The Inner Game: Learning Faster by Ignoring Your Inner Critic

Flatiron School / 8 October 2013

The following is a guest post by Raymond Gan and originally appeared on his blog. Raymond is currently in the Ruby-003 class at The Flatiron School. You can follow him on Twitter here.

Watch this tennis/performance expert, Tim Gallwey, teach a 55 year-old lady, 40 lbs overweight, 5’ 2”, who had NEVER EXERCISED in 20 years, how to play ok tennis, in just 20 MINUTES. Incredible!!!


I used to play on my high school tennis team and am blown away by how easy he made it for her! The video shows the power we all have to learn things faster than we imagined, if we ignore our inner critic, stop thinking/trying too hard, and focus on going with the flow. Tennis is a very mental/psychological game, and seeing how Tim taught this 55-year-old woman is such a revelation to me, as a teacher. I must apply these techniques to both myself and my students!

I’ve definitely seen the difference in not thinking too much, when I learn foreign languages, ballroom/salsa dancing, tennis, or get in this joyful “flow state” in computer programming. Removing anxiety is key!

The last two weeks, several students in our Flatiron School talked about how anxious, inadequate, and worried they felt about being able to keep up with the intensity and speed of our program. Perhaps following some of the wisdom from Tim Gallwey’s techniques of controlling our inner psyche can help!

When first published in 1974, the Inner Game ( was a real revelation. Instead of serving up technique, it concentrated on the fact that, as Gallwey wrote, “Every game is composed of two parts, an outer game and an inner game.” The former is played against opponents, and is filled with lots of contradictory advice; the latter is played not against, but within the mind of the player, and its principal obstacles are self-doubt and anxiety. Gallwey’s revolutionary thinking, built on a foundation of Zen thinking and humanistic psychology, was really a primer on how to get out of your own way to let your best game emerge. It was sports psychology before the two words were pressed against each other and codified into an accepted discipline.

As a boy, Tim Gallwey was nationally ranked tennis player in his division and later captained his Harvard University team.

On what was meant to be a sabbatical from a career in college administration, Gallwey worked as a tennis instructor in Monterey, CA. Initially, he focused his efforts on giving traditional instructions with mixed results. He soon discovered that if he simply invited his students to focus their awareness on their strokes as they were, technique evolved naturally and seemed to self correct. Players using Gallwey’s methods improved far more rapidly than usual, and without self-criticism or trying so hard to “do it right.” By quieting self-interference, they were more able to tap into their natural abilities with greater ease.

From this discovery came Gallwey’s first book, “The Inner Game of Tennis,” which has sold over two million copies. Other books in the Inner Game series include applications to Golf, Music, Work and Stress.

In the years after his first book’s release, readers even began to employ the Inner Game methods to their lives off court, and Tim moved into applying The Inner Game methods of change to corporate work. His long term clients included Apple, AT&T, The Coca Cola Company, and Rolls Royce where he applied The Inner Game of coaching for Leadership, Sales, Change management and Teamwork, Gallwey’s work has often been credited as the foundation of the new fields of corporate and life coaching.

Tim’s newest focus lies in using modern communication technology, webcasts, and online tools to make his methodology available globally. His newly released Inner Game eCoach is a tool designed to aid individuals of any age or background in achieving their goals anywhere, anytime and at low cost.

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