Enemies or allies?

It was 3 o’clock in the afternoon when I made the decision to start The Learning Factory Project. I was standing in front of a window, it was a sunny day, and I decided that I would change my life in order to create a project that will be worth being proud of.

Almost immediately, Timothy Gallwey came to my mind.

Gallwey is one of the founding fathers of Coaching. In the seventies, when he was working as a tennis instructor, he revolutionized the field of sports psychology with his Inner Game theory. His model was so effective that quickly spread to other sports, then to the biggest worldwide companies.

Gallwey argues that whenever a tennis player is on the court, he plays at the same time against two opponents. The first one is external and he is over the net. The second one is in the mind of the player. He whispers to the player and says that he is not enough, or that he hit too late the ball. So the player is distracted by these thoughts, and he is not focused on what he is doing now. Generally speaking, the second opponent is all the mental and emotional obstacles that sometimes inhibit excellence in our performance in every field, because we are too busy fighting them.

Furthermore, Gallwey observed a paradox: the more the player tries to correct his mistakes, the more his improvement gets slow.

So, what to do?

The Gallwey strategy to face the inner game is rooted in ancient traditions, but at the same time, it is aligned to the most recent personal development theories, such as for example Mindfulness. It is about training our ability to stay in the present moment awareness: staying in the now and giving up fighting ourselves, or judging our mind when it expresses some emotional needs or some fears. Instead of it, simply focusing on what is happening now.

It could seem vague, but it is not at all.

Such as for example, the coach could help his player with precise questions. He could give up yelling at him “Keep your eyes on the ball!” during the practice, and start asking to his player questions such as “what was the height of the ball when it hit the net?” or “where your racket head is at the moment the ball bounces on your side of the net?”. The player will be consequently forced to focus on the ball to answer, and he will naturally train his observation and presence skill. This will help him to be more focused on the goal too.

It is a structured and specific methodology. As a matter of fact, a lot of big companies have used it to support their managers’ growth. It is the base of some Coaching techniques too.

Gallwey suggests to us that every day we can be our best enemy or our best ally.

They are both two games we play simultaneously. The good news is that we can choose which one we give priority to. And we can help our employees, or our customers, in doing so.

“When a player comes to recognize, for instance, that learning to concentrate may be more valuable to him than a backhand, he shifts from being primarily a player of the outer game to being a player of the Inner Game […] Competition then becomes an interesting device in which each player, by making his maximum effort to win, gives the other the opportunity he desires to reach new levels of self-awareness.” (W. Timothy Gallwey, The Inner Game of Tennis)

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