Friday, August 23, 2013

Your Attitude Doesn't Matter

Before you read any farther, yes, I used an intentionally misleading title to get your attention.

But the truth is, your attitude doesn’t matter.  Not to the game.  The game only cares about the inputs.  It only cares about the options you select, the timing of them.  It only cares about executing its code in response to what you and your opponents do.  And the same is true of real life; your attitude only matters insofar as it changes your behavior, and how that behavior influences with reality out there. Changing your attitude doesn’t make you a better player immediately.  I think this is a point that needs clarifying.

I think a better attitude helps.  But having a results-oriented mindset going into this--I’m going to stop obsessing over winning, I’m going to have fun and stay cool and keep my focus, all because it’s totally going to make me the best--is kind of shooting yourself in the foot.  What if I tell you that the actual secret to winning at games is to be an elitist snob who believes he/she is better than everybody else?  And anything you value about treating people well and being a level-headed, down-to-earth person, all that is irrelevant and stupid?  Which would you pick? If your real goal is success, then I guess you'll turn into a jackass.

Again, the game only cares about your inputs.  Reality cares about cause and effect, and when it comes to people with their their attitudes and motivations, correlation is flimsy at best.  We would definitely like it if having the right intention and the right attitude meant we were guaranteed to win.  But that isn’t how things work.  Your attitude matters, but it doesn’t, at the same time.

My biggest emphasis in recent times has been on, “do I have the right attitude when I play?”  Do I keep calm and do I focus and not worrying about winning or losing?  Do I focus on respecting my opponent, and respecting the game, and accepting the inevitable variables of performance that come with being human?  I try to.  I don’t succeed every time.  I do, however, get more enjoyment out of the things I do, and as a side benefit, I tend to do things better when I’m having fun. But not winning, not doing my best and proving myself to people, that happens sometimes too.

That’s because changing your attitude is not about success.  It’s about having the right mindset, which changes how you experience life.  If better play comes of it, that’s fantastic.  But quite honestly, if you leave your competition as the happiest person alive and you get last place, or you leave with the gold but you are dead-miserable and stressed and don’t even care, which would you rather be?  I think many people would pick the better experience (unless they had some other important external factor, like paying their rent or feeding their children, in which case they might trade mood for results. Which is, I think, a pretty fair attitude in its own right).

Now, I think the right attitude helps people play better.  It helps you learn more.  It can help you avoid choking and it can help you stay frosty when the other guy is under immense pressure.  But that’s not always the case.  The truth is that in reality, being a good and wonderful person does not guarantee success.  Being a nice dad doesn’t mean bad things won’t happen to your children.  Being a hard worker doesn’t mean you won’t get laid off.  And having a zen, pure, focused mindset doesn’t mean you will be the best, or even win a whole lot.  And some people look at that and say, “how unfair.”

And sure, I guess it kind of is unfair.  It’s pretty crummy when you go in with healthy attitudes and good perspectives and you leave with your hat in one hand and your ass in the other.

But they weren’t about results to begin with.  If they were, the attitudes weren’t as healthy or good as you thought.  You can’t sit down and say “I will stop caring about results so I will win,” or “I will be a good person so that I will have more than bad people and it will be great,” or “I will be a hard worker so I can get a promotion.”  If your true goal is to get a promotion, for instance, you will focus on doing what it takes to get a promotion whether or not it involves hard work.  And if that involves lying and schmoozing and being a jerk sometimes, then you would do it, if that were truly your goal.

You must remember your real goal.  Is your real goal to live up to a certain standard of success?  Or is it to improve your life from within by changing how you view things?

Thanks for reading.


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