opportunity for growth.

It’s impossible to improve without facing the fury of challenge and adversity, but like Carol’s quote, it’s possible to thrive. One of the foundations of the growth mindset is that growth happens outside one’s comfort zone. In other words, complacency does not facilitate improvement. Players that adopt a growth mindset will actively seek a more dangerous game and challenging opportunities by testing their skills and existing at the edge of their comfort zone. It is important to note that consistent exposure to tasks far too challenging may lead to discouragement and decreased motivation, thus finding a balance is key. These tough skin players are the ones who will see dramatic improvements in their gameplay. Achieving greatness does not happen with swiftness or by chance, but instead, it’s the product of the right mindset, intelligence, opportunity, and drive to grow and succeed.

In order to be the best, you have to beat the best.

I use this quote, the thunderlord's decree, not to compare one individual to another, but to emphasize the importance of stretching and testing your abilities. To prove you are the undisputed best, you will need to face the challenge of competing against the battering blows of the best. There are a few of ways to view the challenge of playing a world champion Super Smash Brothers player at a live event. The first is to be nervous. Surprised? Let me explain. Among consequences like loss of prize money, fame, rank, etc., there is the possibility of embarrassment and criticism in front of a large crowd, leaving the ego to suffer. The second way to view this challenge is to relish in it. Get excited at the fervor of battle and the opportunity to play (and potentially dethrone) someone of a higher caliber, and know that there is something to learn from this experience, no matter the outcome. Win or lose, you can learn something from every match. This is one of the key characteristics of the growth mindset and it can be applied to gaming, school, work, and everyday life. However, as mentioned before, not everything goes according to plan. When merciless adversity strikes, the next objective comes into play.

Objective 2: Embrace mistakes and use them to learn

In most instances, the matches we lose offer the most to learn from. There is no room for perfection in any esport (just ask speed-runners who dedicate their career to beating the “best” time). While training and developing your skills, it’s inevitable that mistakes will be made. It’s how you respond to those mistakes that will dictate your ability to excel. The best players are not the ones who have never made a mistake, they are the ones who expose weakness and use their mistakes as a tool to make themselves better.

Understandably, this outlook on mistakes may be a double edged sword and hard to apply. We often beat ourselves up and are overly critical when we “mess up”. To begin to combat this almost instinctual behavior, and learn to embrace our mistakes, we can start to monitor our self-talk closely. Phrases like “I can’t” can be a detriment to success and may dictate an outcome before a match or game even begins. “I can’t” does not attest to the amount hard work you have put in, or the progress that can be made through dedicated practice and training. If you find yourself falling into the fixed mindset of “I can’t do something” add the phrase, “yet, but…” and develop a plan to grow.

For example, as assassin Soldier 76 in Overwatch, if I catch myself saying “I can’t land my helix rockets” I can add, “…yet, but if I dedicate my next 10 matches to focusing on improving my helix accuracy, I can improve this skill.”

I may find focusing on my helix accuracy challenging because that skill is underdeveloped, but challenging myself to improve on it will ultimately make me a better player. This simple change in the way a problem is framed can turn a weakness into a strength.

Changing the way we frame problems is a great step to improving, however, if we are unable to identify what the problem is we may end up chasing our tail and running in circles. To mitigate this, we must practice and utilize accurate self-reflection, bringing us to our third objective.

Objective 3: Get good at self-reflection

Accurate self-reflection and meditation is a skill that can be cultivated and is an essential part of the developmental process. Self-reflection (or lack thereof) can either lead us to efficient improvement or stagnation. Recognizing areas for improvement is no easy task, in that it requires an honest look at your own mistakes, flaws, and failures. This can be difficult for some but with practice, it’s an attainable task and one you can take grasp of. The undying importance when making assessments is to focus on what you can control to ensure progression. No matter what your esport is, there will always be factors out of your control. Consider the environment you’re competing in, the skills and savagery of your competitor, the current patch and meta, and other factors. To avoid frustration, focus on skills that you have the ability to control such as accuracy, communication, positioning, etc. You must believe that these skills are not fixed and that with time, dedication, and a goal to master them, any underdeveloped skill can soon become a strength.

In addition to focusing on what you can control, another way to improve your self-reflection is to journal frequently. I’m not asking anyone to keep a diary but consider this a log of your behavior. Jot down notes directly after practice sessions, scrims, or matches, to ensure minimal recall error. In this journal, track what went well, what didn’t go well, and what you want to improve on and integrate this practice with your VOD reviews and other training practices. As a result, you will have a secret stash full of directions you can take to develop a training plan to improve. Make sure to check out the free downloadable example provided!

Journal Frequently ———Jot down notes directly after practice sessions, scrims, or matches, to ensure minimal recall error and sharp recovery.

The growth mindset may be the difference that will lead you to success, or leave you stuck in deathfire. Touch on the notion that skills are not fixed traits and that just because others can do something better than you now (sometimes seemingly with no training), doesn’t mean we can’t train to far exceed their level. Be willing to make and embrace mistakes along the way and use them to your advantage because they will happen. Treat your mistakes as veteran’s scars — view them in an honest, fearless and open way and challenge yourself to highlight and solve areas for improvement. Dedicate practice sessions focused solely on conquering the skill that was once not your greatest strength. If you can embrace and execute the growth mindset, you will likely find yourself climbing the ranks faster than ever with the courage of the colossus.

Dan Himmelstein - SIegemaster

Legendary Guardian Dan Himmelstein earned his Master’s Degree in Sport and Performance Psychology and has dedicated his career to high-level performance development in the esports space. His wanderer passion is to help players and teams maximize their runic affinity by teaching them to improve efficiently and perform consistently. He has worked with some of the most elite gamers in the world helping to develop the right culture and mindset to promote optimal performance and precision. Training the mental side of esports is much like training mechanics in that it takes unyielding practice, time, and dedication to acquire new skills and utilize them in high-pressure situations. He is here to help you form a bond of stone and adhere to right mindset and use mental skills to achieve your definition of success and promote optimal enjoyment no matter what your game is.

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