The Inner Game of Tennis: The Classic Guide to the Mental Side of Peak Performance by Tom Gallwey

Summary
  1. “It is the thesis of this book that neither mastery nor satisfaction can be found in the playing of any game without giving some attention to the relatively neglected skills of the inner game. This is the game that takes place in the mind of the player, and it is played against such obstacles as lapses in concentration, nervousness, self-doubt and self-condemnation. In short, it is played to overcome all habits of mind which inhibit excellence in performance.”
Key Takeaways
  1. Victories in the inner game may provide no additions to the trophy case, but they bring valuable rewards which are more permanent and which can contribute significantly to one’s success, off the court as well as on.
  2. The player of the inner game comes to value the art of relaxed concentration above all other skills; he discovers a true basis for self-confidence; and he learns that the secret to winning any game lies in not trying too hard.
  3. the player of the inner game uncovers a will to win which unlocks all his energy and which is never discouraged by losing.
  4. All that is needed is to unlearn those habits which interfere with it and then to just let it happen.
  5. I was beginning to learn what all good pros and students of tennis must learn: that images are better than words, showing better than telling, too much instruction worse than none, and that trying often produces negative results.
  6. Athletes in most sports use similar phrases, and the best of them know that their peak performance never comes when they’re thinking about it.
  7. Perhaps a better way to describe the player who is “unconscious” is by saying that his mind is so concentrated, so focused, that it is still. It becomes one with what the body is doing, and the unconscious or automatic functions are working without interference from thoughts. The concentrated mind has no room for thinking how well the body is doing, much less of the how-to’s of the doing. When a player is in this state, there is little to interfere with the full expression of his potential to perform, learn and enjoy.
  8. The development of inner skills is required, but it is interesting to note that if, while learning tennis, you begin to learn how to focus your attention and how to trust in yourself, you have learned something far more valuable than how to hit a forceful backhand. The backhand can be used to advantage only on a tennis court, but the skill of mastering the art of effortless concentration is invaluable in whatever you set your mind to.
  9. Now we are ready for the first major postulate of the Inner Game: within each player the kind of relationship that exists between Self 1 and Self 2 is the prime factor in determining one’s ability to translate his knowledge of technique into effective action. In other words, the key to better tennis—or better anything—lies in improving the relationship between the conscious teller, Self 1, and the natural capabilities of Self 2.
  10. This is the nub of the problem: Self 1 does not trust Self 2, even though it embodies all the potential you have developed up to that moment and is far more competent to control the muscle system than Self 1.
  11. Getting it together mentally in tennis involves the learning of several internal skills: 1) learning how to get the clearest possible picture of your desired outcomes; 2) learning how to trust Self 2 to perform at its best and learn from both successes and failures; and 3) learning to see “nonjudgmentally”—that is, to see what is happening rather than merely noticing how well or how badly it is happening
  12. This overcomes “trying too hard.” All these skills are subsidiary to the master skill, without which nothing of value is ever achieved: the art of relaxed concentration.
  13. IT IS THE CONSTANT “THINKING” activity of Self 1, the ego-mind, which causes interference with the natural capabilities of Self 2.
  14. So it is with the greatest efforts in sports; they come when the mind is as still as a glass lake. Such moments have been called “peak experiences” by the humanistic psychologist Dr. Abraham Maslow. Researching the common characteristics of persons having such experiences, he reports the following descriptive phrases: “He feels more integrated” [the two selves are one], “feels at one with the experience,” “is relatively egoless” [quiet mind], “feels at the peak of his powers,” “fully functioning,” “is in the groove,” “effortless,” “free of blocks, inhibitions, cautions, fears, doubts, controls, reservations, self-criticisms, brakes,” “he is spontaneous and more creative,” “is most here-now,” “is non-striving, non-needing, non-wishing … he just is.”
  15. When this happens on the tennis court, we are focused without trying to concentrate. We feel spontaneous and alert. We have an inner assurance that we can do what needs to be done, without having to “try hard.” We simply know the action will come, and when it does, we don’t feel like taking credit; rather, we feel fortunate, “graced.” As Suzuki says, we become “childlike.”
  16. In short, “getting it together” requires slowing the mind. Quieting the mind means less thinking, calculating, judging, worrying, fearing, hoping, trying, regretting, controlling, jittering or distracting. The mind is still when it is totally here and now in perfect oneness with the action and the actor. It is the purpose of the Inner Game to increase the frequency and the duration of these moments, quieting the mind by degrees and realizing thereby a continual expansion of our capacity to learn and perform.
  17. The first skill to learn is the art of letting go the human inclination to judge ourselves and our performance as either good or bad.
  18. First the mind judges the event, then groups events, then identifies with the combined event and finally judges itself.
  19. As a result, what usually happens is that these self-judgments become self-fulfilling prophecies
  20. Be clear about this: letting go of judgments does not mean ignoring errors. It simply means seeing events as they are and not adding anything to them.
  21. judgmental labels usually lead to emotional reactions and then to tightness, trying too hard, self-condemnation, etc. This process can be slowed by using descriptive but nonjudgmental words to describe the events you see.
