Mind Over Matter: How Positive Thinking Can Help Your Magic: The Gathering Experience, by Jason Coles

Mind Over Matter mtg

Mind Over Matter: How Positive Thinking Can Help Your Magic: The Gathering Experience

I have always been infatuated by how things work. I spent a large portion of my childhood building and taking apart anything I could get my hands on, which was usually K-Nex, thankfully. I remember spending hours each day taking apart and rebuilding everything I could think of, one of my best work was a long Chinese style dragon that both moved forwards and moved it’s mouth thanks to the motors that I had for it. Occasionally I ended up taking apart things I couldn’t put back together just because I wanted to see the individual parts. I took apart a few different calculators because I wanted to see how many pieces are inside them, which for the record, isn’t as many as you would think.

I moved from toys to video games as I got older. My greatest love in games to this day is still for RPGs. Being able to build a character or a team and tweak them to work how you want them to is extremely satisfying. Figuring out the mechanics of an enemy attack and beating an overwhelmingly difficult boss is always an incredibly rewarding experience; my favourite way to wind down. Sure it isn’t switching off, but then at the end of a day of work, I don’t want to, I want to immerse myself in something complex. It is one of the reasons I write. My fanaticism towards all of these things lead me into reading a lot about many wildly different topics, and today, I’d like to talk about psychology. Specifically I want to talk about the mind-set.

Navigating mind-sets is something I deal a lot with day-to-day in my job. A good mind-set can make you better at anything you want to be better at, it can turn a loss into a learning experience and a failed tournament into a great chance to have fun. If you can shape how you look at things then you can always find the positive and you will be a better player, maybe even become a better person for it.

For now, I just want to briefly cover a couple of concepts that I hope can really help you improve the way you look at things and also how you react to situations like game losses. If you can do something to keep your mind-set more positive and as a result react in a way that benefits you rather than losing your cool then you can turn every outcome into a positive one and always gain something from the experience of winning or losing.

A good artist needs a good frame

Blood Artist Eternal MastersSo I want to start with a concept called Framing. Framing is, at a very base level, your outlook and as such how you decide to view an event or a result. You can have a positive or a negative view on it and this is your frame. When you’ve lost a game it is incredibly easy to start to worry about things. Did you bring the right deck? Did you misplay? Maybe you just aren’t good enough to be at this event? If you change the way you look at things and accept that making mistakes does not detract from you as a player or as a person, then you can react differently and hopefully more positively. Maybe you lost because MTG is a game of variants, or it was a bad match up but at least you had fun. Or maybe you did make the wrong play, but you are only human; people make mistakes; it’ll be fine in the long run.

If you can start to view things positively then your mood will remain higher, by maintaining a strong mind-set you can stop the effects of making misplays because you are annoyed at yourself by always playing at your best, then your results will improve as well. The fact is, sometimes things happen that are outside of control, and if you remember that you can control your reaction to it, then that will help keep you in control of the situation. Sure you lost, and it’s fine because everyone loses sometimes, that’s just how it goes. Sometimes you just drew too many lands. Sometimes you didn’t draw enough. It is nothing to worry about, you are playing a partially luck based game, so don’t worry about it. The fact is you can’t always control what happens in a game.

You can control your reaction to what happens in the game though. The important thing is to take ownership of how you feel about these things. The more you do so the more in control you are. By maintaining control over your reactions and your feelings you can change how well you can perform in a longer tournament and completely avoid the cliché of bad loser or bad winner. You can do this by always maintaining a strong frame, so always maintaining a positive mind-set. It is a strange concept but if you can take these kind of tricks and apply them you can completely change how you react.

By changing the way you react to things you can keep yourself focussed, this allows you to play better in general no matter the event you are. If you can control the way you feel your play will always be better and in the long term, you will be a much better magic player because of it. I know might sound oversimplified, and that it might be easier said than done, but I promise you that it would be worth it. If you look at when you react and start tweaking every negative reaction into a positive one then you can start changing how you frame things and take control of each situation as a result.

