When you decide to play competitive Magic, you make a choice. You may not be aware of it, but you do make it. That choice is simple: You decide to experience both winning and losing. It’s part of the contract. There’s no getting out of it. Not only will you experience winning and losing, but you’ll experience prolonged periods of both. It happens to everyone. Having said that, it’s important to make sure you have a sure-fire way of coping with results, both good and bad. Today, in part one of this series on how to cope with results, I'm going to discuss how to cope with bad results, specifically losing streaks.
If you’re a soccer fan, you’ve probably heard of Leicester City. Even if you’re not, you may still have heard of them. Last season, they won the English Premier League title, which was the first title they had ever achieved in over 100 years. It was one of the greatest sporting achievements, not just of the year, but of all-time. But just one season before winning the title, they were almost relegated from the Premier League and sent down to the second division for losing the majority of their games. It was only because they won their final seven games that they got to stay in the Premier League.
Before deciding to take up commentary, LSV went on a rampage. He made 3 Pro Tour Top 8s in a row, a feat no other player had ever achieved. Before that, he went through a prolonged period of losing and bad results for a 4-5 year stretch. He talked about that time during a recent Limited Resources podcast.
Losing streaks can come in a few different forms. For example, there are losing streaks you can experience mid-competition. These are small-scale losing streaks, such as your first 2 or 3 matches of a tournament, or starting out 10-1 and then losing your next 3 matches in a row to drop out of contention. Then, there are large-scale losing streaks, when you experience a run of poor tournament results one after another.
Success, in no matter what area of life, is the by-product of failure and loss. It is only through experiencing, learning from, and reacting to failure and loss in the correct way that you can achieve and experience success and winning. Those who react the right way to their failures and losses will achieve success more than those who respond to their failures and losses poorly. This applies to mid-competition as well. Those who react the right way when going down 0-2 at the beginning of a tournament will experience success much more often than those who don’t respond to that in the right way.
So, how do you overcome a losing streak and bounce back? Let’s take a look at several ways to do just that.
1) Don’t turn yourself into a victim.
When you experience a bad run of results in a row, it’s easy to wallow in the mire of your losses. Your focus becomes so entrenched in how bad things are at the present moment that you lose all perspective, and immediately begin feeling sorry for yourself and your current plight. You cannot give yourself permission to indulge in the negative emotions that accompany losing. The best way to combat this is to use your self-talk in the strongest way possible by reminding yourself that both winning and losing is part of playing competitive Magic. Prolonged losing is inevitable, and it happens to everyone at some point. You’re not alone when it comes to experiencing losing streaks. That sense of understanding that you’re not alone when it comes to losing will help you to keep your bad emotions in check and to keep your mindset in the right perspective.
2) Focus on the solutions, not the problems.
Once you allow yourself to indulge in the negative emotions of losing, your focus becomes fixed purely on all of the problems and issues you’re having at that present moment. “I’m playing so badly right now” or “I keep getting to terribly unlucky” or “I just keep picking the wrong decks for every tournament.” Always remember that every problem has a solution, and it’s the solution that’s more important than the problem itself. If you’re playing badly, don’t focus on the fact that you’re playing badly. Focus on the solution to get yourself not playing so badly and to start playing as well as you’re capable. If you keep getting terribly unlucky in your games, don’t focus on the fact that you keep getting stuck on the wrong end of variance. Focus on the solution for improving your luck and increasing your good variance as much as possible. If you keep getting your deck selection wrong for tournaments, don’t focus on the fact that you keep misreading the metagame. Focus on the solution for how to better read the metagame and become better at choosing the correct deck for tournaments. Continuously focusing on problems just creates more problems. Focusing on solutions causes you to take action to create those solutions.
3) Never let your self-image become a reflection of your losses.
When you’re continuously losing, the natural and easy thing to do is to start turning on yourself and doubting your ability as a player. As soon as you do that, your self-confidence will plummet and as soon as that goes, recovering from losses becomes extremely difficult to do, because not only will your performances dip even further without self-confidence, but your desire and motivation to want to play competitive Magic can easily take a massive hit once you lose that sense of belief. Never tie your confidence in yourself as a player, nor your desire and motivation to play Magic, into whether you’re winning or losing. If you do, you’ll experience massive swings of emotional ups and downs where you feel great and motivated when you’re winning, but awful and apathetic when you’re losing. That’s not necessary, nor healthy. Losing doesn’t mean you’ve turned into a bad player. It doesn’t mean you’ve forgotten how to play good Magic. It just means you’re not playing well at the current time. And that’s fine. You can’t always play well and you can’t always perform your absolute best. Just like with losing, playing badly is inevitable at times and you have to accept that. Don’t allow those things make you think that you don’t have it anymore. You do. It’ll come back. Just trust in yourself and be patient.
4) Visualize the future that you want to create.
Conor McGregor is one of the greatest fighters in the history of the UFC and MMA. He’s often talked about how, when he was broke, poor, and a nobody who was trying to make it as a fighter, he'd use visualization on a daily basis to visualize the life he wanted for himself. He used to visualize himself fighting against the best fighters. He used to visualize himself holding all of the championship belts he wanted. Before each fight, he’d visualize himself fighting exactly how he wanted to fight down to every single detail. Constantly visualizing a positive and successful future allowed him to feel confident and motivated to keep going and chase his dream despite the fact that he could barely make a living and despite the fact that he was so far away from where he wanted to be. When things get difficult and you’re in the middle of a bad run of tournament results, sit with yourself on a daily basis and visualize how you want to play and perform. Visualize yourself getting lucky. Visualize yourself winning games and doing well at tournaments. By doing this, you’ll be giving your brain the command, “This is what I want to do,” and your brain will look for ways to help you make those things happen. On top of that, as it did with Conor, it will help keep your confidence and motivation high during those difficult periods as well.
5) Understand that your past doesn’t determine your future.
Whatever happened in the first few rounds of a tournament, the first few tournaments of a season, or the first few seasons of your career is irrelevant. Whatever happened yesterday, last week, last month, or last year is moot. That time is gone, and there’s nothing you can do about it. You have to leave the past in the past where it belongs, be at peace with it, and allow yourself to move into the present moment, as well as the future, with a new clean slate. It doesn’t matter how successful you’ve been in the past, nor does it matter how unsuccessful you’ve been in the past. Each round is a new round. Each tournament is a new tournament. And, each day is a new day. You get to start over again, fresh. If you continuously drag your past around with you on a daily basis everywhere you go, round by round, tournament by tournament, or day by day, you can never start over again fresh because that past will always be hanging over your head. Leave the past where it belongs. Your past doesn’t determine your future. Your future is determined by what you do in the present moment. And what you do in the present moment is completely up to you. The only way the past can affect the present and the future is if you decide to keep the past with you. Stay tuned for part 2 on this series of how to cope with results. Next week, we’ll be discussing how to cope with success and winning, as not understanding how to cope with good results can also lead to a downward spiral. As always, I appreciate your support immensely, and thanks for reading!