  22. The rose is a rose from the time it is a seed to the time it dies. Within it, at all times, it contains its whole potential. It seems to be constantly in the process of change; yet at each state, at each moment, it is perfectly all right as it is.
  23. no one is ever surprised at seeing something they already know.
  24. When the mind is free of any thought or judgment, it is still and acts like a mirror. Then and only then can we know things as they are.
  25. What I have tried to illustrate is that there is a natural learning process which operates within everyone—if it is allowed to. This process is waiting to be discovered by all those who do not know of its existence. There is no need to take my word for it; it can be discovered for yourself if it hasn’t been already. If it has been experienced, trust it. (This is the subject of chapter 4.) To discover this natural learning process, it is necessary to let go of the old process of correcting faults; that is, it is necessary to let go of judgment and see what happens. Will your strokes develop under the effect of noncritical attention or won’t they? Test this.
  26. “My compliments are criticisms in disguise. I use both to manipulate behavior.”
  27. By ending judgment, you do not avoid seeing what is. Ending judgment means you neither add nor subtract from the facts before your eyes. Things appear as they are—undistorted. In this way, the mind becomes more calm.
  28. THE FIRST INNER SKILL to be developed in the Inner Game is that of nonjudgmental awareness. When we “unlearn” judgment we discover, usually with some surprise, that we don’t need the motivation of a reformer to change our “bad” habits. We may simply need to be more aware. There is a more natural process of learning and performing waiting to be discovered. It is waiting to show what it can do when allowed to operate without interference from the conscious strivings of the judgmental self.
  29. Letting it happen is not making it happen. It is not trying hard. It is not controlling your shots. These are all the actions of Self 1, which takes things into its own hands because it mistrusts Self 2.
  30. Remember that you are not your tennis game. You are not your body. Trust the body to learn and to play, as you would trust another person to do a job, and in a short time it will perform beyond your expectations. Let the flower grow.
  31. To Self 2, a picture is worth a thousand words. It learns by watching the actions of others, as well as by performing actions itself.
  32. The other possibility is to learn to look up to Self 2. This is the attitude of respect based on true recognition of its natural intelligence and capabilities. Another word for this attitude is humility, a feeling that happens naturally in the presence of something or someone you admire. As you find your way to an attitude that slopes upward toward Self 2 with respect, the feelings and thoughts that accompany the controlling and critical attitude fade and the sincerity of Self 2 emerges. With an attitude of respect, you learn to speak in the language of the respected person.
  33. What is the native language of Self 2? Certainly not words! Words were not learned by Self 2 until several years after birth. No, the native tongue of Self 2 is imagery: sensory images. Movements are learned through visual and feeling images.
  34. It is often helpful for these players to shift their attention from means to ends.
  35. Getting the clearest possible image of your desired outcomes is a most useful method for communicating with Self 2, especially when playing a match.
  36. Self 1’ s only role is to be still and observe the results in a detached manner.
  37. “Asking for qualities” describes this other kind of role-playing.
  38. When a player succeeds in forgetting himself and really acts out his assumed role, remarkable changes in his game often take place;
  39. Besides being a lot of fun, this kind of role-playing can greatly increase a player’s range. The defensive player learns that he can hit winners; the aggressive one finds that he can also be stylish. I have found that when players break their habitual patterns, they can greatly extend the limits of their own style and explore subdued aspects of their personality.
  40. Letting go of judgments, the art of creating images and “letting it happen” are three of the basic skills involved in the Inner Game.
  41. To me it makes sense to build any system of instruction upon the best possible understanding of natural learning, the learning process you were born with. The less instruction interferes with the process of learning built into your very DNA, the more effective your progress is going to be. Said another way, the less fear and doubt are embedded in the instructional process, the easier it will be to take the natural steps of learning. One way to gain insight and trust in natural learning is to observe young children learning before they have been taught, or to observe animals in the act of teaching their young.
  42. I believe that it is most important to recognize that, fundamentally, experience precedes technical knowledge.
  43. In a society that has become so oriented toward language as a way of representing truth, it is very possible to lose touch with your ability to feel and with it your ability to “remember” the shots themselves. I believe this remembering is a fundamental act of trust in Self 2 without which excellence in any skill cannot be sustained.
  44. In short, if we let ourselves lose touch with our ability to feel our actions, by relying too heavily on instructions, we can seriously compromise our access to our natural learning processes and our potential to perform. Instead, if we hit the ball relying on the instincts of Self 2, we reinforce the simplest neural pathway to the optimal shot.
  45. Bottom line: there is no substitute for learning from experience.
  46. “No teacher is greater than one’s own experience.”
  47. So the question that remains is how one person’s greater level of experience can help another person. The short answer is that a valid instruction derived from experience can help me if it guides me to my own experiential discovery of any given stroke possibility.
  48. Natural learning is and always will be from the inside out, not vice versa. You are the learner and it is your individual, internal learning process that ultimately governs your learning.
  49. My model is always being destroyed and rebuilt as I learn more and more. My technique is always evolving.”
  50. When one learns how to change a habit, it is a relatively simple matter to learn which ones to change. Once you learn how to learn, you have only to discover what is worth learning.
