Culture August 7, 2016
You bite your lip, consider all of the options and ponder vigorously for what feels like the hundredth time that day. Now, finally, you have to choose. You just hope your choice is the right one.
Even if you’ve never thought about it, you go through this same cycle – consider, decide, wish, repeat – countless times every day, whether you’re picking a breakfast pastry or if you really need to hit the gym after work. The same could be said of chess: This painstaking thought process occurs before every move.
Why should you care? Because chess can actually teach you eight epic lessons about life.
When it comes to complex games like chess, men and women need to create plans to win.
And what game is more complicated than life? You could live as a free spirit with no savings account, no idea of what the next day will hold and no worries about your future. Maybe living a perpetual “YOLO” would even work well for you. But, as She Knows points out, if life is a journey, you need a sense of direction to make progress! Like with most chess games, you’ll need to adapt your plans as you move along, but at least you’ll have a target to aim for.
When you turned seventeen, did it feel like nothing changed? Compared to sweet sixteen or joining the adult world at eighteen, seventeen seemed like an empty year. You may even see whole parts of your life – a “filler” job at McDonald’s the summer before college or a two-month fling that petered out – as wastes of time. With chess, though, every move matters … even if you’re moving backward.
In a similar way, everything you do in life affects your future. You may not see the connections now, but maybe that time flipping burgers inspired you to start a restaurant that pays above minimum wage. Or maybe the boy you can barely remember now shaped what kind of man you looked for and ended up with.
Chess players know that every move contributes to losing or winning the game. Pay attention to how each move in your life does the same!
Ever been hit by déjà vu while playing chess? The feeling isn’t likely. According to Pop Sci, after both players take their second turn, 197,742 possible games exist. After three moves, those possibilities grow to 121 million. Bottom line? Chess is a game of endless opportunities and games very rarely occur exactly the same way.
See life in the same light of endless options. We all have days when we are late to work, stain our blouse on the first day we wear it or don’t like what we see in the mirror. When those bad days happen, consider the variety of ways you can respond. Not to mention, if days are rarely ever the same, having a bad day today doesn’t mean that tomorrow can’t be amazing.
As Storypick points out, “Often, you have to lose hundreds of games before becoming a good [chess] player.” Until you play someone who knows chess better than you do, you usually can’t see your weaknesses, notice new techniques and, as a result, become a better player.
Now, you already know where this is going, right? Embrace life’s challenges because they’ll make you even more awesome than you already are. It’s cliché advice, but that doesn’t mean it’s not true. Growing pains (in chess or life) can hurt … but not growing at all would hurt even more.
When your goal is total chess domination, being able to anticipate your opponent’s moves is key. If you see how your opponent could reach checkmate, you can move your pieces to safety. Being aware of others’ intentions may not be a life or death matter outside of chess, but paying attention could help you win in other areas of life.
If you know your boyfriend will arrive home stressed from work, order his favorite takeout or plan to watch his favorite movie as a surprise. Or, if a classmate or coworker rarely does their share of work in group projects, try to avoid having them as a partner. Sometimes we can get so wrapped up in our own problems that we forget to look outside of ourselves – which, ironically enough, could have prevented some of those issues in the first place!
Remember the story of “The Little Engine That Could”? Even if you don’t, chess will remind you of its main theme. As Storypick writes, “If a player believes in miracles, he can sometimes perform them.” Who knew that your favorite children’s book was teaching you how to be a chess master?
Whether you’re trying to earn a promotion, ask someone on a date or stick to a fitness routine, believing in yourself is half the battle. Once you conquer that challenge, though, you can kick butt at actually doing it.
You’ve dedicated hours to practicing, memorizing the best chess tactics and analyzing your own moves – but you’re still lost. For Pete from Chess, though, losing is a good thing. It gives you a chance to find your mistakes, motivates you to improve and gives you insight into the playing tactics of a better player than you. You’re actually gaining a lot when you lose.
For all you perfectionists out there, try Pete-ifying your next loss. If you scratched your car parking this morning, don’t berate yourself for being a bad driver. Maybe you just need to leave for work early enough that you won’t feel rushed. If you broke up with your boyfriend, you aren’t forever alone. Instead, focus on what you would improve in your next relationship.
One of chess’s original best players, Siegbert Tarrasch from the 1890s, prefaced his book “The Game of Chess” by writing: “Chess, like love, like music, has the power to make men [modern correction: people] happy.” Hopefully, most chess players endure the frustrations, the losses and the surprises of the game because, like Tarrasch, playing makes them happy.
You should have the same reason for whatever you do each day. Of course, sometimes money just needs to be made and chores need to be checked off. But, at the end of the day, try to make sure that when you think about your goal – your reason – for living, it’s happiness. It’s loving who you are and how you’re impacting the world around you. That’s the kind of life worth playing for.
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