Review of: The Inner Game Of Tennis
The Inner Game of Tennis is a book written by author W. Timothy Gallwey back in 1972 and revised and republished in 1997. The book explains that there are two games we all play, an external game, and an inner game. The external game (of tennis in this case) has to do with your technique, your form, or any actual physical movement you have to make. The inner game is what goes on in your mind, and even a little deeper than your mind. The theme of the book is that in order to “succeed” in sports, and in life you must get your inner game in order, or you can use sports and life to “succeed” in your inner game. The concepts presented here don’t only apply to tennis, and don’t only apply to sports for that matter; these concepts apply to life as well.
The book starts off by explaining the difference between the outer game and the inner game, and the self-talk that exists within us. You talk to yourself don’t you? Most of us do, either in the sports world, or in our workplace. Whenever we mess up what do we say? “Dam it! I could of got that! WHAT ARE YOU DOING! What’s wrong with you?!” This talk of course relates to a certain shot, or even to a missed sale at work. Tim asks the question, “Who’s talking to whom?” You might answer by saying, “Well, I’m talking to myself.” So who’s the I and who’s the self? So Tim points out to us that we all have our Self1 and Self2. Self1 is the ego, the self that wants to take credit for doing everything, the self that wants to show off, the self that always wants to be better than anyone else, the list can go on and on. The Self2 is that deeper part of us that’s instinctive, that can do everything we need it to if we just let it. Tim shows you a method for achieving harmony between these two selves and improving your game and your life.
Another important lesson is that of the perils of using judgment. I had already read about using non-judgment as a way for self improvement, whoever, not in the unique way Tim explains it. He says, “It is impossible to judge one event as positive without seeing other events as not positive or as negative.” This was startling to me because we’ve always received the advice of trying to look at the positive side of things. When you judge a situation as good, for example, “Right now I have a super great job!” The next time you’re unemployed you’ll invariably judge your situation as bad. Although positive judgment might be better than negative judgment, it can still have negative effects. The book explains how to stop using judgment and just start seeing things for what they actually are. When you judge something you create more blur in your seeing, you can’t see things for what they truly are, and you miss the limitless opportunities for growth that exist right in front of you. For example if you have a backhand that you have labeled as your weakness, then you’ll be focused on the weakness, on the bad result, and you will fail to notice your actual swing. You’ll be so focused on seeing if the shot is good or not, you’ll fail to see what’s actually causing it to be that way. Once you stop labeling it, it will give you the freedom to actually examine the entire movement, and in life this can translate to everything we do. If we loose our job, our marriage, our mortgage, we take out our proverbial labelers and print out an all caps “BAD” and put it where everyone can see, and we blind ourselves to examine the causes.
This book doesn’t just tell you what the real problem is; it also does provide you with step by step instructions on how to improve your inner game. It also gives very good information on simple techniques you can use to improve your focus. Your concentration and your focus are covered in the last half of the book. Concentration is what Tim calls the ability to quiet Self1, so that Self2 can get to work. If you are able to stop thinking indefinitely, then you no longer need to learn anything else, but as you may know, to stop thinking is very difficult. But that is the key to improve. We are always thinking about what has already passed, for example, a bad shot we hit a few strokes back. Or we especially love to wallow in “imagined futures,” which are simply possibilities that more than likely never happen. When we loose focus then the mental chatter starts. And it takes our focus off the current shot, or in life, it takes the focus off the beauty right in front of us.
I highly recommend this book for anyone in any competitive field such as sports, however, you can use these techniques for your life in general. You can use these techniques in the workplace or even in your inter relationships. Do you judge your friends and family? Do they judge you? What happens when we judge or get judged? Have you ever gotten stuck thinking about past interactions with someone? Have you ever worried about something that might happen but never actually happens? These are the important questions this book addresses.
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