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How Mindfulness can help your FPL decisions

We’ve all been there. Logging on to the FPL website just to have another look at our team. It’s beautiful, a masterpiece. The only issue is that we’ve already looked at it today. Why are we looking again? The answer is very simple really, and it’s mainly dopamine.

Just as Facebook used ‘psychological hacking’ in order to (and this is a genuine quote) ‘take as much of our time and attention as possible’. FPL innocently and unknowingly exerts a familiar influence over many of it’s managers.

I’m not that good at FPL. I always have a good start but things get messy along the way somewhere and I end up somewhere in the top 10 of my mini-leagues, occasionally somewhere in the money. I also have an addictive personality by nature, and so ordinarily FPL takes up too much of my time. I’m a Mindfulness trainer by trade and my aim for this season is to use my knowledge of psychology and mental health in order to have more fun and less stress. After speaking to lots of friends, I see that this seems to be a good recipe for many others as well.

I’ve seen more and more talk about the psychological blunders we all make with FPL, and reactive transfers is a great example of the relationship between Mindfulness and this dear old game. Reactivity is perhaps the number 1 trait we try to address in mindfulness and meditation courses. There are a few other nuggets of wisdom within the principles of Mindfulness which relate quite nicely to FPL and the unnecessary issues it can cause. I thought it might be helpful for readers if I summarised a few of the key ones here:

Control

Perhaps the most important source of FPL suffering is the illusion of control. Despite all the statistics anyone can possibly muster, the truth (however hard to hear it might be) is:

You don’t know what’s going to happen in any of those football matches.

It’s worth reading again, because this is vital. We really don’t know. We are guessing. Yes of course there are trends, and of course there’s a high probability that Kevin De Bruyne is going to get quite a few points against Fulham at home, but we can never know for sure and it is totally out of our control.

The follow up truth from this is:

How many points you get this week, or across the season, is not in your control. 

Strange to consider, isn’t it? I bet some people reading this beg to differ, but think about it. Every single point you have ever gained in FPL has been because a random human being miles away from you did something with a football, and it had nothing to do with you. 

Remembering this should be a relief. It takes away a lot of the grasping and clinging to what you think you definitely know, or how well you should/could do this week. Perhaps the most important consequence of remembering this first principle is that we remember to enjoy the game.

Fun

Did you forget? FPL is supposed to be fun! We all started playing this game because it’s enjoyable to try to guess what’s going to happen in the future, and to be rewarded when our guesses are correct. Enjoying the thrill of the unknown. This year, with more advice, news and FPL services available than ever before, there is a real risk of many of us losing sight of the enjoyment of the game more than ever before as well. If you really think about it, do you want to give so much energy and time to something which you are not enjoying? None of us do. So it’s in our interests to understand those factors which suck the fun out of the game and attempt to address them in our own relationship with FPL.

Mindfulness is great for this. Any time you notice that you’re miserable or stressed out because of FPL, it’s a good chance to stop and take some time to investigate what’s really going on. Slow down and pay attention to what’s happening in your inner world; bring it into the light. This is a form of meditation, and it doesn’t need to be done sitting on a cushion with your eyes closed. Rather than letting negative emotions drive your behaviour, be ruthless in remembering the above two points: it’s not in your control, and it’s supposed to be fun. Let go!

Conscious Clicking

I started this article by mentioning the relentless checking of the website which many of us have fallen prey to. This behaviour takes place because we get a dopamine hit released in our brain every time we look at our team and remember that we might be rewarded in the future for those players doing well this weekend.

Just like Instagram, Twitter etc. this is creating a feedback loop which is incredibly addictive. The good news is that this means the remedies are the same and there are many. We should consider why we are checking the website and our team and begin to transition to consciously checking when we have a reason to do so. When we pay attention to our behaviours, we begin to transform them. This is another strategy which can alleviate stress and bring some fun back into the game. Less time wasted is only going to be a good thing. Gradually bringing consciousness into the checking of the website will filter into your thinking processes as well, and before long you will be wasting less energy thinking badly about your transfers during the week and confusing the issue.

