Do better by not trying too hard
Timothy Gallwey has written a series of books in which he has set
forth a new methodology for coaching and for the development of personal
and professional excellence in a variety of fields, that he calls 'The
Inner Game'. In 1970 he wrote his first book 'The Inner Game of Tennis',
which had one million copies in print.
While publishing many other books, over the past four decades, he's
turned his new insight into principles for meeting challenges in life in
almost any endeavor. Gallwey has helped many thousands of people to stay
on diets, transform dull jobs, give speeches and play musical
It was on a tennis court as the club pro at Harvard University that
Gallwey developed his basic concepts. Seeking to improve his game, he
gradually became aware of a constant commentary going on inside his head
as he played tennis - "Come on, get your racket back earlier. . . . Here
comes another high backhand like the one you missed last time. . . .
Dammit, you missed it again...."
- Google images
"I was surprised to discover there were two identities within me," he
says. "One was playing tennis; the other was telling him how." Gallwey
called these identities Self-1 and Self-2.
Self-1 is verbal and conceptual, capable of understanding the rules
for any game or task. It is also judgmental-fond of deciding what's good
and bad. Self-2 is the complex combination of mind, senses, nerves and
muscles that makes possible the accomplishment of any activity. Although
Self-1 decides whether or not we learn to play tennis or sell a
computer, Self-2 will do the learning and, ultimately, the performing.
The problem in any endeavor is to reach a proper balance between
Self-1 and Self-2.
Gallwey observed that when he was playing his best, there was no
noise in his mind; Self-2 seemed to respond automatically to the
challenge of hitting the ball. Why let these moments happen only
occasionally?"Gallwey wondered,"Why not create them at will?"
He started experimenting with himself and his students on the tennis
He soon concluded that the key to peak performance is to silence
Self-1. All its instructions, and its doubts, fears and criticisms, only
confuse Self-2.Of course, turning off Self-1 is not easy task but it
could be done.
From Gallwey's books and talks, I've culled five basic rules:
1.Keep your eye on the ball
How to do this? Gallwey believes that concentration is not a matter
of the will but "a fascination of the mind." In tennis, for example, he
advises that you "learn to 'love' the ball," that you stop ordering
yourself to watch it and simply let your eyes see it-its texture, its
seams, its shape, its trajectory.
In a situation where there is no rea1 ball, the first problem is
deciding what 'the ball' should be. In selling, for example, the
salesman may think that he's the ball, and concentrate on his own
appearance and personality. Or he'll think that the ball is the product,
and dwell on its wonders.
Actually Gallwey contends, in selling, the ball is the buyer. "Watch
the buyer as you would a tennis ball-the 'seams' are things like a yawn,
a shift of the eyes, a change in the voice. Even if you don't make the
sale, you'll learn from the buyer's signs of resistance where your pitch
Self-1, inside us, is highly critical. Often it gives up completely
on Self-2.How do we learn to trust Self 2? By practice! "Let go and let
it happen," Gallwey advises. Suspend Self l's judgment as to whether the
particular challenge-the tennis stroke, investment on new house,
decision to change your job-is being done right or wrong. On the tennis
court, for example, Gallwey had students hit balls toward a can without
caring whether they reached the mark; they were asked only to first
visualize the ball hitting the can, and then to observe where it
actually did land. As ball after ball was hit, Self-2 made corrections
with-and then to observe where it actually did land. As ball after ball
was hit, Self-2 made corrections without conscious thought, and theballs
came closer and closer to thecan.
3.Focus on here and now
Self-1 won't be at peace unless it does something useful-and that can
be observing and monitoring the performance of Self-2. Concentrate on
what is happening rather than on what you fear or hope will happen.
When you decide to change your job, be aware that you have done all
background checks on the new employer. Awareness should include an
objective assessment of everything in the situation you face. When your
attention is on the here and now, the actions that need doing have the
best chance of being accomplished.
4. Don't worry about winning
Gallwey is convinced that worrying is the most insidious trick Self-1
plays on Self-2. It tightens muscles and tenses nerves, the most common
causes of error.
Self-2, According to Gallwey, will do its best only when Self-1 stops
giving impossible commands.
If you stop consciously trying, Self-2 will live up to its potential,
which isthe total of its natural equipment plus what it has learned in
Gallwey has discovered that the less we worry about end results the
better they're likely to be.
5. Don't question your potential
Self-doubt is almost invariably self-fulfilling. The golfer who
always thinks as he steps onto the green, I always miss four-foot putts,
will always do so.
Self-doubt can be banished only if you silence Self-1 and concentrate
on the present
Whether the theory of Gallwey is true or not, the evidence is strong
that playing a good Inner
Game can at least face the challenges in life more smoothly and
improve the performance of any specific task. If, that is, we just don't
try too hard.