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Nerves in cubing

Joined
May 22, 2020
Messages
3
NERVES

High pressure situations where our performance is very important are also often the times in our lives when we are most nervous. This applies extensively to cubing, and I’m sure all you speedcubers know what I’m talking about. The best of us face nerves a lot of the time. I’m sure we have all had competition experiences where we didn’t do as well as we could have otherwise, because we got nervous and choked. Today I felt like taking a closer look at this part of cubing, because I really think it’s a very important one.

I tried to think about what exactly makes us nervous. We cubers, or more appropriately we humans, tend to have expectations. We practice to improve and then hope that our improvement reflects in our competition solves. While doing all of those solves at home practicing to get better, we have that goal in our mind somewhere, to go to competitions and perform at our best possible level. But these expectations, depending on how much importance you choose to give them, may even act as counterinfluences and be the reason you don’t do as well as you imagined you would. This is because if you are so focused on winning, or performing well, during your solves, you definitely won’t solve with as much attention and focus as you would have in a more pressure-free situation.

Well, so how can we work to keep the power of our expectations in check, and how can we possibly not think about winning during the very solves that could determine our success? From what I think, this comes down to your competition mindset. Many people say that “not caring” about their solves helps them perform better. “But Sumiran, how could we possibly stop caring about something that we put so much effort trying to improve at?” Well, if your competition mindset really is such that you can not care about your times to a sufficient degree, congratulations! You just nullified your immediate expectations that otherwise would have pestered you during your solves and later would have been the source of much sadness and regret! But seriously, this is the most important and most counterintuitive thing that I’ve concluded- To do well, you need to be able to not be bothered by your times and rather approach your competition solves like any other solves, quoting Patrick Ponce, “like a robot”. After all it is the solve that matters. Thinking about getting better solves is much better than thinking about getting faster solves. This is because if our solves are good they’d likely be fast, so it makes much more sense to stop thinking about what kind of times we want to get instead try to make our actual solves better. You need to go out there and solve those five puzzles just like you did the other tens of thousands of ones at your house and ended up doing well. People have different approaches to achieve this state, but I know that many successful cubers definitely enter this state of not being bothered by their times while they solve. Some have a very “don’t care”-ey attitude towards competitions and they just try to focus on the several other fun things at comps, like meeting new people, helping run the competition, and have fun with their friends. This helps them steer their thoughts away from their times/performance. Other cubers just make it their goal to attend as many comps as possible and just get really used to competing in the process. Some cubers have a more ritualistic approach with sequences of things that they perform before their solves to enter a healthy state of mind and brush away any pressurising thoughts about their times.

So from my understanding of cubing and our minds, the way (or I guess a way) to overcome nerves in competitions is to develop a mindset that leaves us unconcerned about our final results, and instead focus all of our energy in the present moment, to solve the cube at hand to the best of our ability. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution to this problem but I’m sure there is a solution for you, and when you find it, I think you’ll be much closer to performing at the best of your ability.
Note- This is actually a script for a video but I felt like putting it here.
 
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I absolutely think it's key, like you said, to focus on getting good solves rather than fast solves, because, if your solve is good, it will also be fast. Also, I think getting a cube that suits your turning style in competition helps because most cubers either turn rougher in competitions or really lightly, so, for me, I turn roughly in competitions, so getting a slightly slower cube (or just slowing mine down before the comp) will help me not lock up as well.
 
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Joined
May 22, 2020
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I absolutely think it;s key, like you said, to focus on getting good solves rather than fast solves, because, if your solve is good, it will also be fast. Also, I think getting a cube that suits your turning style in competition helps because most cubers either turn rougher in competitions or really lightly, so, for me, I turn roughly in competitions, so getting a slightly slower cube (or just slowing mine down before the comp) will help me not lock up as well.
Interesting. I don't find my turning style changing appreciably for most events but it does happen if I get nervous. Anyway I'm glad you agree. Thanks for replying! :)
 
Joined
Jun 21, 2018
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256
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We all feel nerves. The greats use it as fuel and those who let it hold them back watch admirably from below the podium.

