The (W)inner Game

This article was written and submitted to me by Björn Galjaardt. The article has application to coaching regardless of the sport that you coach.

With a flirt to water polo…

Who didn’t hear about Vince Lombardi’s quote; ‘Winning is not everything, but the will to win is’?

Months or years of effort to achieve a certain goal, fueled by a driving will. But how do we create a will to win (process), rather than the focus on the outcome of winning itself (product)?

In 1974 Tim Callwey wrote about certain principles in which an individual uses non-judgmental observations of critical variables, with the purpose of being accurate about these observations. If the observations are accurate, the person’s body will adjust and correct automatically to achieve best performance(1). Below I summarised these principles of the ‘inner game’ and provided some thoughts.

Correcting automatically to achieve best performance.

Triggering and shifting a thinking process in relation to process and product and having a deeper understanding in, what I think should be called, the (w)inner game.

  • Self 1+2. Listen to your subconscious mind. Everyday actions are imbedded in our subconscious mind. Our conscious mind will tell us what to do and how to do it (eg. look at the ball, bend your elbow). Often we only listen to our conscious mind. However, in our subconscious mind we already know what we are doing and we doing it perfectly fine (eg. thinking, walking). By trying to listen to our subconscious mind (self 2), we can actually lead our conscious mind (self 1) and let it eventually take over.
  • Quiet. Be quiet and observe. Instead of focussing on the result of the action, look at the action and process that action. That is where the bus stops. Not thinking about the how to react, will refocus the mind on what is actually happening. Be non-judgmental, only note what happens. Sport example; the ball bounces. Focus on how it bounce, what speed, where, etc. Don’t anticipate, no further actions required.
  • Act the part. Ask for qualities. How would it look like when a certain action is perfectly executed? What are the motions and emotions? Express it and literally perform that. Repeat until you can match the quality. Business example: the body language, the smile and posture for the connection with audience when presenting.
  • Challenges. Embrace challenges. Be excited. A challenge is an opportunity to show your skills or qualities. A challenge is where you could meet your flow. Flow is where challenge meet skills. Adapt and adjust qualities till you acquire the skill needed for the challenge. Break challenges down and build up qualities to reach a balanced level.
  • Don’t fight. Improve what you are good at. Don’t fight bad habits, work with them. Convert thinking into a challenge. Example: I am going to create a new technique. I am going to be excited to learn it. How can I make it work (better for me) to perform. Note the difference; I am not good at this or I will give it a go.

Currently ‘positive coaching’ and ‘leader vs boss’ are hot topics. Observe the principles above. There is a correlation between process and product and how it changed managers, leaders and coaches. Focus on the do’s, matching skills with challenge and adjusting these accordingly. This is relevant in Sport and Business, although the principles aim to improve body movement, it has the same result. The mental and physical outcome are changing positively to achieve best performance.

Focus on the do’s, matching skills with challenge and adjust these accordingly.

The principles so far have described the (w)inner game, however what is the difference between (w)inner game and outer game? Basically: the outer game are all the external factors that could shift the focus from the (w)inner game. Perhaps I brand it the (w)outer game, way outer game, since performances decline when you allow to let outer game influences come closer to your conscious and subconscious mind. Sport examples; the score, opponent, the exclusion earned and the venue (in Rio 2016, the colour of the water). Business examples; deadlines, competitors, market changes, and IT-support. Below a comparison of where inner game and outer game could fit. Included is a mixed array of desired attitude and mindset examples.

Finally, compiling the information, the main question can be answered. How can we create a stronger will to win? The direct answer will be: by applying the principles above. Performance can be enhanced by growing potential and minimising interference(2). There need to be a focus on improving the individuals process and centralise the journey to the goal. Fueling the importance of the will to win. An olympian once said; “Climbing a hill can be much more excited than reaching the top. The journey of becoming an olympian was more challenging than becoming an olympic champion”.

Using the principles above as a guideline I draw the following conclusion. The goal, winning, works as a milestone (by-product). The journey, will to win, works as a vehicle (main-product within the process). Focus on what is happening, perfecting this and make it a habit of the subconscious mind. Base actions on facts and be excited for challenges. Don’t waste your time fighting bad habits and outer game influences.

#innergame #winnergame #will #win #winning #goal #process #product

(1) Gallwey, W. Timothy (2000). The Inner Game of Work New York: Random House. p. 27.

(2) Gallwey, W. Timothy (1974). The Inner Game of Tennis (1st ed.). New York: Random House.

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