Saturday, July 27, 2013

Check Mate

Elliot participated in an enrichment camp this week.  He chose a workshop called "Strategic Games with a Side of Chess."  He was eager to show me and John what he learned this week.  I played Elliot in my very first game of chess yesterday...I got housed by a 9 year old.  I learned chess is practice based and requires the ability to think ahead.   

The set we have is a beginner's set, complete with the "moves" each piece can make across the board.  Elliot began our game by explaining the "objective."  John gave Elliot the set for Christmas and the two of them have played a few times.  One of their games this week lasted for an hour.  I think it's fascinating to watch the two of them with their competing brain power.  Elliot keeps up well with John.  In the end, John prevailed.  Elliot wasn't happy.  As he sat on the floor in a slouchy mess leaning against the couch, I asked him what he would say to his best friend if he had just lost the game.  It took A LOT of prodding, but Elliot finally answered, "I would tell him nice try and good game."  I reminded him that he needs to speak to himself the way he would speak to his best friend.  

Why is this simple idea so difficult? Why are we so hard on ourselves?  I am guilty of this, becoming my own worst critic.  I can fabricate all kinds of reasons in my own mind why I am not going to be successful at a task at hand.  There may be a tiny grain of truth to some of the thoughts I have, but to entertain them or even believe them (gasp!) would be terrible.  A better approach would be to take the tiny truth grain and allow it to motivate me.  Or, even better is to say to myself what I would say to my best friend.  Words of encouragement, bigger words of truth.  

I've been doing this as I continue my running this summer.  I have been attempting to run an 8 minute mile.  It's no easy feat in our neighborhood.  It's hilly and it's been a humid summer.  Almost each time I complete a mile, my iPhone app speaks a time that is more than 8 minutes.  I slow a bit to catch my breath and defeat attempts to leak in.  I keep reminding myself that when I started this in mid-December I couldn't break a 10 minute mile.  "You've made progress," I tell myself.  This week my app spoke 8:04.  I was too winded to raise my arms in triumph like Rocky did after he climbed the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, but I tasted victory.  I CAN do this!  

As I am writing this Elliot and John are back at it again.  Elliot again was defeated.  I just heard Sydney say, "the more you play, the better you'll get."  It is my hope and prayer that she speaks that way not only to Elliot (who is her best friend) but also to herself.  What can we say to ourselves today that we would say to our best friend?

Thank you for reading.