Tennis should be a joy, it should be in the heart.
Björn Borg, one of the most successful modern tennis players
The concept of the Inner Game was developed by Tim Gallwey as a way of helping people to achieve excellence in various sports, e.g. tennis, golf and skiing, and also in music. More recently he has extended his ideas into business and management training, and they are clearly also highly relevant in all learning situations. The concept is quite simple. If we consider tennis, for example, people trying to develop their skills in tennis can spend considerable time concentrating on their 'Outer Game', e.g. how to stand, how to hold the racket, how to serve, etc. All this effort can cause considerable anxiety and tension for the player, and as a result performance suffers. By contrast, Gallwey proposes that the secret of success lies in one's Inner Game, i.e. one's whole mental approach, and that by progressively refining this, one's game will be transformed. His approach therefore rests on the close interconnectedness of mind and body.
Key Elements of the Inner Game
If you wish to win your 'Inner Game' Gallwey recommends that you should:
- develop the art of relaxed concentration
- not try too hard
The basic theory is that our bodies can naturally achieve excellence in many things, but that when we move into 'trying mode' we interfere with this natural ability, and performance suffers. Instead, Gallwey recommends that we become very relaxed, let go and move into 'awareness mode', in which we can visualise our performance. And so instead of having a busy mind - worrying, calculating, controlling - we achieve a quiet mind - focused, aware and centred. Such a state of mind is vital when learning to juggle, and it has much in common with that of a Zen Buddhist in meditation and with the R-mode (right brain) consciousness which Betty Edwards recommends that people should adopt when drawing. This kind of mind state is also referred to as 'getting in the zone'.
Some other indicators of a mind in 'awareness mode' are as follows:
- A feeling of confidence and the absence of anxiety and self-doubt
- No obsession with success and no fear of failure
- An absence of competitiveness, the focus being on playing beautifully and excellently
- One's peak performance comes without effort and when not thinking about it
For further information about Inner Game ideas see:
- The Inner Game of Music (Barry Green)
The Inner Game of Tennis by Timothy Gallwey
The Inner Game of Work by Timothy Gallwey