Constructing an Improvement-Based Mentality

Image by David Cassolato

Mindset for aspiring esports professionals and competitive FPS players

In the realm of amateur competition, players tend to obsessively focus on in-game factors from which they can see direct results. Mechanics of gameplay like aim and movement give some of the most satisfying feedback when success is achieved, but it can also be a source of debilitating negativity in the face of perceived failure. This error in mental framing becomes most potent when people inadvertently begin to assign their self-worth to the decisions that they make. A player seeing themselves in this way can cause their psychological state to only be as consistent as their play, while also leading to additional problems if left unchecked.

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Unlocking the Growth Mindset

Most people, without even realizing it, have a fixed mindset defined as the belief that a person’s abilities are innate and unchangeable. This mindset is usually developed at an early age, and can completely disincentivize a person from pursuing their goals, since they’ve been led to believe it’s outside the realm of possibility. For the people that do manage to be able to push through this, it’s common for them to obsess over what the end result of their improvement will look like. When the world puts champions on pedestals and credits renowned professionals with being gifted and talented, it’s easy to see how these things could infect how we see the improvement journey playing out. The main issue in competing with this mindset is that if you perform poorly and lose games you’ll only look at the scoreboard, elo, or any other statistic for that game, and derive your skill level from this fragmented snapshot of a specific performance. Instead of falling into this trap, take a step back and look to improve your process and point your focus towards aspects of play directly in your control. It’s important to internalize that with a fixed mindset you essentially give up before you begin because you don’t believe you can improve. You’ll know this applies to you if you find yourself downplaying your responsibility in your play and making excuses based on things like talent, genetics, gear, or other factors.

Photo by Bruno Scramgnon

Understanding the mechanisms behind flow

Going back to the two selves theory, I have mentioned that if the two selves are in harmony you achieve something called flow. You can view flow as a state of hyper-focus where you can subconsciously make split-second decisions that are optimal to your specific level of proficiency. Self-criticism and self-praise in the face of performing will make your self-perception erratic and inaccurate, while disrupting the focus required to achieve flow. In order to have the two selves in harmony, you need to learn how to let go of criticism and praise. This allows you to enter this state of hyper-focus that may feel similar to auto-pilot but operates differently. Where auto-piloting is making decisions passively while unfocused, flow is the idea that you don’t put active effort into your decisions while you’re hyper-focused.

Photo by Chris Czermak
Learning Zone versus Performance Zone — Learn about flow
Photo by Michael Burrows

Tilt is a Poker term for a state of mental/emotional confusion or frustration in which a player adopts a less than optimal strategy, usually resulting in the player becoming overly aggressive - Wikipedia definition

Photo by Joshua Miranda

Psychological equilibrium is the ability of a person to maintain a balanced understanding related to external and internal dichotomies that may impact thought, behavior, and attitude — IGi Global definition

The way you shape your emotional remembrances is relatively simple, it’s all about the way you choose to react to a given situation regularly. It is your choice to get angry at your teammates, to give up, and/or to not care about the game if you/teammates perform poorly. If you can be honest with yourself about the breadth and depth of problems that incite tilt for you, introspection and analysis becomes significantly easier to focus on. You become able to prioritize fixes to mistakes that are made while you eliminate all factors that are irrelevant to your improvement. Depending on how much playtime you already have, you’ve already shaped your emotional remembrances, and if your instinct is to blame your teammates or focus on external factors that don’t matter, you will need to put in extra effort to restructure the way you think.

  1. As previously discussed, build a schedule that donates enough time to your craft, while also being manageable for the level of focus you can sustain.
  2. Consider splitting your sessions into chunks that give you a chance to reset so you can come back fresh minded.

Credits

Below are the people who created this document.

  • driize — Conception, Feedback.
  • Grissom — Writing, Formatting, Feedback.
  • Slappymelvs — editing, feedback

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Voltaic

Voltaic is a multi-purpose community centered around mutual self-improvement in shooters with a focus on aim and talent discovery.