A well compiled collection of thoughts on your end. I think nerves and pressure can be healthy but we need to learn how to harness that energy for our own benefit.

One of my favorite nuggets of knowledge from my days as a competitive runner is to just tell myself that the work is already done, a race (cube comp) is nothing but a celebration of that effort. Go out there and put one foot in front of the other like you always do. I gathered that same mentality from your comments about treating competition solves just like any other. I notice in myself when I try and focus hard on being FAST it doesn’t work as well as when I just relax and focus on fundamentals (good inspection, don’t look at the pair I’m solving, insert skill you’re working on here, etc.). It’s those Low pressure head is in the right space solves that all my PBs are made of.
 

Sub1Hour

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Jun 4, 2018
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43°38'42.8"N 115°59'35.1"W
We all feel nerves. The greats use it as fuel and those who let it hold them back watch admirably from below the podium.

A well compiled collection of thoughts on your end. I think nerves and pressure can be healthy but we need to learn how to harness that energy for our own benefit.

One of my favorite nuggets of knowledge from my days as a competitive runner is to just tell myself that the work is already done, a race (cube comp) is nothing but a celebration of that effort. Go out there and put one foot in front of the other like you always do. I gathered that same mentality from your comments about treating competition solves just like any other. I notice in myself when I try and focus hard on being FAST it doesn’t work as well as when I just relax and focus on fundamentals (good inspection, don’t look at the pair I’m solving, insert skill you’re working on here, etc.). It’s those Low pressure head is in the right space solves that all my PBs are made of.
I better get some extra credit for this
I can relate to you a lot because I come from a very athletic background and played on one of if not the best youth football team in the rocky mountain/4 corners area so I was used to a lot of pressure playing in tournaments and championships with high expectations. But unlike running or cubing, football and other team sports are fundamentally different in the fact that you have to work together as a machine. I think that the feeling I get during games and the feeling that I get while doing official solves is similar, although football games give me a stronger feeling. The only difference is I find it harder to channel this feeling in cubing. I don't know if its because I have been playing football for more then half of my life or if its because I worked so much harder to get to where I am in football but there is just something different about it. I think I speak for everyone when I say its much easier to knock out a bunch of 5x5 solves at your desk in an air-conditioned house then spend hours running in blistering heat with pads on. It feels like football is something where your either reap the benefits of your hard work and win, or you disappoint yourself and your coaches while taking an L. This is also the reason why I don't do performance meditation for cubing but I do it for just about everything else. If you don't know what performance meditation is, look it up. Basically it puts you in a mindset that elevates your performance in things like athletics. I do a mental routine before my games and it gets me in the proper mindset for football. But in cubing, I think it does not work nearly as well. Visualizing yourself winning (a common performance meditation practice) only hurts me in competitions since I overhype myself and if I get one bad solve then it kills me. While in football, it makes me want to get back up and go even harder then I did on the previous play. I'm not sure how you guys hype up/calm down for things but here is my routine for pre-game and pre-comp and I will compare the differences and point out why they are different

Pre-Game:
Get together with all of my teammates in the locker room before we get in the bus/on the field to hype up and stuff.
Listen to high-intensity music with hard drops and high BPM, I mostly have a pre-set playlist or just listen to whatever my teammates are playing but I do like to add something new if I like the way its sounds
At the same time, I will visualize myself "Making The Play". Getting a sack, stopping a run, blocking a screen, pressuring the QB.
Then I go through warmups like if it were practice (it basically is)
Finally, before captains go out, we do a hype up thing (Linked here), then a prayer. (Even watching the speech hype thing makes me so pumped to be starting football again)
Kickoff happens, and then I do my thing.

