The best chess players don’t have a style

I have been watching the current chess world championship between Magnus Carlsen and Jan Nepo on Norwegian TV. Why? It’s entertaining, and there are many aspects of chess, and just about anything else, that apply to life in general.

One of the guests yesterday said something that resonated with me:

The best chess players don’t have a style. If they did, it would be too much of a weakness. It would mean a smaller repertoire. It would mean not being able to use the most powerful strategies in any given situation. And it would mean a predictable approach their opponents can prepare for and use against them.

That’s how it is in life as well. Having a certain way to approach all situations limits our repertoire. It often leaves out approaches that may be more appropriate to the situation we are in. And it leaves us more vulnerable in life in general.

The more healthy and mature we are, the more fluid we tend to be, the wider repertoire we tend to have access to, and the less we limit ourselves with ideologies and beliefs – whether these are conscious or held deeper in our system.

This applies to style and strategies, and not our more general orientations.

In chess, certain orientations are obviously helpful, for instance, passion for the game, curiosity, diligence, willingness to examine lost games and learn from them, and so on.

Other areas of life have their own orientations that support what we aim to do. If we aim for healing, awakening, and generally living a more content life, I suspect these typically include receptivity, gratitude, playfulness, curiosity, passion, authenticity, courage to follow our inner guidance, willingness to shed light on previously unexamined areas of our life, and so on.

Generate several theories to keep the mind flexible and receptive

I find it helpful to generate as many theories as possible about anything that seems relatively important. I often do it in my own life, and I also do it when it comes to the topics of this post. It helps me not get stuck in one specific interpretation or set of assumptions. It helps my mind stay more flexible and open to different possibilities. It also helps remind me that different explanations may be valid in different cases.

When I generate different theories, I check to see how well they fit the data. And I also make sure to generate different theories about the data itself. Nothing is given or set in stone.

– from a previous post

This is essential in science and very helpful in daily life. A friend or partner may act a certain way. I may not know what’s going on, so instead of landing on one set of assumptions I intentionally generate different possibilities. In this case, I can of course also ask!

I do this partly because I have made assumptions about others and situations which I later realized were not accurate, and I have had this happen when others have made assumptions about me. Remembering these instances is a good motivation for me to continue to generate a richness of possibilities.