  51. It is much more difficult to break a habit when there is no adequate replacement for it
  52. It is as if the nervous system were like a record disk. Every time an action is performed, a slight impression is made in the microscopic cells of the brain, just as a leaf blowing over a fine-grained beach of sand will leave its faint trace. When the same action is repeated, the groove is made slightly deeper. After many similar actions there is a more recognizable groove into which the needle of behavior seems to fall automatically. Then the behavior can be termed grooved.
  53. But there is a natural and more childlike method. A child doesn’t dig his way out of his old grooves; he simply starts new ones! The groove may be there, but you’re not in it unless you put yourself there. If you think you are controlled by a bad habit, then you will feel you have to try to break it. A child doesn’t have to break the habit of crawling, because he doesn’t think he has a habit. He simply leaves it as he finds walking an easier way to get around
  54. Habits are statements about the past, and the past is gone. There may be a deep groove in the nervous system which will take your forehand on the roll-over trip if you choose to step into that trench; on the other hand, your muscles are as capable as they ever were of swinging your racket through flat
  55. In short, there is no need to fight old habits. Start new ones. It is the resisting of an old habit that puts you in that trench. Starting a new pattern is easy when done with childlike disregard for imagined difficulties. You can prove this to yourself by your own experience.
  56. Awareness of what is, without judgment, is relaxing, and is the best precondition for change.
  57. Both positive and negative thinking inhibit spontaneity
  58. Watch it change; don’t do the changing
  59. The process is an incredibly simple one. The important thing is to experience it. Don’t intellectualize it. See what it feels like to ask yourself to do something and let it happen without any conscious trying. For most people it is a surprising experience, and the results speak for themselves.
  60. This method of learning can be practiced in most endeavors on or off the court. The more you let yourself perform free of control on the tennis court, the more confidence you tend to gain in the beautiful mechanism that is the human body. The more you trust it, the more capable it seems to become.
  61. When you try hard to hit the ball correctly, and it goes well, you get a certain kind of ego satisfaction. You feel that you are in control, that you are master of the situation. But when you simply allow the serve to serve itself, it doesn’t seem as if you deserve the credit. It doesn’t feel as if it were you who hit the ball. You tend to feel good about the ability of your body, and possibly even amazed by the results, but the credit and sense of personal accomplishment are replaced by another kind of satisfaction. If a person is out on the court mainly to satisfy the desires and doubts of ego, it is likely that in spite of the lesser results, he will choose to let Self 1 play the major role.
  62. Relaxation happens only when allowed, not as a result of “trying” or “making.”
  63. Fighting the mind does not work. What works best is learning to focus it
  64. As one achieves focus, the mind quiets. As the mind is kept in the present, it becomes calm. Focus means keeping the mind now and here. Relaxed concentration is the supreme art because no art can be achieved without it, while with it, much can be achieved. One cannot reach the limit of one’s potential in tennis or any endeavor without learning it; what is even more compelling is that tennis can be a marvelous medium through which skill in focus of mind can be developed. By learning to focus while playing tennis, one develops a skill that can heighten performance in every other aspect of life
  65. I have found that the most effective way to deepen concentration through sight is to focus on something subtle, not easily perceived. It’s easy to see the ball, but not so easy to notice the exact pattern made by its seams as it spins.
  66. Not assuming you already know is a powerful principle of focus
  67. The instructions I gave students were very simple. “Say the word bounce out loud the instant you see the ball hit the court and the word hit the instant the ball makes contact with the racket—either racket.” Saying the words out loud gave both me and the student the chance to hear whether the words were simultaneous with the events of bounce and hit.
  68. It is this rhythm, both seen and heard, which holds fascination for my mind and enables it to focus for longer periods of time without becoming distracted.
  69. Natural focus occurs when the mind is interested.
  70. It rarely occurs to a player to listen to the ball, but I have found great value in this focus.
  71. Few players understand the importance of concentrating attention on the feel of the racket as they are holding it. There are two things that a player must know on every shot: where the ball is and where his racket is.
  72. It would be useful for all tennis players to undergo some “sensitivity training” with their bodies. The easiest way to get such training is simply to focus your attention on your body during practice. Ideally, someone should throw balls to you, or hit them so that they bounce in approximately the same spot each time. Then, paying relatively little attention to the ball, you can experience what it feels like to hit balls the way you hit them.
  73. Rhythm can never be achieved by being overly purposeful about it; you have to let it happen. But sensitivity to rhythm developed through concentration helps. Those who have practiced concentrating on the feel
  74. Though focus of attention helps your tennis, it is equally true that playing tennis can help your focus of attention.
  75. Attention is focused consciousness, and consciousness is that power of knowing.
  76. But it is also necessary to learn to focus awareness in the now. This simply means tuning in to what is happening in the present. The greatest lapses in concentration come when we allow our minds to project what is about to happen or to dwell on what has already happened.
  77. the conscious energy you need to perform at your peak in the now has been leaking into an imagined future.
