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Stoic Week – Sore Losers and Stoic Philosophy

November 29, 2013 Leave a comment

I am quite a sore loser. I’m not the worst sore loser I know (who shall remain nameless) but I do moan and sulk more than a grown human should. I get frustrated because I see myself as a great strategist and tactician so when the plans fail I feel as though my intelligence is being challenged, or ‘life is being unfair’.

Neither are things that actually happen when I lose a game but I still get frustrated by it. This is because we learn from our parents and my father is quick to anger, slow to apologise. I realise my mistakes and I also get frustrated by knowing when I’m acting as he does rather than acting as I should. So let’s look at my reactions from a Stoic Sage’s perspective: My feeling insulted by losing a game is the result of one of two things; either my strategy was beaten by a superior strategy, in which case my strategy wasn’t successful but I now know more about it’s weaknesses and the failure wasn’t fatal so I can always try again; or I was unlucky, in which case the random chance that resulted in my failure could easily have gone the other way and there’s no reason to be frustrated.

One reason I may feel frustration at my plans being foiled by those meddling kids might be because when I construct the plan in my mind, I assume success after success, nothing in my plan can possibly go wrong in my mind. This is of course ridiculous, so when planning I need to include contingencies for possible failures. Looking back on the computer game battle I lost on Sunday. The plan involved always hitting with mortars and that once a unit broke, that it wouldn’t regroup so when my mortars missed completely with a couple of barrages and the enemy cavalry unit regrouped, I felt frustrated and didn’t have a contingency ready. If I had included a second cavalry unit of my own, and an additional unit of infantry, I would have the additional men required to handle these failures.

This is what the Friday exercise seeks to get us to think about, sort of. Instead of having contingencies set up for when things go wrong, the exercise was about accepting the fact that things have gone wrong and not getting annoyed about things which I had no control over. So when the enemy cavalry regrouped and turned to charge into the fray, instead of being angry that this seemingly unlikely result happened, I would merely accept that it did and that it was beyond my control.

This stoicism can expand to other areas of our lives, apparently the original stoics used to contemplate their own deaths so that they could face it with stoicism. It was recommended we didn’t choose something so traumatic to begin with, but rather to build up to them beginning with small things that bother us. My sore loser attitude is, to my mind, the perfect example for this, it’s not supposed to be traumatic or a big deal in any way and so if I can work on accepting my losses in video games, I can build towards accepting my losses in day to day life, like that pile of rejection letters in my recycling bin.