Levels of Competitive Zen

I had a big post a while ago about how competitive I am. I’ve had some more time to reflect on that–and some more experiences with “real life” competition, and I wanted to write a follow up post. In my previous post, I talked about how intense a game of Magic had gotten for me–how I’d went undefeated, but the desire to win was just so strong that it made me sick to my stomach the whole time I was playing.

I’ve played some more, and I have to say that overall, the experience has changed quite a bit. I’m no longer really nervous about it. In fact, it’s not nearly as interesting anymore. Don’t get me wrong–I still have a great time doing it, but the edge is gone, and I’ve been wondering why that was.

As I think about it, I tend to think that part of it is that I really want to prove myself when I’m playing games. I want to know that I’m a good player–not just have a good self-esteem or something, but really be sure of it. When I was growing up playing games against family members, it was a constant struggle to prove to everyone else that I was smart or good or whatever. The same was true when I started playing Magic in situations where it “mattered”–against people I didn’t know, in tournament settings.

And (again, referring back to my blog post), you’ll recall this left me fairly upset. I didn’t like that I wanted to win that badly, and I wasn’t sure how to fix it.

It turns out, the key was just winning a few times.

If you talk to Denisa, she’ll tell you that I have a tendency to flit around from hobby to hobby. I’ll dwell on one for a few months or years, but inevitably I’ll shift over to a different one in the future. The themes are the same (video games, books, music, board games), but the specifics vary. I’ll play piano for a few weeks, then shift over to guitar. I have a whole closet full of different board games, and an iPad that’s chock full of games, too. I think a big reason for that is that I enjoy learning new things. Exploring new techniques and approaches to something. So I’ll get a new game that has lots of rules, and I’ll really want to win at that one game. But once I can win consistently, it stops having a driving interest to me. I can play it for light entertainment, but I’ve moved on to a new challenge.

(This is one of the reasons I think Magic appeals to me–the rules are basically rewritten every four months or so, which means there’s a chance for continual discovery and challenge. It’s also a reason why I think writing appeals to me–each book presents its own troubles. It’s a struggle to get the book into its best form, and as frustrating as that is, it’s a struggle I really enjoy. I love looking at a finished piece and knowing how hard I had to work to get it into that condition. This reminds me of an experience I had in seventh grade–where my English teacher wouldn’t recommend me for Advanced English, because he thought I wasn’t a strong enough writer. I think it’s right in the theme of this post that I ended up choosing to strive for publication. I seek out challenges.)

Anyway. Kind of a self-reflective post today, I know. But what did you expect with a title like “Levels of Competitive Zen”? Suffice it to say that I’m glad I’ve stopped obsessing about winning at Magic quite so much, and that I hope I can start controlling some of that competitive nature a bit better. I think I know some of where it comes from, and knowing is half the battle, right?

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