  78. All who enter even a little into that state of being present will experience a calmness and a degree of ecstasy which they will want to repeat.
  79. Alertness is a measure of how many nows you are alert to in a given period. The result is simple: you become more aware of what is going on as you learn to keep your attention in the now.
  80. In a match it is usually best to pick one focus—whatever works best for you—and stick with it.
  81. The critical time is between points! After the last shot of a rally, the mind leaves its focus on the ball and is free to wander. It is at this moment that thoughts about the score, your erratic backhand, business, the children, dinner and so forth tend to siphon your energy away from the here and now. Then it is difficult to regain the same level of concentration before the next point begins.
  82. How to stay concentrated in the here and now between points? My own device, and one that has been effective for many of my students, is to focus attention on breathing. Some object or activity which is always present is needed
  83. when we focus on breathing we are putting our attention on something closely connected to the life energy of the body. Also, breathing is a very basic rhythm.
  84. But when your attention is on the here and now, the actions which need to be done in the present have their best chance of being successfully accomplished, and as a result the future will become the best possible present
  85. One caution about “the zone”: it cannot be controlled by Self 1. I have seen many articles that claim to provide a technique for “playing in the zone every time.” Forget it! This is a setup. It’s an age-old trap. Self 1 likes the idea of playing in the zone, especially the results that usually occur. So Self 1 will try to grasp onto almost anything that promises to take you to what everyone agrees is a wonderful place. But there is one catch; the only way to get there is to leave Self 1 behind. So as long as you let Self 1 be the one that takes you there, it will be there too and you will not be able to go into the zone. If you do, even for a moment, Self 1 will say, “Good, I got there,” and you will be out again.
  86. Another way to look at the zone is that it comes as a gift. It is not a gift you can demand of yourself, but one you can ask for. How do you ask? By making your effort? What is your effort? Your effort depends on your understanding. But I would say it always involves an effort to focus and an effort to let go of Self 1 control. As trust increases, Self 1 quiets, Self 2 becomes more conscious and more present, enjoyment increases and the gifts are being given. If you are willing to give credit where credit is due and not think you “know” how to do it, the gifts are apt to be more frequent and sustainable.
  87. I used to think that whatever was present in that state would leave me, was ephemeral. Now I know that it is always there and it is only I who leave. When I look at a young child I realize it is there all the time. As the child grows, there is more to distract the mind, and it is harder to recognize. But it, Self 2, may be the only thing which has been there and will be there your entire life. Thoughts and thinking come and go, but the child self, the true self, is there and will be there as long as our breath is. To enjoy it, to appreciate it, is the gift of focus.
  88. Here and now are the only place and time when one ever enjoys himself or accomplishes anything. Most of our suffering takes place when we allow our minds to imagine the future or mull over the past. Nonetheless, few people are ever satisfied with what is before them at the moment. Our desire that things be different from what they are pulls our minds into an unreal world, and consequently we are less able to appreciate what the present has to offer. Our minds leave the reality of the present only when we prefer the unreality of the past or future. To begin to understand my own lapses of concentration I had to know what I was really desiring, and it soon became clear to me that there were more desires operating in me on the court than simply to play tennis. In other words, tennis was not the only game I was playing on the court. Part of the process of attaining a concentrated state of mind is to know and resolve these conflicting desires;
  89. It’s difficult to have fun or to achieve concentration when your ego is engaged in what it thinks is a life-and-death struggle. Self 2 will never be allowed to express spontaneity and excellence when Self 1 is playing some heavy ulterior game involving its self-image. Yet as one recognizes the games of Self 1, a degree of freedom can be achieved. When it is, you can discriminate objectively and discover for yourself the game you think is really worth playing.
  90. But who said that I am to be measured by how well I do things? In fact, who said that I should be measured at all? Who indeed? What is required to disengage oneself from this trap is a clear knowledge that the value of a human being cannot be measured by performance—or by any other arbitrary measurement
  91. Staying in the tournament another round or two didn’t seem overwhelmingly attractive, so I asked myself a final question: “Then what do you really want?” The answer was quite unexpected. What I really wanted, I realized, was to overcome the nervousness that was preventing me from playing my best and enjoying myself. I wanted to overcome the inner obstacle that had plagued me for so much of my life. I wanted to win the inner game.
  92. Children who have been taught to measure themselves in this way often become adults driven by a compulsion to succeed which overshadows all else. The tragedy of this belief is not that they will fail to find the success they seek, but that they will not discover the love or even the self-respect they were led to believe will come with it.
  93. But as I began exploring Self 2’ s learning process in both the teaching and playing of tennis, I became noncompetitive. Instead of trying to win, I decided to attempt only to play beautifully and excellently; in other words, I began to play a rather pure form of Perfect-o. My theory was that I would be unconcerned with how well I was doing in relation to my opponent and absorbed solely in achieving excellence for its own sake. Very beautiful; I would waltz around the court being very fluid, accurate and “wise.”
