Your inner game

“There is always an Inner Game being played in your mind no matter what outer game you are playing. How aware you are of this game can make the difference between success and failure.”

Tim Gallwey, Creator of The Inner Game

Tim Gallwey’s Inner Game series continues to set the benchmark for performance coaching in the sporting and business arenas. The simplicity of the Inner Game concept is something that all people can relate to and work with, for their own personal circumstances and challenges.

The Inner Game is founded upon the premise that all our endeavours take place internally within the realms of mind and externally in the obstacles and goals we are faced with.

Gallwey first founded the Inner Game concept when working as a tennis coach and discovered that his task was not to teach students but allow them to unlock their own potential, a fundamental difference. He found that his instructional commands were only adding to the ‘inner’ dialogue of the student and thereby increasing the interference to performance and taking athletes further away from states of flow and optimal performance.

The Inner Game equation:

Performance = Potential – Interference

Gallwey separated the inner into Self 1 (the conscious mind) and Self 2 (the subconscious mind). The realisation is that Self 2 is infinitely more powerful and able to support performance when Self 1 does not obstruct with fear, self-doubt, lapses in focus and limiting concepts and assumptions.

The analogy often used for the conscious and subconscious (also depicted by Freud) is the iceberg showing the huge potential we can tap into in the right mind state.

The core principle for any inner game is to remain confident, focused and relaxed and by doing so we give ourselves the ability to achieve peak performance on a consistent basis.

This inner game, unsurprisingly, affects the outer and how we mange our mental approach has direct correlation in how we present to the world.

How do we manage the inner game?

The first stage in managing our inner game is awareness. More specifically, increasing non-judgmental awareness of what is i.e. what is actually taking place?

This stage allows us to move from irrational thinking (supported by negative self talk, trying too hard, perfectionism etc.) to a rational mind.

We need to take the conscious mind to a place where it is not going to inhibit performance by creating tension. This does take practice and application (we won’t get fit at the gym unless we actually work out!!).

In essence there are two options available to us:

  1. To be taken by the stream of thoughts and pre-occupations
  2. To ‘park’ the conscious mind by focusing on detail (in effect being Mindful).

To give examples of this used in the world of sports psychology, the tennis player may be told to observe which way the ball is spinning as it approaches them, again to take the conscious mind away from distraction and self defeating thoughts.

We will have all seen Tennis players go through set routines between points (Rafa Nadal bouncing the ball a set number of times and setting his shorts straight!)

In another sporting arena, Johnny Wilkinson would carry out a set kicking routine, noticing the feel of the rugby ball, picking a point in the stand to aim at, visioning the flight of the ball etc. prior to conversion.

As noted earlier, despite these being examples from our sporting hero’s these principles are equally applicable to our everyday home and work lives.

The outer game of results we achieve in life are the physical manifestation of how we perform and relate to others……….the inner game, our mental strength, is however the most important facet in our personal success.

For more information on 3rg Leadership, Coaching, Performance and Mental Resilience programmes contact us at

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