Pre-Comp (Directly before I compete):
Finish staffing the group before (I always staff pretty much all the time)
Submit my cube and take a seat
Listen to a very select few songs that are relaxed with no lyrics that I listen to while practicing at home.
Try to convince my brain subconsciously that its no big deal if I flop (Only if its an event I actually care about)
Go up to solve when I get called
Do a few squan algs on my warmup cube (YLM Squan)
Wipe my hands off with a towel to get the sweat off
Solve, Sign, repeat.

These are fundamentally different from each other for a few reasons. My pregame is much more intense than my pre-comp since I have learned to take the high energy to my advantage. My pre-comp is much more meditative in the sense that I spend most of it trying to calm myself down and to "Not give a hoot" (pardon my language) and just have fun since I take cubing way less seriously than my sports and also to keep myself from freaking out. Also, the pre-game is much more oriented around the people I am playing with so it feels like I'm not in my own world like I try to do with cubing to keep myself calm.

Overall, the best thing to do about nerves in cubing is to try and get yourself into your own world and just shut everything else out except for you and the cube. Sorry for the extremely long and probably unnecessary post but that's just how I roll.

If you did not want to read my essay, I don't blame you, here is a TLDR

Nerves can be easily controlled if you control yourself and your mental environment as much as possible.
 
Joined
Jun 21, 2018
Messages
256
Location
Denver
I better get some extra credit for this
I can relate to you a lot because I come from a very athletic background and played on one of if not the best youth football team in the rocky mountain/4 corners area so I was used to a lot of pressure playing in tournaments and championships with high expectations. But unlike running or cubing, football and other team sports are fundamentally different in the fact that you have to work together as a machine. I think that the feeling I get during games and the feeling that I get while doing official solves is similar, although football games give me a stronger feeling. The only difference is I find it harder to channel this feeling in cubing. I don't know if its because I have been playing football for more then half of my life or if its because I worked so much harder to get to where I am in football but there is just something different about it. I think I speak for everyone when I say its much easier to knock out a bunch of 5x5 solves at your desk in an air-conditioned house then spend hours running in blistering heat with pads on. It feels like football is something where your either reap the benefits of your hard work and win, or you disappoint yourself and your coaches while taking an L. This is also the reason why I don't do performance meditation for cubing but I do it for just about everything else. If you don't know what performance meditation is, look it up. Basically it puts you in a mindset that elevates your performance in things like athletics. I do a mental routine before my games and it gets me in the proper mindset for football. But in cubing, I think it does not work nearly as well. Visualizing yourself winning (a common performance meditation practice) only hurts me in competitions since I overhype myself and if I get one bad solve then it kills me. While in football, it makes me want to get back up and go even harder then I did on the previous play. I'm not sure how you guys hype up/calm down for things but here is my routine for pre-game and pre-comp and I will compare the differences and point out why they are different

Pre-Game:
Get together with all of my teammates in the locker room before we get in the bus/on the field to hype up and stuff.
Listen to high-intensity music with hard drops and high BPM, I mostly have a pre-set playlist or just listen to whatever my teammates are playing but I do like to add something new if I like the way its sounds
At the same time, I will visualize myself "Making The Play". Getting a sack, stopping a run, blocking a screen, pressuring the QB.
Then I go through warmups like if it were practice (it basically is)
Finally, before captains go out, we do a hype up thing (Linked here), then a prayer. (Even watching the speech hype thing makes me so pumped to be starting football again)
Kickoff happens, and then I do my thing.

Pre-Comp (Directly before I compete):
Finish staffing the group before (I always staff pretty much all the time)
Submit my cube and take a seat
Listen to a very select few songs that are relaxed with no lyrics that I listen to while practicing at home.
Try to convince my brain subconsciously that its no big deal if I flop (Only if its an event I actually care about)
Go up to solve when I get called
Do a few squan algs on my warmup cube (YLM Squan)
Wipe my hands off with a towel to get the sweat off
Solve, Sign, repeat.

