This is a problem most players have, which is they try to win instead of trying to improve, and this thought is the root cause of many problems and complaints. I'll try to keep this short.
First of all, when you have the mindset of playing to win, yes, you'll play better, but you'll be watching the goal (which is to win) much more than yourself and your teammates. The higher your hopes, the harder your disappointment as they always say.
Soon, when you make mistakes, you become desperate, as it puts you further from the goal, and you will try even harder to win, being more aggressive or more afraid depending on your style, opening up more window of errors for the enemy team. Should your teammates make mistakes, you will start to complain at how they're so bad at playing LoL and you'll be flaming that you're in Elo Hell and they should uninstall for making you lose plus various other insults and their mums.
If your game has a troll, things escalate much higher, you would be internally cursing the guy for screwing up your game and you would think of quitting LoL or so and complaining about how toxic the community can be.
So why should we play LoL if we don't play to win? League of Legends have other similarities to chess besides the Elo system - the mindset for people to win games. In chess, if you play to win, the psychological effects can backfire you hard. Downwards Spiral Effect etc. There are thousands of games where a game can be drawn by causing unintentional stalemates because they tried too hard to win.
This is what Grandmasters told lesser players the secret to increase Elo - play to improve.
The difference you ask? Playing to improve and playing to win still has the same goal of winning, but the mindset is much different.
When playing to improve, it's not only "I'm playing to improve myself", it's also "I'm playing to improve the game condition."
How to play to improve? Keep asking questions on before and after every occasion, and make split-second decisions asap.
For instance, when you want to go to unwarded territory, you ask yourself "Is it safe?", and you'll check if the enemy players are on the map, if yes then it's most likely safe, else you don't facecheck.
Or if you die after a gank, you ask yourself "how do I not die again?", then you analyze if are you still in lane trying to farm instead of returning for safety, or are you hugging towers while 3 or 4 full health enemies are trying to hunt you down. Try not to blame teammates unless you really can't find any errors in your play, which is very unlikely.
Keeping this up will make you make you think "Am I playing better? Have I improved enough?" the more you play. Don't think of the game as a burden, think of it as a problem solving puzzle. There's trolls in your team? Enemy Katarina is goddamn fed with 20 stacks of Mejai? Think of them as an obstacle in a normal puzzle. What is the best move you can make?
This is exactly like chess. You improve conditions, you improve positions, no matter how bad they are. When most chess players or even normal people who know the simple rules are offered a simple "mate in one" puzzle, they can obviously do it, no problem. When the same puzzle arrives as an actual game, they can miss it, because most chess players still have the mindset of "play to win", instead of "play to improve".
When you "play to improve", even if you can't get a positive result, you would try not to get an even worse result. In a bad position? Think of a way to make it better, or even turnabout it should chances appear.
At the end of the game, ask yourself, "Am I playing properly?" "What mistakes have I made during the game?" "Did I do my job?" "Did I try to turnover bad coditions to good?" Figure that out from here and you'll actually improve, and you'll realize "Elo Hell" is all but a myth, troll players can continue trolling as they don't affect your skill, and just report any toxic players that get in your way, since it's also part of problem solving.
Don't think "meh, it's just a game" or "I'm just playing for fun" either, because that's called game irresponsibility. LoL is a team game, and people will get mad at you for not trying. That sort of idea is equivalent to "I give up, LoL is just a place for me to troll". Again, same thing in chess, you're wasting the other person's time for the most idiotic chess moves in the world because you don't even think before moving.
Yes, there may be inevitable games, but if you play to improve, it makes it much harder for the enemy to have a total win. Playing to improve is tournament-level play, yet it's still much more emotionally-easier and efficient to handle than playing to win. --Mineko Charat Lucky (talk) 03:20, January 11, 2013 (UTC)
EDIT: Alright, I think this blog post is too short, some people still misunderstand my point.
"Playing to improve" still has the SAME GOAL as "Playing to win", the goal may not be shining for you to grab it, but you go along the process of "manipulating the game to victory", which will led you to the goal naturally.
The difference between "playing to improve" and "playing to win" is that 1. the former focuses on the process, the latter focuses on the result. "Playing to improve" has the same advantage as "playing to win", except that it also allows you have a better mindset, you are NOT that tryharding for a victory, you would sit down, calm down, and think over where went wrong.
You start with "Am I playing perfectly?", most likely the answer would be no, which is good, and it means you can improve further. Once that question is settled, you followed up with. "Are my deaths a lot?" "Are my deaths worth it?" "Is it possible to avoid the death?" "How should I handle that situation?".
You would probably watch better players on various videos you can easily find on Youtube or livestreams, you would watch them play, you would try to learn from them.
"Playing to win" mindset is different, it's much less efficient and has a more emotional impact to you if you can't control it, and as always, getting controlled by emotions would make the game worse, and you won't improve.
"Playing to improve" is not "a losers way to deal with games", how can you play to improve and still give up? That's blatantly contradicting the entire thought process, as ridiculous as saying you surrender at 20 when you "play to win". Chess games ended up as surrenders even when both sides are skilled and have equal opportunity? Don't you really think that sounds stupid?
"Playing to improve" doesn't equal "Playing to have fun" either. "Playing to have fun" has its own merits, but players with this mindset tend to give up easily, and rarely improve on their gameplay even further, because they are not serious of the game. So how on earth did you think "Playing to improve" equals "Playing to have fun"? They may not be mutually exclusive, but I don't get how a person would manage to think both are similar. Mineko Charat Lucky (talk) 15:59, January 11, 2013 (UTC)