In an intriguing scene from the 2010 movie The Karate Kid, the young protagonist Dre Parker is spellbound by a Kung-Fu practitioner who, perched perilously on a high wall, makes a cobra reflect her moves. Dre’s Kung-Fu master Mr. Han explains to the fascinated kid that the practitioner is like “still water, quiet and calm, reflecting whatever that looks at it, like a mirror”.
The wise teacher’s explanation of how a trained and focused mind achieves such force of tranquility carries so much weight in today’s world. Retrieving our minds in the days of media surplus is becoming a herculean task. Our children are maze runners, trapped in a labyrinth of information, –both essential and dispensable – struggling to find an exit.
How do they learn to tap into that innate energy? When can they pause and learn to focus?
Disciplining the Mind – The stepping stone to success
The initiative to focus one’s mind is to discipline it. Our minds are racehorses, galloping off in the wildest paths if let loose. One needs to pull the reins and lead it right, away from the distractions.
We need to teach our kids the art of taming their minds. If our kids could learn it early in their lives, there will be no limits to the potential they could dig into. A disciplined mind is like a fresh canvas, ready to soak up the paint.
Learning an intense game like Chess that requires complete concentration fine-tunes the brain at an early age. The mental dedication and focus one needs to master the game instill in the kids a sense of discipline without the parents having to impose it on them.
Characteristics of a Disciplined Mind
A disciplined mind enhances 5 characteristics that position one for victories in one’s life. Chess enhances these five basic elements of discipline.
1. Focus: Discipline brings in focus. It helps to drag the mind off distractions and position it for better performance.
2. Prioritization: A disciplined mind helps one to know one’s priorities. To quote the Indian Grandmaster Anand Viswanathan, “During the game you are focused on only one main goal – to checkmate the opponent and become the victor!” The game teaches young minds to prioritize not only in their studies but in their choices, career and life itself.
3. Self-control: Mastering the self is the most prominent outcome of discipline. Like in a game of chess, there is no place for impulsiveness. One cannot panic and do just anything. Every move is critical. Whether you like it or not, you must turn your Self off and run only on your assessments.
4. Poise: A strong quality that a chess player acquires through practice is balancing one’s mind; staying calm and tension-free on most occasions. The practical awareness that “losing it” does not help but could backfire teaches an ace player to retain his/her composure through all ups and downs of a game.
5. Insight: Discipline intensifies the power to think, decide and act in a composed and sensible manner. It brings alertness and clarity of thought. Without a sharp mind that could analyze the whole battlefield and make the next right move, a chess player cannot progress in his/her skills.
Chess and Discipline – The Triumph of a Tranquil Heart
An intense game of chess where every move and every decision could change the equations of success teaches the player to evaluate and assess the pros and cons before jumping into action. The game teaches them the value of keeping the mind still, even at crucial times. Staying calm helps one to stretch one’s brain to the maximum. Such a habit will eventually reflect in your child’s nature and attitude as he/she learns to handle stress and pressure in real life or in academics.
In a life full of deadlines, tests, and interviews, children disciplined by Chess find it easier to deal with the stress and remain confident and calm. Chess teaches one to avoid any impulsive or hasty moves but plan, assess and evaluate the circumstances and outcome in a more level-headed way. Chess teaches the art of patience. Children learn to step back occasionally to stop fussing over details and view the bigger picture instead. This ingrains in them a quality of wider perception. They learn to identify alternatives and frivolous details wouldn’t frustrate them so much.
Chess shouldn’t be seen as just a weekend game to be played as a hobby or as an escape from boredom. It’s a way of life. The things that you take away after a game are priceless and the best part is you’re not the same person after every game. In chess, you always play with a purpose – or rather keeping a bigger picture in mind. No player plays to save every pawn that he or she moves or all of his knights and bishops. Players get them killed or sacrificed. The sacrifices made or not symptoms of downfall but stepping stones to victory. When I lose my queen, I don’t panic because I’ve lost major mobility and weightage. I am content and further assured that my plan’s working. Losing a queen would have been a trap to bait my opponent to something more deadlier. The truth is not everybody sees the bigger picture in life. Most of us are too scared to sacrifice little things that appear huge to bigger consequences that pass off as insignificant. We need to start seeing the bigger picture to actually start making sense out of your actions. Chess is a very rewarding life experience.
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