  94. Why does the surfer wait for the big wave? The answer was simple, and it unraveled the confusion that surrounds the true nature of competition. The surfer waits for the big wave because he values the challenge it presents. He values the obstacles the wave puts between him and his goal of riding the wave to the beach. Why? Because it is those very obstacles, the size and churning power of the wave, which draw from the surfer his greatest effort. It is only against the big waves that he is required to use all his skill, all his courage and concentration to overcome; only then can he realize the true limits of his capacities.
What I got out of it
  1. Some great zen principles as it applies to tennis – being present, letting go and having fun, being mindful and aware and other skills which are vital in the path to mastery in any arena. Using imagery, being aware of your thoughts, feelings, emotions, body, focus and more we’re also some key concepts discussed. A good complement to this book is Herrigel’s Zen in the Art of Archery as many of these same topics are discussed but in relation to archery.

Conflicting modification on May 27, 2017 at 10:18:55 AM:

Summary
  1. “It is the thesis of this book that neither mastery nor satisfaction can be found in the playing of any game without giving some attention to the relatively neglected skills of the inner game. This is the game that takes place in the mind of the player, and it is played against such obstacles as lapses in concentration, nervousness, self-doubt and self-condemnation. In short, it is played to overcome all habits of mind which inhibit excellence in performance.”
Key Takeaways
  1. Victories in the inner game may provide no additions to the trophy case, but they bring valuable rewards which are more permanent and which can contribute significantly to one’s success, off the court as well as on.
  2. The player of the inner game comes to value the art of relaxed concentration above all other skills; he discovers a true basis for self-confidence; and he learns that the secret to winning any game lies in not trying too hard.
  3. the player of the inner game uncovers a will to win which unlocks all his energy and which is never discouraged by losing.
  4. All that is needed is to unlearn those habits which interfere with it and then to just let it happen.
  5. I was beginning to learn what all good pros and students of tennis must learn: that images are better than words, showing better than telling, too much instruction worse than none, and that trying often produces negative results.
  6. Athletes in most sports use similar phrases, and the best of them know that their peak performance never comes when they’re thinking about it.
  7. Perhaps a better way to describe the player who is “unconscious” is by saying that his mind is so concentrated, so focused, that it is still. It becomes one with what the body is doing, and the unconscious or automatic functions are working without interference from thoughts. The concentrated mind has no room for thinking how well the body is doing, much less of the how-to’s of the doing. When a player is in this state, there is little to interfere with the full expression of his potential to perform, learn and enjoy.
  8. The development of inner skills is required, but it is interesting to note that if, while learning tennis, you begin to learn how to focus your attention and how to trust in yourself, you have learned something far more valuable than how to hit a forceful backhand. The backhand can be used to advantage only on a tennis court, but the skill of mastering the art of effortless concentration is invaluable in whatever you set your mind to.
  9. Now we are ready for the first major postulate of the Inner Game: within each player the kind of relationship that exists between Self 1 and Self 2 is the prime factor in determining one’s ability to translate his knowledge of technique into effective action. In other words, the key to better tennis—or better anything—lies in improving the relationship between the conscious teller, Self 1, and the natural capabilities of Self 2.
  10. This is the nub of the problem: Self 1 does not trust Self 2, even though it embodies all the potential you have developed up to that moment and is far more competent to control the muscle system than Self 1.
  11. Getting it together mentally in tennis involves the learning of several internal skills: 1) learning how to get the clearest possible picture of your desired outcomes; 2) learning how to trust Self 2 to perform at its best and learn from both successes and failures; and 3) learning to see “nonjudgmentally”—that is, to see what is happening rather than merely noticing how well or how badly it is happening
  12. This overcomes “trying too hard.” All these skills are subsidiary to the master skill, without which nothing of value is ever achieved: the art of relaxed concentration.
  13. IT IS THE CONSTANT “THINKING” activity of Self 1, the ego-mind, which causes interference with the natural capabilities of Self 2.
  14. So it is with the greatest efforts in sports; they come when the mind is as still as a glass lake. Such moments have been called “peak experiences” by the humanistic psychologist Dr. Abraham Maslow. Researching the common characteristics of persons having such experiences, he reports the following descriptive phrases: “He feels more integrated” [the two selves are one], “feels at one with the experience,” “is relatively egoless” [quiet mind], “feels at the peak of his powers,” “fully functioning,” “is in the groove,” “effortless,” “free of blocks, inhibitions, cautions, fears, doubts, controls, reservations, self-criticisms, brakes,” “he is spontaneous and more creative,” “is most here-now,” “is non-striving, non-needing, non-wishing … he just is.”
  15. When this happens on the tennis court, we are focused without trying to concentrate. We feel spontaneous and alert. We have an inner assurance that we can do what needs to be done, without having to “try hard.” We simply know the action will come, and when it does, we don’t feel like taking credit; rather, we feel fortunate, “graced.” As Suzuki says, we become “childlike.”
  16. In short, “getting it together” requires slowing the mind. Quieting the mind means less thinking, calculating, judging, worrying, fearing, hoping, trying, regretting, controlling, jittering or distracting. The mind is still when it is totally here and now in perfect oneness with the action and the actor. It is the purpose of the Inner Game to increase the frequency and the duration of these moments, quieting the mind by degrees and realizing thereby a continual expansion of our capacity to learn and perform.