Who would want to be addicted to looking at a team sheet of players from random football teams who you think are going to do well on the weekend? None of us do, and there’s no reason why we need to.

Clear Thinking

I was interested to see how well Magnus Carlsen did in FPL last year, and having just started learning to play chess, I think I can see some of the reasons why. Besides having a superhuman memory (which must really help when it comes to remembering stats and transfer options), chess requires extraordinarily clear thinking and decision making. Magnus is incredibly good at blitz chess, which is when you have only a small amount of time to make your move, and this means he is very good at making decisions without wasting energy. This must be so useful for FPL. When he looks at his team and realises a strategy isn’t likely to pay off, I presume that he immediately discards it at light speed as he would do in a chess match, instead of ruminating over it as most of us would. This clarity of thought, unfortunately, isn’t something we all possess! However, we can still learn from this and try to bring some of it into our own play.

An example of this in relation to Mindfulness is to notice when you are thinking badly about FPL. If it’s just in the back burner of your mind, ticking away throughout the week, this isn’t necessarily helping you. It would be better to consciously think about it for a short amount of time and make clear decisions which you understand.  Make a routine for doing transfers which gives you enough time to gather the info you need and then make your decision, but doesn’t allow you to waste lots of your week. As you practice thinking more clearly and not wasting mental energy, you get better at it. That can only be a good thing.

Meditation

Perhaps the most important aspect of practicing meditation is that it allows us to access a deeper state of mind. When we are in a deeper state of mind, everything is better. It brings clarity to our thinking and makes it more difficult for negative emotions to hang around and ruin our day. Really slowing down and allowing the mind to rest fills it with energy which is more powerful than the kind of energy we use on a day to day basis. This energy is likely to help us make much better decisions and enjoy our FPL season. So take a deep breath (or 100) before burning those 4 points!

25 Comments Post a Comment
  1. andy85wsm
    • Fantasy Football Scout Member
    • Has Moderation Rights
    • 10 Years
    2 months, 19 days ago

    Very interesting article this - thanks for submitting.

    It's definitely conscious of the amount I'm clicking on things like social media, and it probably does influence me on FPL as well.

    I've sorted out my habit of checking the Facebook timeline but know I should also check places like twitter less!

  2. Yav
    • Fantasy Football Scout Member
    • 3 Years
    2 months, 19 days ago

    Great perspective. Thanks for posting.

  3. zinaks
    • Fantasy Football Scout Member
    • 1 Year
    2 months, 19 days ago

    "How many points you get this week, or across the season, is not in your control. "
    well as long at is less than what my actual score is, i can control it to the nearest +/- 3 pts by taking hits :p

  4. Flair
    • Fantasy Football Scout Member
    2 months, 19 days ago

    Love this, great stuff.

  5. Warbling Wendy
    • Fantasy Football Scout Member
    • 11 Years
    2 months, 19 days ago

    Absolutely loved this article. I've finished in the top 10k (2k last year) the last couple of seasons and one of the biggest shifts in my mentality is that you fantasy money can only buy you a asset with the potential to score points. You pick the one you think has the best chance, but there are never any garauntees.

  6. insertcomedyname
    • Fantasy Football Scout Member
    • 3 Years
    2 months, 19 days ago

    Great article.

  7. mayank_fpl
    • Fantasy Football Scout Member
    2 months, 19 days ago

    Really insightful article.

  8. Magfloat
    • Fantasy Football Scout Member
    • 2 Years
    2 months, 19 days ago

    Superb article - this needs to be on the main page!

    This has definitely opened my eyes to my behaviour regarding FPL, it can get borderline obsessive at times.

    Thank you for taking the time to put this together.

  9. Sturridge Wars
    • 5 Years
    2 months, 19 days ago

    Best ManChester United defender to go with?

