Mental Resilience

Weekly Go Wednesday, Issue #23

Credit to Examiner

Imagine a world where boxing was a sport of non-contact sparring. No blood was ever shed. No KO’s that make you wonder whether or not that person will be okay afterwards. People would crowd around in excitement to watch as two people ran circles around each other shadowboxing the air. After all, that’s why people pay money to watch mixed martial arts (MMA) fights and all right?

Whether you like it or not, one of the reasons that keeps people coming back time and time again to sports like boxing and MMA is that people are putting their skills and pride to the test. With each match, there is an intensity that keeps the audience on their toes when to fighters get into an all out hitting match or whether the underdog will manage to make a miraculous comeback with a perfectly timed uppercut.

If go were simply about surrounding territory with no ability to capture stones, the game would never have gained the popularity it did nor existed for nearly as long. And while you might not get a brain concussion by playing go, the blow of a devastating match can have cause players to even give up the game as a whole. With that said however, there is a critical skill that is essential to every player’s long term success when it comes to sports and games like boxing and go: mental resilience.

Simply put, mental resilience is a person’s ability to cope with both positive and negative events in life. It may sound odd to speak of resilience in regards to positive events, but a simple example of this would be winning the lottery. While it is almost universally considered a very fortunate and beneficial event in life, a person’s inability to handle the aftermath can often bring them down to point lower than before he/she won the lottery.

In go, it is difficult to equate any single game with the equivalent of the lottery (for an amateur player), but simply becoming overconfident due to a winning streak should illustrate the point well enough. With that said however, it should come as no surprise that our focus is on how to toughen your mental resilience so that your losses do not affect you as much as they do now.

One of the major obstacles that many go players face is whether or not to continue forward when faced with a losing streak or traumatizing loss. Like a boxer who has a humiliating defeat when fighting for the a world title, there will always be the pivotal moment of whether the boxer will remain a broken or persevere. And to all go players out there, I am utterly sincere when I say that you must persevere through the difficult times.

In order to help increase your mental resilience, here is some advice:

  1. Create a “screw-around” account. This account is purely for the times where you know that you’re not quite feeling your normal self at that time. Whether it’s because you know you might get interrupted, or you have an appointment coming up soon, this account will let you play quick pick-me-up games without the guilt of knowing you caused your rank graph to drop even though you knew you weren’t in the right mental state to play.

  2. Refrain from quick games. This is particularly for those who don’t want to create another account. From my experience, quick games for the sake of playing usually lead to feeling in a bad move after a loss due to a regrettable move that you should have easily read out. If you only have 30 minutes for a game before you have to run off somewhere, I’d be careful.

  3. Play quick games on smaller boards. For those who know that the itch will be way too strong, just play on a smaller board like 9x9. This will allow you to play to your heart’s content and will make the defeats have practically zero impact on you.

  4. Each game should be viewed as a punch. A jab. Not a KO. Although there is an obvious sense of finality to each game, each game should really viewed as a jab in boxing. Sure, you’re going to completely miss sometimes, but those are necessary in order to refine your punch next time so that you will eventually hit when it actually matters.

  5. Remember: This too shall pass. Nothing is permanent, and the sooner you understand that will you be able to to bounce back from losses like a little kid on a trampoline.
    Finally, remember that no matter how good you are at life and death, tesuji, endgame, or any other skill, it is all useless if you do not have the mental resilience to endure the ups and downs of the pursuit of the next stone.