  17. The first skill to learn is the art of letting go the human inclination to judge ourselves and our performance as either good or bad.
  18. First the mind judges the event, then groups events, then identifies with the combined event and finally judges itself.
  19. As a result, what usually happens is that these self-judgments become self-fulfilling prophecies
  20. Be clear about this: letting go of judgments does not mean ignoring errors. It simply means seeing events as they are and not adding anything to them.
  21. judgmental labels usually lead to emotional reactions and then to tightness, trying too hard, self-condemnation, etc. This process can be slowed by using descriptive but nonjudgmental words to describe the events you see.
  22. The rose is a rose from the time it is a seed to the time it dies. Within it, at all times, it contains its whole potential. It seems to be constantly in the process of change; yet at each state, at each moment, it is perfectly all right as it is.
  23. no one is ever surprised at seeing something they already know.
  24. When the mind is free of any thought or judgment, it is still and acts like a mirror. Then and only then can we know things as they are.
  25. What I have tried to illustrate is that there is a natural learning process which operates within everyone—if it is allowed to. This process is waiting to be discovered by all those who do not know of its existence. There is no need to take my word for it; it can be discovered for yourself if it hasn’t been already. If it has been experienced, trust it. (This is the subject of chapter 4.) To discover this natural learning process, it is necessary to let go of the old process of correcting faults; that is, it is necessary to let go of judgment and see what happens. Will your strokes develop under the effect of noncritical attention or won’t they? Test this.
  26. “My compliments are criticisms in disguise. I use both to manipulate behavior.”
  27. By ending judgment, you do not avoid seeing what is. Ending judgment means you neither add nor subtract from the facts before your eyes. Things appear as they are—undistorted. In this way, the mind becomes more calm.
  28. THE FIRST INNER SKILL to be developed in the Inner Game is that of nonjudgmental awareness. When we “unlearn” judgment we discover, usually with some surprise, that we don’t need the motivation of a reformer to change our “bad” habits. We may simply need to be more aware. There is a more natural process of learning and performing waiting to be discovered. It is waiting to show what it can do when allowed to operate without interference from the conscious strivings of the judgmental self.
  29. Letting it happen is not making it happen. It is not trying hard. It is not controlling your shots. These are all the actions of Self 1, which takes things into its own hands because it mistrusts Self 2.
  30. Remember that you are not your tennis game. You are not your body. Trust the body to learn and to play, as you would trust another person to do a job, and in a short time it will perform beyond your expectations. Let the flower grow.
  31. To Self 2, a picture is worth a thousand words. It learns by watching the actions of others, as well as by performing actions itself.
  32. The other possibility is to learn to look up to Self 2. This is the attitude of respect based on true recognition of its natural intelligence and capabilities. Another word for this attitude is humility, a feeling that happens naturally in the presence of something or someone you admire. As you find your way to an attitude that slopes upward toward Self 2 with respect, the feelings and thoughts that accompany the controlling and critical attitude fade and the sincerity of Self 2 emerges. With an attitude of respect, you learn to speak in the language of the respected person.
  33. What is the native language of Self 2? Certainly not words! Words were not learned by Self 2 until several years after birth. No, the native tongue of Self 2 is imagery: sensory images. Movements are learned through visual and feeling images.
  34. It is often helpful for these players to shift their attention from means to ends.
  35. Getting the clearest possible image of your desired outcomes is a most useful method for communicating with Self 2, especially when playing a match.
  36. Self 1’ s only role is to be still and observe the results in a detached manner.
  37. “Asking for qualities” describes this other kind of role-playing.
  38. When a player succeeds in forgetting himself and really acts out his assumed role, remarkable changes in his game often take place;
  39. Besides being a lot of fun, this kind of role-playing can greatly increase a player’s range. The defensive player learns that he can hit winners; the aggressive one finds that he can also be stylish. I have found that when players break their habitual patterns, they can greatly extend the limits of their own style and explore subdued aspects of their personality.
  40. Letting go of judgments, the art of creating images and “letting it happen” are three of the basic skills involved in the Inner Game.
  41. To me it makes sense to build any system of instruction upon the best possible understanding of natural learning, the learning process you were born with. The less instruction interferes with the process of learning built into your very DNA, the more effective your progress is going to be. Said another way, the less fear and doubt are embedded in the instructional process, the easier it will be to take the natural steps of learning. One way to gain insight and trust in natural learning is to observe young children learning before they have been taught, or to observe animals in the act of teaching their young.
  42. I believe that it is most important to recognize that, fundamentally, experience precedes technical knowledge.
  43. In a society that has become so oriented toward language as a way of representing truth, it is very possible to lose touch with your ability to feel and with it your ability to “remember” the shots themselves. I believe this remembering is a fundamental act of trust in Self 2 without which excellence in any skill cannot be sustained.
  44. In short, if we let ourselves lose touch with our ability to feel our actions, by relying too heavily on instructions, we can seriously compromise our access to our natural learning processes and our potential to perform. Instead, if we hit the ball relying on the instincts of Self 2, we reinforce the simplest neural pathway to the optimal shot.
