Improvement Starts with I: Creating the Right Mindset for Climbing

It’s official — the 2017 Ranked Season has begun! The scramble is on to climb the ranks, now in two queues rather than just one. As we all know, there’s so much that goes into playing ranked and climbing the ladder, but a big part of it all is the mental aspect. After all, League of Legends is a game about strategy more than anything else. In order to find success, you’ll need to be in the right mindset, and this process is largely twofold.

The Right Mindset

It may seem like common sense, especially if you’ve ever browsed a Reddit post on how to improve or watched any moderately educational streamer, but the basic premise is important, and seemingly often forgotten: look inward. There are ten players in any given game, but you only have control of yourself. And the great thing about this game (if you’re an optimist) is that no one mistake throws a game on its own, so in every win and loss, you can find some piece of your game to improve.

Esports psychologist and coach Weldon Green describes exactly why so few players adopt this mentality.

“Imagine that all the habits and actions you take while doing a craft (such as LoL) are represented by the letter i. This variable encompasses the limits of your play.

Are you the best person in the world at your craft?

If you answered yes, then I guess you can just stop reading.

If you, like the rest of us, answered no, then you can assume that there is a behavior… that is superior to what you have there in your i….I mean the version that is just slightly better than what you can do, and is connected in a direct line from where you are, to what the perfect version of your behavior/action/decision/etc. looks like.

We will call this i + 1.

Your goal is to constantly be pushing your limits and attempting to do i + 1 whenever you execute your craft. But this is hard. You slip off the horse a lot, because chasing i + 1 means failure, losing, looking bad, attempting what you cannot do, falling on your face, and more…

That’s why not everybody improves. The human is quite happy to seek comfort. The human body in fact LOVES homeostasis… i + 1 is inherently imbalanced and destructive. Because it means chasing failure.

But that’s exactly why it generates growth.”

People don’t inherently want to abandon their current practices or ideas about how things should be, but it’s the willingness to do exactly this that separates those who climb (and usually quickly) from those who don’t.

More importantly, climbing involves a dramatic shift that avoids focusing on climbing at all! Instead, it’s important to focusing on improving as an individual instead. Refer back to Weldon’s formula. If you’re focusing on climbing to a certain rank, you’re starting with the answer to the formula, and the variable that is yourself. It can be exhausting trying to figure out what you must add to get the answer. A year spent focusing on improving will net larger gains than a year spent trying to achieve a certain rank.

“Force is meaningless without skill” -Lee Sin

How to Focus on Improving

There are two very general approaches to improving: focusing on building on your strengths, and focusing on building up your weaknesses. Different crafts in life lend themselves to either of the two, and in the case of League, you’re likely better off going for the second. And this should be common sense at some level, because at some point, no amount of augmented map awareness is going to make up for falling behind by 70 cs at 10 minutes. Studies have shown a difference between cultures in various tasks, where western culture focuses on enhancing strengths (and makes people less likely to admit being outperformed) while eastern culture focuses on fixing flaws (and makes people more likely to assume they’ve been outperformed). It may be no coincidence that Koreans are much better.

So in pinpointing these weak spots, it’s important to remember the following:

  • Aim to correct specific, changeable mistakes, not permanent conditions. Attributing a lack of teamfighting prowess to poor mechanical skills won’t help much, because it’s hard to remedy. Rather, maybe consider that your champion pool might not fit your abilities, and choose others accordingly.
  • Acknowledge outside factors, but change your response to them rather than trying to change them. For example, if you’re a jungler and you gank a lane perfectly yet still manage to not get anything from it, blaming the laner won’t help. Consider things like whether they were in position, or whether you ought to have known your ally was much weaker or more immobile due to the matchup.
  • And most importantly, be self-compassionate when you self-criticise. It is important to remember with each mistake that it doesn’t mean you aren’t good, or don’t deserve your rank. Mistakes happen, and you need to be able to make these mistakes without reservation or any effect other than modifying it next time. Not doing this is an easy way to tilt.
  • Finally, a way to do the above is to give yourself some credit and help those who are ranked lower than you. Acknowledging that there are some aspects of the game that you perform well is important, and one of the best ways to learn is to teach others. You’ll be surprised what you know.

Climbing the ladder is a process. A long one, in fact. So there’s no easy secret to be diamond in a month (unless you already are diamond). But keeping the right mindset and your priorities straight is the biggest key. Best of luck out there! Remember — it’s all in your head.

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Mr Fidori

Obsesses over League of Legends a little too much. Writes for Break the Game. In that order.