Your mindset is, by far, the most potent weapon in your arsenal. You can have all of the talent, skill, and ability in the world. If you don’t have the mindset to match them, those things will count for nothing because they’ll never be utilized properly, much less to their maximum.
On the day, when it’s time to perform, it’s all about the mindset and mental state you’re in when you go to play. If your mindset is in a peak state, you’re going to have a peak performance and experience peak results. If your mindset is in a negative state, you’re going to have a negative performance and experience negative results. So getting yourself into the best mindset possible to perform to the maximum of your ability is essential. To do that, he is my list of the 8 essential fundamentals for a strong performance mindset:
1) Play to have a great game, not to avoid playing a bad one.
Trying to avoid playing a bad game is playing out of fear. Playing to have a great game is playing with confidence. If you focus on trying not to play badly, you’re more likely to make it happen. The same is also true when you think about playing great. The more you do, the more it’s likely to happen. In either case, it’s like a self-fulfilling prophecy. Great players know that if they focus too much on trying not to play badly, they make it more difficult for themselves to play freely and to their maximum. They play believing in what they’re capable of, not fearing what could potentially go wrong.
2) Care less about the results and more about the process.
Many players tend to get this one backwards. Winning doesn’t happen by focusing on winning. Winning happens by focusing on the process that creates winning. Patrick Chapin said it best: “It is important to note that my goal is to play perfectly in Magic tournaments, not to actually win them. It is more of a cause and effect relationship, as playing perfectly usually brings a surprising amount of success.”
Always remember that thinking about or worrying about your results is pointless. Your results are beyond your control. They exist in a future that hasn’t even been created yet. Results don’t come from caring about them. Results come from performing, nothing else. And the best way to perform your best is to not think or care about the outcomes of your games. The question you want to ask isn’t, “Can I win this game?” The question you want to ask is, “How close to perfect can I play this game?”
3) Use your mental reset button.
A common mistake that many players will make is that they’ll carry the results from a previous round into their next round. If their previous round was a good result, then they go into their next event either too overconfident or they become fearful of not being able to sustain the results they just managed to obtain. If their previous round was a bad result, they go into their next round with that bad result weighing on their mind and they also assume that because their previous round was poor, their next one is likely to be the same way.
Great players have great mental reset buttons. Whether the result from a previous round is good or bad, it’s irrelevant to them. When a round is finished, they get their minds out of the past, hit their mental reset button, and become focused in the present moment on what they need to do right now. They don’t let good results or bad results affect their mindset either way. If they have a great round, they go into their next round with a peak mindset. If they have a bad round, they go into their next round with a peak mindset. Great players don’t let past results impact future performances.
4) Love the challenges and obstacles of the day.
To have the right frame of mind, you have to have the kind of mindset that acknowledges, embraces, and loves challenges and obstacles. The harder things become, the better you become. The tougher things get, the more your best comes out of you. You’re not intimidated by the opposition players in the field. You don’t put your opponents on a pedestal. You see yourself as their equals. You are eager to play against the best.
During a game, if you find yourself behind and having to catch up, that doesn’t bother you. It actually has the opposite effect. It makes you want to play more determined and it lights a fire in you. If you start out a tournament 0-2, you look forward to the challenge of overturning that poor start and getting back into contention. The more you embrace challenges and obstacles, the better you attitude toward them becomes and the easier they are to overcome.
5) Believe in yourself fully and unconditionally.
There’s a connection between the mind, the body, and our physical actions where everything is interconnected and linked to one another. We know this is true. We see it. You can always tell when someone is feeling confident and believes in themselves. Their body language changes. They walk taller. They have more of a swagger. Their physical movements are more assured. When playing, they’re willing to take more risks and be more brave with the decisions.
A player without confidence and self-belief is nothing more than an empty shell. They become hollow. They walk around with their shoulders slouched. They look frail and vulnerable. When confidence and self-belief is gone, the tenacity and bravery they used to perform with is replaced with a look of doubt and uncertainty. Confidence and self-belief as a player is like the gasoline that fuels the car. Without fuel, a car can’t even move. Without confidence and belief in yourself, you can’t perform your absolute best. Never, ever allow yourself to doubt your ability and what you’re capable of producing.
6) Have fun and enjoy playing the game.
A survey was once conducted of former NFL players. As part of the requirements of the survey, each player had to have played in the NFL for a minimum of 6 seasons or more, so these were players who played in the league for consecutive years and were by all standards considered to be seasoned professionals. The premise of the survey was simple. They asked former NFL players what they considered to be the most important ingredient to their success as professional football players. Unanimously, all of the players listed the same thing as the most important ingredient: They made sure to have fun and enjoy the game.
If you’re not having fun when you’re competing, then you’re not doing it right. It’s very easy to get wrapped up in the “business side” of the game and to let the need to win and produce success consume you. But those things are much easier to produce when you let yourself have fun and enjoy playing Magic. Now don’t get me wrong. You’re competitive. You’re fierce. You have that fire and desire to do well. But at the same time, you allow yourself to have fun and enjoy the game you love. You simply cannot play your best if you don’t.
7) Be your own best friend and supporter.
If a teammate or friend were to make a mistake or have a bad round, what would you say to them? Would you berate them, tell them they’re terrible, and become extremely angry and frustrated with them? Or would you positively support them, inspire them, encourage them, and try to lift them up? I’m willing to bet it’s the latter. If you’re willing to do that with other people when they have a bad round, why can’t you do that for yourself too? There’s no reason why you can’t, and you should.
Many players develop this poisonous belief that if they screw up, they have to berate themselves and be overly critical. Otherwise, it means that they don’t care enough or are taking it too easy on themselves. Nothing could be further from the truth. Beating yourself up and insulting yourself when you make a mistake or play badly doesn’t mean that you care about yourself. It actually means the opposite. If you cared about yourself, you wouldn’t treat yourself that way, just like you wouldn’t treat anyone else you cared about that way. When things go badly, your best supporter and number one fan has to be you.
8) Trust is a must.
For each matchup, you will have formulated a strategy for how you’re going to play against that matchup. Once you’ve formulated that strategy, you have to trust it, believe in it, and commit to it. And just as important, you have to trust in your playtesting. You have to trust in your preparation. You have to trust in your teammates to do their part and perform in their matches. You have to trust in your decisions during your games. Trust your intuition and trust your feelings. They often know better in the end. During the tournament is not the time to start doubting strategies, your preparation, your teammates, or yourself. Trust in everything and commit to them, and then once the tournament is finished, you can go back, evaluate what you need to change, and make improvements going forward into your next tournament.
I talk about topics like this and more in my new book called Mental Mana – Mastering The Mental Game Of Magic: The Gathering, a book that’s all about helping players such as yourself master the mental side of the game and develop yourself as a whole person, for Magic and for life. It’s available now over on Amazon in both paperback and e-book, so if this kind of subject matter is something you’re interested in or if you know you need to work on those aspects of your game, head on over and grab yourself a copy. I’m confident you’ll enjoy it and get a lot of benefit out of it!
Thanks for reading, and all the best!
Those are my 8 fundamentals for a peak performance mindset. Begin putting them into practice ASAP. You’ll be glad that you did.