  45. Bottom line: there is no substitute for learning from experience.
  46. “No teacher is greater than one’s own experience.”
  47. So the question that remains is how one person’s greater level of experience can help another person. The short answer is that a valid instruction derived from experience can help me if it guides me to my own experiential discovery of any given stroke possibility.
  48. Natural learning is and always will be from the inside out, not vice versa. You are the learner and it is your individual, internal learning process that ultimately governs your learning.
  49. My model is always being destroyed and rebuilt as I learn more and more. My technique is always evolving.”
  50. When one learns how to change a habit, it is a relatively simple matter to learn which ones to change. Once you learn how to learn, you have only to discover what is worth learning.
  51. It is much more difficult to break a habit when there is no adequate replacement for it
  52. It is as if the nervous system were like a record disk. Every time an action is performed, a slight impression is made in the microscopic cells of the brain, just as a leaf blowing over a fine-grained beach of sand will leave its faint trace. When the same action is repeated, the groove is made slightly deeper. After many similar actions there is a more recognizable groove into which the needle of behavior seems to fall automatically. Then the behavior can be termed grooved.
  53. But there is a natural and more childlike method. A child doesn’t dig his way out of his old grooves; he simply starts new ones! The groove may be there, but you’re not in it unless you put yourself there. If you think you are controlled by a bad habit, then you will feel you have to try to break it. A child doesn’t have to break the habit of crawling, because he doesn’t think he has a habit. He simply leaves it as he finds walking an easier way to get around
  54. Habits are statements about the past, and the past is gone. There may be a deep groove in the nervous system which will take your forehand on the roll-over trip if you choose to step into that trench; on the other hand, your muscles are as capable as they ever were of swinging your racket through flat
  55. In short, there is no need to fight old habits. Start new ones. It is the resisting of an old habit that puts you in that trench. Starting a new pattern is easy when done with childlike disregard for imagined difficulties. You can prove this to yourself by your own experience.
  56. Awareness of what is, without judgment, is relaxing, and is the best precondition for change.
  57. Both positive and negative thinking inhibit spontaneity
  58. Watch it change; don’t do the changing
  59. The process is an incredibly simple one. The important thing is to experience it. Don’t intellectualize it. See what it feels like to ask yourself to do something and let it happen without any conscious trying. For most people it is a surprising experience, and the results speak for themselves.
  60. This method of learning can be practiced in most endeavors on or off the court. The more you let yourself perform free of control on the tennis court, the more confidence you tend to gain in the beautiful mechanism that is the human body. The more you trust it, the more capable it seems to become.
  61. When you try hard to hit the ball correctly, and it goes well, you get a certain kind of ego satisfaction. You feel that you are in control, that you are master of the situation. But when you simply allow the serve to serve itself, it doesn’t seem as if you deserve the credit. It doesn’t feel as if it were you who hit the ball. You tend to feel good about the ability of your body, and possibly even amazed by the results, but the credit and sense of personal accomplishment are replaced by another kind of satisfaction. If a person is out on the court mainly to satisfy the desires and doubts of ego, it is likely that in spite of the lesser results, he will choose to let Self 1 play the major role.
  62. Relaxation happens only when allowed, not as a result of “trying” or “making.”
  63. Fighting the mind does not work. What works best is learning to focus it
  64. As one achieves focus, the mind quiets. As the mind is kept in the present, it becomes calm. Focus means keeping the mind now and here. Relaxed concentration is the supreme art because no art can be achieved without it, while with it, much can be achieved. One cannot reach the limit of one’s potential in tennis or any endeavor without learning it; what is even more compelling is that tennis can be a marvelous medium through which skill in focus of mind can be developed. By learning to focus while playing tennis, one develops a skill that can heighten performance in every other aspect of life.
  65. I have found that the most effective way to deepen concentration through sight is to focus on something subtle, not easily perceived. It’s easy to see the ball, but not so easy to notice the exact pattern made by its seams as it spins
  66. Not assuming you already know is a powerful principle of focus.
  67. The instructions I gave students were very simple. “Say the word bounce out loud the instant you see the ball hit the court and the word hit the instant the ball makes contact with the racket—either racket.” Saying the words out loud gave both me and the student the chance to hear whether the words were simultaneous with the events of bounce and hit.
  68. It is this rhythm, both seen and heard, which holds fascination for my mind and enables it to focus for longer periods of time without becoming distracted.
  69. Natural focus occurs when the mind is interested.
  70. It rarely occurs to a player to listen to the ball, but I have found great value in this focus.
  71. Few players understand the importance of concentrating attention on the feel of the racket as they are holding it. There are two things that a player must know on every shot: where the ball is and where his racket is.
  72. It would be useful for all tennis players to undergo some “sensitivity training” with their bodies. The easiest way to get such training is simply to focus your attention on your body during practice. Ideally, someone should throw balls to you, or hit them so that they bounce in approximately the same spot each time. Then, paying relatively little attention to the ball, you can experience what it feels like to hit balls the way you hit them.