Ask better questions

The human brain is a very strange thing. If you ask yourself a question you will do your best to come up with an answer. If you ask yourself what colour green is, your brain will give you the colour. If you ask what your favourite song is, you will rush through a hundred different songs and end up with a shortlist at the very least. If you ask why you are such a bad Magic: the Gathering player, then, well your brain will give you a list of reasons why. That isn’t helpful though is it. So why not ask better questions?

If you start to ask yourself questions with more constructive answers then you can build a more constructive mind-set. Take the questions “Why am I such a bad Magic player?” this prompts you to come up with a lot of negative reasons, no answers, nothing constructive, just negativity. This will help you exactly zero percent of the time. Change the question to something like “To get better at Magic, what do I need to work on and how?” the framing and wording in the question are important. Now when you get an answer it might be a similar list of things but the way you answer it is differently.

“To get better at Magic, what do I need to work on and how?”

By asking these kind of questions you can get a more constructive answers, you can get better by playing more, by reading about technical plays and by playing with better players. Maybe you need to work on your technical play, that is fine, work on it, read about it, study it. If the answer is that you know what you need to work on but you don’t know how, then read about it. We live in the digital age, information has never been so readily available at our fingertips. If you can’t read about it then ask someone. If you don’t know who then ask someone who you think may know, you can ask me if you want, I clearly love typing so I’d be happy to help.

The body leads the mind

There are certain little tricks that produce a surprising amount of results, especially given how simple they are to do. There was an old story that used to circulate on the internet about holding a pen or pencil in your mouth and how it would make you feel happy and smile. The reason is that the body is conditioned to feel certain things when you perform certain expressions. People smile when they are happy and frown when they are angry or when they are sad. It turns out that you can also just smile to help you feel happier. If you smile more you will be happier, it sounds stupid and an awful lot like click bait catchphrase but it does actually work. We are so conditioned to feel certain things that we can use it to our advantage. So smile wide if you want to stay in a good mood.

The same is true of negative emotions too, so try not to look grumpy if you are in a bad mood and you might actually improve how you feel. You can use this in a tournament setting by being aware of what you are doing and taking ownership of it. If you are struggling then find a quiet corner and force a smile. If you are struggling then just make sure you can listen to something funny, you’ll thank yourself for these little things seven hours into a GP.

By keeping positive language you can radiate a more positive feeling, this in turn affects the way that your opponents will view you. If you go into a match happy then your opponent is likely to be happier to play you too, this promotes actually having fun in the game rather than descending into the salty salty depths of MTG rage. If you can pass on that good feeling to other people and they in turn pass it on to other people, then you can change the entire atmosphere at an event before you know it.

And this doesn’t just apply to Magic: the Gathering

These are all currently related to Magic: the Gathering, however you can quite easily apply them to your life too. If you start to practice these skills when you are playing casual games of Magic then maybe you can then take them into competitive tournaments as well. Once you are used to them then maybe you can extend them to your everyday life and enjoy the results.

If you can continuously work to make yourself better, whether that is mental or physical then in the long run you and everyone you know will benefit. By improving yourself you can feed that into the circles that you swim in and really have a positive impact all around. If you can take steps to improve yourself then it will help you in the long run. By becoming a more positive Magic player you can help show other people how to be the same. 

I go into this a lot more in my article on community. If you can do a little bit to make your negative habits into positive ones then you can start to make everyone else feel more positive too and pass along the good feelings. You can show people how to be a better influence, and it’ll make the places you play more welcoming. This will get more people to come in and this is a good thing because the more the merrier after all.

Are there any tricks that you use to keep yourself in a positive state? What questions can you ask yourself to get the best answers?

Thanks for reading and stay positive,

Jason Coles

Mind Over Matter: How Positive Thinking Can Help Your Magic: The Gathering Experience, by Jason Coles
A couple of pointers to help you stay in control of your mood and help you be a better player as a result.

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