How To Win The Inner Game

by Jean-Paul Cortes
(San Jose, Costa Rica)

Winning The Inner Game

Winning The Inner Game

"Try not. Do... or do not. There is no try. (Using the Force, Yoda effortlessly frees the X-Wing from the bog) Luke: I don't, I don't believe it. Yoda: That is why you fail." ~ Yoda

What we tell ourselves

From the moment you wake up, maybe even before, that little voice goes off in your head...

You do know what I mean, of course. We've all heard at least one voice in there at some point and if you're like me, it's talking all...the...time.

Now that you think about it, if you were to give this voice an outlet, and let it ramble on out loud, you'd be liable to be committed to a mental hospital.

If you have any doubts that this isn't the case, I dare you to give it a shot one day. Go ahead and start talking to yourself out loud the next time you're in a crowded place and see what happens.

And yet, that's not the real problem. Not really.

Because what's really important is what you tell yourself...on a daily basis. Because as you might realize it, sometimes we can get very negative, very dark, very quickly.

And can hurt us in a very BIG way.

What we listen to

Most of us live a hectic life. From the get go, most of us launch forward to meet our day at a hundred miles per second. Our attention is constantly being twisted, pulled from every way possible, and for many there's a feeling of overwhelm looming over our head as the day stretches forward.

And guess what? No matter how big the whirlwind raging out here, your voice still keeps on yapping away without missing a beat. We just don't pay attention to it and manage to ignore it consciously somehow.

If you've ever watched the old Charlie Brown cartoons, you remember how the teacher talked; I can sort of picture that same voice going away without me really registering what it's saying.

And the thing is, my mind is always registering what it's saying. You see, part of your mind never stops listening, it's always, always, always paying attention. And maybe you should ask yourself what happens if some of the things it's saying are just downright vicious.

Do you wonder then, why sometimes we end our day feeling as if our life energy had been sucked clean out of us?

What we experience

Yes, what you tell yourself on a constant basis is what you end up experiencing. In a very real sense, you are creating your own reality with every word and thought repeated over and over again in your head.

Your beliefs are the basis of your reality. And what do you believe will happen if you're telling yourself all day long: "I am a failure. I must be a failure because I feel like if I'm drowning and completely overwhelmed?" Yikes! I agree.

So what can I do? Just stop and start listening to this...

Because my friend, you've been telling yourself a lie. A big hairy, awful, horrible lie.

And it's good that you realize that...it's really OK. Because now you are about to do something about it. Starting with calling yourself out.

You should realize that even highly successful people go through the same trials as we all do. Yep. You're not alone.

Maybe you've heard a professional player say: "I'm my own worst enemy, I usually beat myself." Or the golf player declaring that they "know exactly what they're doing wrong with their swing and that they just can't seem to break the habit."

Or the tennis player that chokes when it seems they've got the win in the bag and when asked states that "every time I get near a match point against a good player, I get so nervous I lose my concentration."

Are you starting to grasp what I'm talking about? Even the best among us struggle at some point. The difference between those that overcome and those that stay stuck is in how they play the inner game.

What's this about an inner game?

Back in the 1970's a gentleman by the name of Timothy Gallwey wrote a book entitled "The Inner Game." Tim Gallwey was a nationally ranked tennis player later turned coach, who proposed a new way for coaching and for developing personal and professional excellence.

In his coaching years, he noticed how players were talking to themselves on the court. He became aware that within each of us were two separate "selves," and each had a particular way of doing things which depending on what relationship these two selves had would either help players improve or remain stuck in a rut.

He witnessed how there was a war going on inside of his student's heads. And more importantly, how as this war raged on, it took a toll on a player's performance. And not in a small way.

He came to notice the seeming existence of at least two selves within each one of us. And as he watched each of his students playing a match or training, he became aware that one self was always giving instructions, reminders of what should be done, offering criticism of what the other self was doing.

He saw how, in fact, how one "talking" self was getting in the way of the "doing" self. And he figured out what to do about it.

Essentially, and this may surprise you, he learned that the solution really came down to relaxing, stopping one self and letting the other self do what it's supposed to do. It wasn't complicated at all, except for that you have to learn how to slow down, stop your inner chatter and access a particular state of mind.

I know what you're thinking: "How do I do this?"

Am I right? To answer, I'm going to use another example from Tim Gallwey's book.

A student of his once assured him that she was no good at tennis, that for as much as she tried, she always managed to hit the ball with the rim of the racket. Never in the center of the racket. She further said that her husband did not like to play doubles with her, because she definitely stunk at tennis.

So, Tim asked her to show him what she was sure to be truth. And, after lobbying a few tennis balls to her (easy...waist high), sure enough she hit 8 out of 10 balls on the rim of the racket. 8 out 10, that's pretty hard to do if you try hard enough.

Once over, Tim, asked her this time to try and focus really hard to hit the ball with the center of the racket. Ah, success. This time, she only hit six balls out of ten with the rim.

Then, she had to try to hit the ball with the racket frame. Lo and behold, she hit only 4 on the rim and, amazingly, 6 with the strings. Just what in heck was going on?

Pay attention because I'm about to reveal what Tim Gallwey did or rather asked his student to do. It's an amazing insight. He asked: "This time I want you to focus your mind on the seams of the ball. Don't think about making contact. In fact, don't try to hit the ball at all. Just let your racket contact the ball where it wants to, and we'll see what happens."

It's hard to say if he recognized the importance of what this insight carried. You see, by asking her to focus just on the seams of the ball, she hit 9 out of 10 smack dab center. How does something like this happen? Almost miraculously, his student had improved her performance to a level that was hardly believable, in but a few minutes.

And what you should remember and learn from this is, that it's the constant "thinking" activity of one self, the "talking" mind, which causes glitches with the natural doing processes of the other "doing" self.

This gives you a way towards reaching peak performance:

If you find yourself feeling suddenly overwhelmed, without a clear sense of direction or just lost - it's not because you stink - it's because you're listening to the conversation in your head when you should be present, in the moment, letting your mind do the heavy lifting for you.

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