Win the inner game to win the outer game

I spent 10 days with my 15 month old grandson. Watching him going through the constant process of learning and doing things reminded me of the book, the Inner Game of Tennis by Timothy Gallwey.

Gallwey’s breakthrough approach was on how to teach someone anything by understanding the inner battle between your conscious and subconscious mind.


Number 1: Performance comes from quieting your conscious mind.

Our conscious mind is always judging situations. Let go of judgment. Negative thoughts about failing can send you into a downward spiral.

What does it take to win? Gallwey advices to listen to your instincts and overcome the conscious self-doubt. When you win the inner game, you win at the outer game.

My grandson wasn’t burdened by the pressure of doing something right or wrong. He just kept doing it until he got what he wanted.

You can quiet the judgmental conscious mind by focusing it through methodical practice. Don’t fight it, guide it. For example, in tennis, instead of worrying about getting your footwork correct or winning the point, it’s about focusing your mind on the ball (how it’s spinning).


Number 2: Trust your unconscious mind. Let things happen rather than making things happen.

The best way to learn is through experience. Natural learning.

My grandson was watching me put together a train track. He would mimick my actions and try and try until he got the train track connected. He would then clap his hands, in accomplishment.

Psychologists call this implicit learning. Observing others do something and then trying it yourself.


Number 3: Let go of the need to control everything. Instead focus on the here and now.

In the ESPN series, The Last Dance about Michael Jordan’s last championship, a commenter said, “His gift (Michael Jordan’s) was he was completely present. And that was the separator.” He didn’t let his conscious mind worry about missing the shot. Nor would he be thinking about the next shot he would have to make.

It was all about being in the moment now. Being present.


You want to win the inner game, go play with your kids or grandkids and learn from the Masters of learning.

Take action, make a difference.