    1. COYfootball
      • Fantasy Football Scout Member
      • 2 Years
      2 months, 17 days ago

      Read the room mate

      1. Bantha
        • Fantasy Football Scout Member
        2 months, 16 days ago

        Lol

  10. TLF
    • Fantasy Football Scout Member
    • 4 Years
    2 months, 19 days ago

    Refreshing article this, thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts. I'm a big believer in the benefits of mindfulness. Cheers.

  11. St Pauli Walnuts
    • Fantasy Football Scout Member
    • 2 Years
    2 months, 19 days ago

    Great stuff. Like to see a mix of these sorts of things on the site.

  12. FPL flop
    • Fantasy Football Scout Member
    2 months, 19 days ago

    Wonderful, insightful article. I can heartily agree. Meditation really does help in all aspects of life. Follow your bliss!

  13. Full Kit Wonkas
      2 months, 19 days ago

      A refreshing read, please republish every couple months.

    • Giggs Boson
      • Fantasy Football Scout Member
      • 9 Years
      2 months, 19 days ago

      Awesome article. I'm learning mindfulness at the moment, and it's been a life changer.

      Instead of drowning in my own thoughts and emotions, being swept around helplessly, I now watch them calmly from a distance as they rise and fall.

      It's a peaceful viewpoint, and it allows me to make better decisions.

    • RedLightning - Top 10k Any …
      • Fantasy Football Scout Member
      • Has Moderation Rights
      • 10 Years
      2 months, 19 days ago

      Reinhold Niebuhr's Serenity Prayer comes to mind:

      "Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
      the courage to change the things I can,
      and the wisdom to know the difference."

      The decisions we make about our transfers and their timing, our hits, chips, captain choices and bench order before the deadline are all under our control, but what happens in real life after we have made these decisions is not.
      Making good decisions is within our control; the actual outcomes are not.

      FPL is a game of probability. We don't know what is going to happen, and we can't control the exact number of points that we will get this week or across the season, but it is within our control to try to maximise the probability of scoring more points by making good decisions.

    • Cruyff's Eleven
      • Fantasy Football Scout Member
      • 2 Years
      2 months, 18 days ago

      Another thing which helps me is to remind myself that my identity and self-worth is not defined by how many points my team scored last GW.

      Wonderful article, thank you!

    • thomashl
      • Fantasy Football Scout Member
      • 3 Years
      2 months, 18 days ago

      Thanks for the article, Dom!

      It's fun to see that you've written an article that I felt was needed (and also, kind of wanted to write some version of). Having done the practice for 5-ish years myself, I've really felt then benefits that meditation can bring, and I like that mindfulness removes all the spiritual aspects from it, and that it's largely backed by scientific findings.

      As a clinical psychology student, I'm curious to know how/where you became a mindfulness trainer Dom, so hit me up if you see this post!

      1. domwatts23
          2 months, 9 days ago

          Hey, thanks for your positive comment! I've been learning this sort of thing for as long as I can remember, since I was about 15. Please drop me an email at dom@thefreespiritproject.earth 🙂

      2. thomashl
        • Fantasy Football Scout Member
        • 3 Years
        2 months, 18 days ago

        Oh, and, not to be that guy, but 'addictive personality' isn't really a thing:

        https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/in-excess/201605/the-myth-the-addictive-personality

      3. FantasyHero
        • Fantasy Football Scout Member
        • 4 Years
        2 months, 17 days ago

        Great article. What a different and refreshing take on fpl!

      4. DanwiseTheBrave
        • Fantasy Football Scout Member
        • 9 Years
        2 months, 17 days ago

        Excellent article, thank you so much. Bookmarked to read one a week.

        1. DanwiseTheBrave
          • Fantasy Football Scout Member
          • 9 Years
          2 months, 17 days ago

          *once

      5. Yippeekiyay Mertersacker
        • 3 Years
        2 months, 15 days ago

        Damn good article. Thank you