Archive for category Inner Game

Inner Game – 50 years of coaching and inspiring

The Inner Game series of books, launched in the 1970s, are still selling, and still growing. Selling to the Point is I think the most recent. 50 years, and still going strong.

Tim Gallwey recently started training people to be Inner Game workshop facilitators, and has created a number of instructional videos for it that training. He is passing on his wisdom and experience while he still has his marbles, while he still can. And it is an impressive body of knowledge, especially about how to coach people in the art of increasing their self-awareness.

Awareness heals. It also teaches, as Tim discovered one day when he saw a player improving his game by simply watching himself in a mirror. “Damn!” thought Tim. “Now I can’t take the credit for his improvement!”

Self-knowledge, knowledge of the self, is the greatest knowledge, as so many great teachers and sages and saints have said.

“Know thyself” was Socrates’ famous dictum which has withstood the test of time.

“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”

― Sun Tzu, The Art of War

Very old Sanskrit texts refer to “Vijay”, victory over the self.

The Inner Game is in line with those traditions, although not aligned with any one of them, because it aims at coaching or teaching by helping the performer or player to increase his or her own self-awareness – awareness of their physical body (position of feet and arms, straightness of posture, balance or imbalance, angle and height of arm, shoulder, knee, etc) – and awareness of their own inner processes.

Of crucial importance in this process is non-judgemental observation. Observe what your body and your mind are doing, but don’t judge. Just notice. The judgemental inner critic we all have can derail the learning that naturally takes place when the mind is quiet and focused.

I recently came across a video by Anthony Metivier, who is a “memory expert” and in this clip he talks about exactly this negative self-talk. He also talks about activities to focus the mind in order to expand awareness and to keep that negative self-talk at bay – exactly what Inner Game prescribes, too. What an odd coincidence!

This isn’t “just” positive thinking. It’s not just the negative thoughts we need to be aware of, but also the fake positive thoughts, especially those that are born of the ego: “I did that, I did this! How great I am!” As British poet Rudyard Kipling wrote in his famous poem “If”:

"If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
    And treat those two impostors just the same"

The result of this increased awareness cannot be defined as it differs according to the person and the situation, but in Tim’s experience he observed many people’s performance improved as a result. In addition, their enjoyment increased, as well as the efficiency of their learning.

Below is an invitation from Inner Game co-facilitator, Renato Ricci, to the next Inner Game facilitator training, which will take place March 20-21. Check it out:

The Inner Game Train The Trainer program is confirmed, starting next March 20th online.

Tim Gallwey
will present to the group our new The Inner Game Methodology Program.

The main goal of this program is to prepare facilitators to deliver it in different countries and areas.

It will be a great opportunity to connect with The Inner Game method created by Tim, who is recognized as the father of modern coaching.
   I would like to invite you to visit our webpage and see how the program works :

Renato Ricci
Co-founder The Inner Game Institute by Tim Gallwey

Inner Game mini-workshop (4)

Inner Game has been applied to many other areas of performance:

As Tim said in the video “Bounce Hit”, introducing Inner Game,

“Every outer game is different: tennis is different than football, it’s different than making a million dollars in a bank. But what’s the same is our patterns of interference. We take them with us wherever we go. So if you can find techniques and methods for finding the interference, and heightening the focus of attention, then you’ve got something you can use in any outer game you want.”

Tim Gallwey in “The Inner Game of Tennis ‘Bounce hit’”

Selling, teaching, learning are all outer games, and so similar interferences might apply to all of them, making them equally arenas where Inner Game principles and tools might be usefully applied.

Here’s what one person, a former salesman and trainer of sales people, said about selling and the similarities with teaching. What do you think about it?

learning is naturally fun. Being judged by teachers, grades, and tests interferes with the fun. Teachers need to avoid students feeling like their learning is being judged. The teacher needs to learn how their students learn. Students vary in their learning styles and preferences. Some students learn  from visual modalities, other student may be more auditorial or kinesthetic learner. School should adapt to the student’s learning style. Unfortunately, instead students are expected to adapt to the instructor’s teaching style. This is how teaching can interfere with learning just like selling can interfere with buying. Salespeople are taught how to sell at a training that the customer never attends. The salesperson will try to reorient their customer interaction to conform to how things went in the salesperson’s training. This is how selling can interfere with buying. 

(Personal communication 7 Feb 2021)

Here are a couple more videos of Tim Gallwey coaching a beginner in tennis, and a couple of more experienced golf players.

Inner Game mini-workshop (3)

What is “Inner Game”?

Inner Game is a game that takes place in your head and your heart. It’s all the internal obstacles that take place within the person, and your trust in your own potential.

So, it’s overcoming fear, doubt, lapses in concentration, and accessing your potential to perform in any given arena.

Tim Gallwey in “What is the Inner Game?” |YouTube

In Tim Gallwey’s Inner Game, a key concept is interference. This refers particularly to inner interference or self-interference: the “fear, doubt, lapses in concentration”, etc.