These are fundamentally different from each other for a few reasons. My pregame is much more intense than my pre-comp since I have learned to take the high energy to my advantage. My pre-comp is much more meditative in the sense that I spend most of it trying to calm myself down and to "Not give a hoot" (pardon my language) and just have fun since I take cubing way less seriously than my sports and also to keep myself from freaking out. Also, the pre-game is much more oriented around the people I am playing with so it feels like I'm not in my own world like I try to do with cubing to keep myself calm.

Overall, the best thing to do about nerves in cubing is to try and get yourself into your own world and just shut everything else out except for you and the cube. Sorry for the extremely long and probably unnecessary post but that's just how I roll.

If you did not want to read my essay, I don't blame you, here is a TLDR

Nerves can be easily controlled if you control yourself and your mental environment as much as possible.
I think you do make some Good points and if we got into the brain chemistry we’d find that there is in fact different parts of the brain and body at work for things like football vs cubing.

I definitely wouldn’t want to listen to angry aggressive metal right before a math test (cubing) but that was my norm to get me pumped up before football games and once I realized how pasty I was, cross country. There is definitely a different category of nerves at play in each situation and it’s good you’ve been able to recognize and internally distinguish between them.

I agree performance meditation doesn’t seem as appropriate in cubing. Even when I play disc golf I walk up to putts (hardest part of the game) and say to myself “you can make every put, and especially this one”. “You can crush every solve, especially this one” just doesn’t seem like it would work as well. Maybe it’s disconnect between how Physical spirts are vs how mental cubing is?

Nw you’ve got me wondering what psychological processes is at play that makeS the 2 events so different...
 

Sub1Hour

Member
Joined
Jun 4, 2018
Messages
1,206
Location
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Nw you’ve got me wondering what psychological processes is at play that makeS the 2 events so different...
I have 2 different theories on why this happens

1. You can't go too hard in football, but you can in cubing. Going at 100% on a play in football is not a bad thing, you cant really overdo it aside from certain situations like going too far and having the QB behind you, but even then if you have good teqniques and a high football IQ you could save it. In cubing, you can definitely overdo it. The reason why people try and calm themselves down is to keep their TPS under control. It's much harder to get good times if you do nothing but spam TPS and not lookahead.

2. Feeding off energy is different in both situations. By that I mean taking the energy from your environment and using it to your advantage. In football or any sport for that matter, most of the time hearing people chant for you or your team it gives you positive energy and makes you want to push harder. This is in stark contrast to cubing. Most of the time people don't want you to tell them "You get that NAR!" I personally find it much harder to perform well in a competition when either myself or someone else gives me high expectations. But when I get encouragement from my team or from fans in sports it makes me want to go even harder then I did before, and that ties into my first theory

I do think that the psychological processes in both situations are similar but also very different, eventually, I want to figure out a way to take both mindsets to the maximum eventually, but until then I will try doing different techniques to figure out what makes my brain tick in both situations.
 
Joined
May 22, 2020
Messages
3
We all feel nerves. The greats use it as fuel and those who let it hold them back watch admirably from below the podium.

A well compiled collection of thoughts on your end. I think nerves and pressure can be healthy but we need to learn how to harness that energy for our own benefit.

One of my favorite nuggets of knowledge from my days as a competitive runner is to just tell myself that the work is already done, a race (cube comp) is nothing but a celebration of that effort. Go out there and put one foot in front of the other like you always do. I gathered that same mentality from your comments about treating competition solves just like any other. I notice in myself when I try and focus hard on being FAST it doesn’t work as well as when I just relax and focus on fundamentals (good inspection, don’t look at the pair I’m solving, insert skill you’re working on here, etc.). It’s those Low pressure head is in the right space solves that all my PBs are made of.
Thanks for the compliment! And I agree with you but often even the greats are held back by it haha
 
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