W. Timothy Gallwey shows us how to play ‘out of our mind’ and through our body

The other day a client was coming to terms with her communication behavior when she’s in competitive situations with colleagues, which leaves her vulnerable to underhanded office politics and gets in the way of her doing her job successfully.

Though a great team player, when she’s in one-to-one interactions, “competitive” becomes a dirty word—“mean, aggressive, makes the other person lose.” While using her tennis game as a metaphor, she had an “aha” moment that’s helping her turn things around.

Afterward I was reminded of one of my favorite videos from my early coach training days, of W. Timothy Gallwey teaching a woman how to play tennis in under 30 minutes. His book, The Inner Game of Tennis: The Classic Guide to the Mental State of Peak Performance, became a phenomenon when it was first published in 1974.

In it he describes two selves. Self-1 is the ego-mind or teller (hit the ball like this) and Self-2 is natural ability or the doer (the actual movement of the muscles to hit the ball). He explains that to achieve peak performance, one must quiet the mind (Self 1), whose main obstacles to winning are self-doubt and anxiety, and let Self 2 do what it knows how to do.

In this video, he shows us so beautifully and visually how this works.

It was a revolutionary primer back then on how paying attention to your mental state helps you get out of your own way and lets your best game emerge, not just when playing tennis, but in terms of living your whole life.

And we would add, in terms of becoming a great leader.

Whatever’s going on in our mind shows up in our body, which in turn sends a message to the world around us. And when our internal state is right, the right body language pours forth effortlessly. So learning how to manage our internal state helps build the foundation for the leadership skills that matter most.