“Every outer game is different: tennis is different than football, it’s different than making a million dollars in a bank. But what’s the same is our patterns of interference. We take them with us wherever we go. So if you can find techniques and methods for finding the interference, and heightening the focus of attention, then you’ve got something you can use in any outer game you want.”

Tim Gallwey in “The Inner Game of Tennis ‘Bounce hit'”

An important element in the Inner Game approach, therefore, is to identify simple, interesting and relevant activities that can distract, even if just a little bit, that inner critic and allow our natural ability to learn to come out and play.

In the previous video, Tim introduces the activity of “bounce-hit” to do that: it focuses the attention of the player/learner while at the same time allowing her eyes and ears to notice a good player in action. It’s a non-stressful activity because there is no trying to get it right involved: it’s just an exercise in awareness.

In this video, he introduces another one he calls “trajectory”. As you’re watching, perhaps you could ask yourself what equivalent activity or activities could you usefully use to help you improve your teaching, or to help your students improve their learning, or whatever your outer game happens to be?

Inner Game mini-workshop (2)

Just a quick follow-up to give you a little more information about this Friday’s mini-workshop.

Date: Friday Feb. 26th 14:00-15:00 JST

I hope you had a chance to watch the video I sent in the previous email. In that video (link below), Tim Gallwey tells of how, when he was coaching people in tennis, coaching them the “traditional” way, that is telling them what to do and what not to do, but when he imagined what might be going on inside their head as the ball came at them over the net, he realized they would have all these instructions running through their minds and they would be trying to remember and obey them as well as trying to play tennis. He also knew that tennis players when playing at their best often report that at that time, nothing is going through their minds. Some even report that it felt like it wasn’t really them playing or doing, like it was someone else doing it.

Tim surmised that the instructions might actually be getting in the way rather than helping, especially if the ultimate objective is peak performance, that state which others have called “flow”.

Because the instructions create (or make worse) a critical stance, an assumption that you (the performer, of whatever it is, tennis or dancing or playing an instrument or teaching or selling) are not doing it right, that you don’t know how to do it right and you need to listen to an expert to learn, or to correct how you are doing it. It does not encourage you to trust yourself, and yet trust is one of the key elements in flow or peak performance. How to solve this paradox?

He then got the idea that when you are playing a game, a sport, like tennis, there are actually two games going on: one is the outer game, trying to win, trying to score the goal or get the point, and the other is the inner game, the game going on inside the player, the “self-talk”. Who is talking to whom? What are they saying?

His next step was to look for ways to quieten the critical voice, to distract it. Obviously, these were designed for people playing tennis (in this video, for instance, you’ll hear some of Tim’s suggestions): 

In the mini-workshop, I’ll give a brief introduction to this idea of an inner dialogue and how it might interfere with optimal performance, as well as to a couple of tools that might help minimize its limiting or negative effects. We’ll do a couple of simple exercises to see how the inner dialogue works in practice, in the “performance” of teaching and learning, and consider some ways that might quieten the inner dialogue (our own and that of our students). The rest of the time will be devoted to feedback and sharing from participants, including discussion about whether these ideas and exercises are applicable to our own language teaching and learning, and if so, how might they be applied?

Here’s a 6-minute clip from a TV show in the 1970s where Tim is teaching beginners using his Inner Game approach. He explains the “bounce-hit” exercise and some others in a little more detail than in the first video I linked to above. The picture quality is not of the best but the sound is ok:

Inner Game mini-workshop

(Part 1 of 4)

Last year, I took part in an Inner Game workshop run by Inner Game founder Tim Gallwey, and enjoyed it so much that I immediately signed up for the next one. Only later, once I read the small print, did I realize this was a workshop to train future Inner Game facilitators!

So after the workshop, the next step is for us budding facilitators to facilitate a workshop of our own with a few people who know nothing about Inner Game.

The Inner Game of Teaching and Learning (foreign languages) is my niche, so I reached out to some teachers I know and have set up a mini-workshop for this Friday Feb. 26th, Friday, March 5th 2-3 pm, on Zoom.

If you’re interested, leave a comment (use a current email address you check regularly), and I’ll send you the link.

It’s free.

Here’s a little bit of background:

Have you ever heard of the “Inner Game”? Some of you may have heard of (or read) a classic coaching book titled “The Inner Game of Tennis”, written by Tim Gallwey in the 1970s. Well, after the phenomenal success of that book, Tim was invited to apply his insights in coaching tennis to first other sports and then to corporate and managerial challenges.

In fact, Tim’s book was in the news again recently when Tom Brady won the Super Bowl (see article here: This Is the Book Tom Brady Hails for His Unshakable Mental Toughness | )

I recently took a couple of workshops online with Tim Gallwey, and would like to a) share some of the ideas in it with you and b) invite you share your experiences and observations of teaching English in Japan. My aim is to a) explore the possibility that Inner Game ideas can be of practical value to classroom language teachers, and  b) to collect teachers’ experiences of things that get in the way of optimal teaching and learning English in Japan.

If you are unfamiliar with Tim Gallwey’s Inner Game, this 5-minute video is a good intro: