Thursday, April 15, 2021
black wooden king chess piece
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“Life is Like a Game of Chess”: A Mindset Metaphor

With a mindset of “life is like a game of chess”, we can achieve peak performance.

There’s a tired cliche that says life is a puzzle. You have to arrange your pieces, and eventually step back and take in the picture in all of its glory. You could envision it since the very first piece was lain, and bask in the achievement of finishing something.

It sounds nice, but it’s unrealistic. I propose a different comparison.

Life is more like a game of Chess. Not just the moves, competition and strategy – but in the meticulous effort that goes in before and after. The metaphor of life being like chess is nothing new, but it is typically veiled in a sense of competitive, pretentious nature.

Thinking 3 moves ahead of the competition.”

Outsmarting the best. Outworking the smartest.

These kinds of competitive outlooks are natural, but tend to narrow the view a little too much for my comfort. Instead, I think it is worth paying attention to everything that surrounds the game of chess.

It’s The Effort Before, and The Attention During

I should make it very clear before I dig my metaphor hole too deep. I do not know how to play chess, though I have been trying to learn (since High School…)

The game of Chess seems to be played in 2 distinct phases. Preparation, and execution. Before the game or tournament, players spend hours – often years – perfecting their strategies, knowledge and etiquette. When their next opponent is revealed, the do their research and learn defenses against their popular strategies.

The mountainous effort that is put in before the game pays off when the cute little clocks start ticking.

During the intense back and fourth, the competitive edge seems to come down to composure. If you can play it cool, your facial expressions are less susceptible to being read and your maneuvers become slightly more unpredictable. Obviously, you can’t quite “Play it cool.” if you are frantically scanning the board trying to think of the move you should have made 4 seconds ago.

The only way to play it cool in these intense moments, is to put the effort in beforehand to be prepared. With the right preparation, all it takes is focusing your attention on the moment when it counts. When those cute clocks start marching their way to the end of the game, you have to be marching right in step and stay focused on the board.

Applying The Metaphor

Preparation before the game is not only study and practice in this weird metaphor. I also include actually laying the pieces on the board. Each one has a spot, and the onus is on the players to have their respective pieces set up properly.

Before we can seek out stoic responses to an intense moment. We have to lay our pieces out where they belong. That is the only way out preparation becomes useful.

Life is certainly puzzling. There are many moving pieces, and it’s easy to get swept up in the competition of the game. This focus pointed in the right direction, and attention in the right area is key to unlocking a new kind of life. A life with the freedom to move like Kings and Queens.

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