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The Inner Game

Posted By: KP
Date: Thursday, 24 January 2008, at 6:46 a.m.

The Inner Game is the one we play in our heads.

My brother and I recently compared our experiences growing up. There are four siblings; three bothers and a sister. The three brothers shared a room. We had the same father and mother. Our parents were married until my dad died suddenly at age 49. At that time, we were 23, 21, 20 (me) and 16. All of us are married with children. We are all very close. How different could our experiences have been, right? My brother recalls family dynamic slightly differently than I do. He remembers subtle perceived preferences, advantages and opinion in ways that fit ‘his story’. I have my own story, as do my sis and other brother. We each have our own remembrances; each unique. If we asked my mom which one of us she loved most she would laugh at us like we were little kids who never grew up and answer something like “whichever one needed me most at that moment”.

While most of us consider ourselves free of prejudice and relatively open minded, it appears we are influenced by our individual view of the family and our efforts to be part of the unit. The truth, as we see it, affects the way we interact with people, events and even ourselves. My view of myself limits or supports my ability to act. It alters what I see and don’t see; what I question or fail to notice; what I am willing to risk in an effort to achieve, or what I settle for because “that’s out of my reach”. When I am made aware of my bias toward myself, I am given freedom of choice. Considering the laws of quantum physics that tell us much of who we are is what we choose to be, removing bias means that even our normal daily activities can result in a new paradigm when “who we are” is free.

So this begs the question, what’s your story? If four siblings from a well adjusted, loving family give four different views of the same or similar events, the stories must be shaded by the teller of the tale. What are you telling yourself? It can be difficult to separate your story from what is real. This applies to relationships and to careers. Is the deck stacked against you? Is life unfair? Is the deck stacked in your favor? Do you have an over-inflated opinion of yourself? Do you think you’re better than you really are? All may be limiting in the pursuit of achievement.

In sport, is there a little voice that is telling you ‘I am not good enough, not fast enough, not smart enough or not tough enough’? Some people do have legitimate complaints or handicaps, but continually using hardships as an excuse can become a limiting behavior.

In the book “The Inner Game of Tennis” W. Timothy Gallwey draws the distinction between fulfilling the ultimate human possibility and a simple way to develop certain inner skills that can be used to improve any outer game of your choice. It’s about learning to get out of your own way so that you can learn and perform closer to your potential. There is an internal conversation going on within all of us. He calls the talker, critic controlling voice Self 1 and the self that has to hit the ball (or run, bike, swim, work, socialize, romance) Self 2. Turns out, the less we hear from Self 1 the better Self 2 performs. The more we trust in Self 2 potential the better we execute and the quieter Self 1 conversation is. This “Inner Game” will never change as long as human beings are vulnerable to fears, doubts and distractions of the mind.

Individuals find meaning and derive pleasure from varied activities. Building successful businesses, building successful families, maintaining healthy bodies and being of service to others, come to mind. In the forward to the book Gallwey pulls this quote:

What is the real game?
It is a game in which the heart is entertained
The game in which you are entertained
It is the game you will win

Of course winning isn’t everything. The oldest and best known surviving morality play is from circa 1485.
Recalling the message from the play ==>

"Man can take with him from this world ...
nothing that he has received, only what he has given".

Everyman -- 15th Century

“In the play, the main character, Everyman, is stripped, one by one, of those apparent goods on which he has relied. First, he is deserted by his patently false friends: his casual companions, his kinsmen, and his wealth. Receiving some comfort from his enfeebled good deeds, he falls back on them and on his other resources -- his strength, his beauty, his intelligence, and his knowledge -- qualities which, when properly used help to make an integrated man. These assist him through the crisis in which he must make up his book of accounts, but in the end, when he must go to the grave, all desert him save his good deeds alone. The play makes it's effectively grim point that man can take with him from this world nothing that he has received, only what he has given.”

The Norton Anthology of English Literature

coach KP

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