Perhaps you had a vision for how this year would go. Perhaps you didn’t. Perhaps you reached all of the targets you set for yourself. Perhaps you fell short. In either case, this year was what it was. There’s no changing that. What you can do is take a look back through it in detail and see where you currently stand so that, next year, you can help yourself to have the kind of year you’d like to have. You can’t know where to move next until you know where you are right this moment.
At the end of every year, I like to ask myself these five self-evaluation questions. They do a great job of helping me to not only reflect on the year I just had, but also get me prepared for the year that’s about to come. I encourage you to ask yourself these same questions and find the answers to them. They are as follows:
1) What were my worst moments?
In terms of Magic, what were the hardest experiences you had to face in your Magic-playing career this year? Perhaps it was a tough finals loss? Perhaps it was just missing the Top 8 of a GP by losing your win-and-in? Perhaps it was feeling burned out and needing to take a break from the game? Perhaps it was finally getting to your first Pro Tour and not winning a single match? Whatever your worst experiences were, it’s important that you face them and learn to be at peace with them. Don’t cling to them and drag them with you into the new year. Living in the past is one of the best ways to guarantee misery. Face those painful moments, take the positive learning points from them that you need going forward, and then release those experiences into the past where they belong so that you can start over again on a fresh mental slate.
2) What were my best moments?
You’ve taken the time to look back through your worst moments, be at peace with them, and move on from them. Now, it’s time to look back through your year and acknowledge all of your best moments, no matter how big or small they may seem. Having said that, what were the best moments of your Magic- playing career this year? Perhaps it was making your first step in competitive Magic by winning your first FNM? Perhaps it was finally winning a PPTQ? Perhaps it was making an unbelievable play that won you a tight game? Perhaps it was making the Top 8 of a tournament with one of your own brews for the first time? Whatever your best moments were, acknowledge them, feel them, and celebrate them. Too often, we tend to focus on all of the bad and negative experiences and don’t spend enough time remembering and celebrating the amazing and positive experiences. These moments are glimpse of what you’re capable of in the game and are a sign of the progress you’re making up to this point. Allow yourself to feel good about them and use them as a source of fuel moving forward.
3) Where are the areas I need to improve most?
Regardless of all of the worst moments and best moments, we’re still imperfect human beings with unlimited potential who must always strive for continuous growth and improvement. Weaknesses, faults, and short-comings are a part of everyone’s game. If you were to analyze your game, what would you say are the areas you need to improve in the most? What technical aspects of the game do you need to work on? What mental aspects do you need to work on? Have the courage and honesty to acknowledge where you’re currently falling short, find the solutions to how to improve upon those weaknesses, and then commit to applying those solutions as best as you can going forward. However, always remember that it’s not about being overly critical, judging yourself harshly, or beating yourself up. You have to be very unemotional about it. Just be analytical. Identify the weaknesses, find the solutions, and commit to improvement. Don’t allow yourself to indulge in a self-pity party. We’re all human and we all have things to work on. You’re not alone in that regard.
4) Where are the areas that I’ve improved the most?
Despite having areas of yourself and your game that you need to work on, that are areas of yourself and your game in which you’ve improved and grown. It simply takes finding them and allowing yourself to acknowledge them, because again, we tend to put too much focus on all of our weaknesses and not enough focus on our strengths and signs of progress. In regards to your technical game, which areas have you improved the most? Perhaps you’ve become a better deck builder? Perhaps you’ve improved your decision making in games? Perhaps you’ve learned to see more lines of play in tight situations? In regards to your mental game, which areas have you seen the most growth? Perhaps you’ve gotten better at focusing more during matches? Perhaps you’ve learned to stop being so hooked to results? Perhaps you’ve grown your confidence as a player?
Whatever areas of your technical and mental game you feel you’ve made progress in this year, allow yourself to acknowledge that growth and give yourself credit for it. You deserve credit for it, after all. You’ve earned it. Be encouraged by it. By allowing yourself to recognize and focus on the areas you’ve improved, you take your mind out of the gutter of dwelling in solely your shortcomings and allow yourself to focus on things that make you feel good.
5) What do I want to experience in the coming year?
This question is where I tend to stray from what most people would ask. The usual question is, “What are your goals for the coming year?”, and that’s the fine. I’m not saying that’s wrong or bad. However, I tend to stay away from goal-setting, as goal-setting tends to force people to put too much focus on the end result of an activity as opposed to the process of the activity itself. Having that said, and forgetting about results, what experiences do you want to have in Magic in the coming year? Perhaps you want to play in your first Pro Tour? Perhaps you want to write an article for a content site like Channel Fireball? Perhaps you want to travel to a tournament in another state or another country and play outside where you’d normally play? Perhaps you want to play with a team for the first team and play in a tournament with a team-based structure?
Whatever it is, make sure that it’s something process-oriented. Always remember that a result is nothing but a side-effect of a process. Think about the things or activities you’d like to experience in the coming year, and commit to making them happen.
If you’re interested in learning more about and really studying the mental aspects of the competitive game, I recently published an entire online video course dedicated to teaching players how to master the mental game of competitive Magic. It contains 15 Lessons, 100 videos, various PDF exercises you can do on your own, a Discord community you can join to connect with other students players, and much more. If you’re interested in checking that out, just head here and you can see what it’s all about.
Thanks for reading, and I wish you nothing but the best in the new decade!