The game of chess is not merely an idle amusement. Several very valuable qualities of the mind, useful in the course of human life, are to be acquired or strengthened by it… Life is a kind of Chess, in which we have often points to gain, and competitors or adversaries to contend with. – Benjamin Franklin

I love chess. I’m in good company. Millions of people adore the strategic game, which is believed to have originated in Indian prior to the 7th century. It’s fun, exciting, simple, engaging and boosts intelligence. There’s beauty, grace, simplicity and symmetry to chess that other games lack. Easy to learn, it requires no space, electricity or fancy equipment. You can play it anywhere – on a bus, plane or when you go camping.

Chess is smart and sexy – it’s literally a mating game. (Check out the logo below from the World Chess Championship.) You’re inches away from your opponent, making eye contact and trying to distract them so you can stay on top. In the Middle Ages playing chess was one of the few ways young couples could spend intimate time together.

My Beau and I play several times a week, enjoying a game or two while dinner cooks. It’s one of our favorite ways to spend time together. He’s good, and he’s helping me to get better by stepping up his own game. We’re constantly challenging and appreciating each other as we hone our skills. There’s this delicious moment towards the end of the game when you see a checkmate in two moves. You may have to sacrifice your queen, but doing so will make his King yours.

Playing chess teaches you about yourself, your life and your opponent. As chess champion Gary Kasparov puts it, “Chess is life in miniature.” Playing will help you to step into your brilliance.

Here are some major lessons I’m learning from the most popular board game of all time.

Harness visualization

If you want to win at chess and life, studying the board and visualizing your options is key to success. A powerful mindfulness and meditation practice, visualization has been used for centuries to prepare the mind, body and consciousness for situations and circumstances.

Try it for yourself. Every night and morning, spend a few minutes visualizing your goals and dreams. Experience what you want in your mind fully using all your senses. When you create a mental blueprint in your mind building what you want becomes easier and more fun.

 

Build neuroplasticity

Scientists once believed that our brains were fully formed once we reached adulthood. We now know that the brain is constantly evolving and changing to adapt to new situations. Until the day we die we can learn, create new habits and grow.

Chess, by building critical thinking and prediction skills, fosters new, positive neural pathways keeping the brain young and vital.

To increase and harness the power of neuroplasticity keep learning and moving in new direction. To stay motivated find a purpose for what you want to learn. In addition, make sure to get enough quality sleep (The brain needs sleep to grow.) and work on reducing your stress.

 

Experience flow

Flow is an optimal state of consciousness that happens when we perform and feel at our best In flow our skills are developed enough to meet our challenges. Ego falls away and time flies because we’re fully immersed, absorbed and creative. Chess fosters flow because it constantly exapands your skill set.

Flow, also called being in the zone, is a powerful antidote for stress, overwhelm, rumination and boredom. Whether your playing chess or guitar, rock climbing or doing yoga, you’re so engrossed in the experience that cares and worries fade away. There are an endless number of ways to trigger flow. What’s key is finding an activity that is intrinsically rewarding and challenging and then doing it on a regular basis.

 

Be brilliant

Chess teaches you to be excellent and strive for greatness, which boosts confidence and self-esteem. Regardless of whether you win or lose, when you play your best game you feel good about yourself. Plus the more you play the better and more confident you become.

 

Take risks

So often we don’t take risks because we are afraid of failing, losing or looking foolish. Chess teaches you to take risks because making bold, ballsy moves is safe. After all it’s just a game, and there is nothing major at stake.

Many women I meet at midlife are stuck and unhappy because they are playing it too safe staying in relationships or jobs that they hate because they are scared of uncertainty or failure. If you want to make your next chapter your best chapter embrace risk-taking. Great, opportunities and new directions often come with risk taking. Taking risks builds confidence, helps you stand out and teaches you new lessons.

You can’t achieve your dreams by playing it safe, so challenge yourself and do something that scares you that you’ve always wanted to do.

 

Learn about yourself

Chess is a micro mirror that enables you to learn about yourself and see how you handle adversity. Playing helps you discover your strengths and weakness and how to switch back and forth between long-term goals and short-term strategies.

 

Keep improving

Getting better at anything, whether it’s chess, your career or another other sport or hobby, begins by having the passion and love for whatever you do. That love and passion will push you to strive harder and get better. Failure doesn’t matter. What matter’s picking yourself up, learning from your mistakes, and pressing forward!

 

Push offensively

In life and chess we often focus on protecting ourselves. What chess has taught me is that when I feel trapped instead of looking for a way to escape I turn the tables by looking for a way to challenge my opponent so they are forced to defend themselves. In life this means looking for positive solutions rather than dwelling on negative situations. Which brings me to the next lesson…

 

There’s always better move

Every time I play chess I’m  amazed that when I study the board and examine all my options a better, often ingenious move appears. In the game of life, if you feel stuck and don’t know what to do, be patient and ask for guidance. Then wait and see. Stay opened and curious, and you’ll be surprised by what or who shows up to help you.

 

You always can win

When you start the game both players are equal. No matter what you can win. It’s skill verses skill. There is no luck or chance. Success depends on how well you and your opponent play. In life you can always win as long as you keep trying and moving forward.

 

Play

Life like chess doesn’t come with an instruction manual. Sure you can buy books to help you, but to learn and become masterful you have to play a lot and be taught by someone who has learned from someone else. Life is a game that you can win by enjoying yourself and being your best.

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