  73. Rhythm can never be achieved by being overly purposeful about it; you have to let it happen. But sensitivity to rhythm developed through concentration helps. Those who have practiced concentrating on the feel
  74. Though focus of attention helps your tennis, it is equally true that playing tennis can help your focus of attention.
  75. Attention is focused consciousness, and consciousness is that power of knowing.
  76. But it is also necessary to learn to focus awareness in the now. This simply means tuning in to what is happening in the present. The greatest lapses in concentration come when we allow our minds to project what is about to happen or to dwell on what has already happened
  77. the conscious energy you need to perform at your peak in the now has been leaking into an imagined future.
  78. All who enter even a little into that state of being present will experience a calmness and a degree of ecstasy which they will want to repeat.
  79. Alertness is a measure of how many nows you are alert to in a given period. The result is simple: you become more aware of what is going on as you learn to keep your attention in the now.
  80. In a match it is usually best to pick one focus—whatever works best for you—and stick with it.
  81. The critical time is between points! After the last shot of a rally, the mind leaves its focus on the ball and is free to wander. It is at this moment that thoughts about the score, your erratic backhand, business, the children, dinner and so forth tend to siphon your energy away from the here and now. Then it is difficult to regain the same level of concentration before the next point begins.
  82. How to stay concentrated in the here and now between points? My own device, and one that has been effective for many of my students, is to focus attention on breathing. Some object or activity which is always present is needed.
  83. when we focus on breathing we are putting our attention on something closely connected to the life energy of the body. Also, breathing is a very basic rhythm.
  84. But when your attention is on the here and now, the actions which need to be done in the present have their best chance of being successfully accomplished, and as a result the future will become the best possible present
  85. One caution about “the zone”: it cannot be controlled by Self 1. I have seen many articles that claim to provide a technique for “playing in the zone every time.” Forget it! This is a setup. It’s an age-old trap. Self 1 likes the idea of playing in the zone, especially the results that usually occur. So Self 1 will try to grasp onto almost anything that promises to take you to what everyone agrees is a wonderful place. But there is one catch; the only way to get there is to leave Self 1 behind. So as long as you let Self 1 be the one that takes you there, it will be there too and you will not be able to go into the zone. If you do, even for a moment, Self 1 will say, “Good, I got there,” and you will be out again
  86. Another way to look at the zone is that it comes as a gift. It is not a gift you can demand of yourself, but one you can ask for. How do you ask? By making your effort? What is your effort? Your effort depends on your understanding. But I would say it always involves an effort to focus and an effort to let go of Self 1 control. As trust increases, Self 1 quiets, Self 2 becomes more conscious and more present, enjoyment increases and the gifts are being given. If you are willing to give credit where credit is due and not think you “know” how to do it, the gifts are apt to be more frequent and sustainable.
  87. I used to think that whatever was present in that state would leave me, was ephemeral. Now I know that it is always there and it is only I who leave. When I look at a young child I realize it is there all the time. As the child grows, there is more to distract the mind, and it is harder to recognize. But it, Self 2, may be the only thing which has been there and will be there your entire life. Thoughts and thinking come and go, but the child self, the true self, is there and will be there as long as our breath is. To enjoy it, to appreciate it, is the gift of focus.
  88. Here and now are the only place and time when one ever enjoys himself or accomplishes anything. Most of our suffering takes place when we allow our minds to imagine the future or mull over the past. Nonetheless, few people are ever satisfied with what is before them at the moment. Our desire that things be different from what they are pulls our minds into an unreal world, and consequently we are less able to appreciate what the present has to offer. Our minds leave the reality of the present only when we prefer the unreality of the past or future. To begin to understand my own lapses of concentration I had to know what I was really desiring, and it soon became clear to me that there were more desires operating in me on the court than simply to play tennis. In other words, tennis was not the only game I was playing on the court. Part of the process of attaining a concentrated state of mind is to know and resolve these conflicting desires;
  89. It’s difficult to have fun or to achieve concentration when your ego is engaged in what it thinks is a life-and-death struggle. Self 2 will never be allowed to express spontaneity and excellence when Self 1 is playing some heavy ulterior game involving its self-image. Yet as one recognizes the games of Self 1, a degree of freedom can be achieved. When it is, you can discriminate objectively and discover for yourself the game you think is really worth playing.
  90. But who said that I am to be measured by how well I do things? In fact, who said that I should be measured at all? Who indeed? What is required to disengage oneself from this trap is a clear knowledge that the value of a human being cannot be measured by performance—or by any other arbitrary measurement.
  91. Staying in the tournament another round or two didn’t seem overwhelmingly attractive, so I asked myself a final question: “Then what do you really want?” The answer was quite unexpected. What I really wanted, I realized, was to overcome the nervousness that was preventing me from playing my best and enjoying myself. I wanted to overcome the inner obstacle that had plagued me for so much of my life. I wanted to win the inner game.
  92. Children who have been taught to measure themselves in this way often become adults driven by a compulsion to succeed which overshadows all else. The tragedy of this belief is not that they will fail to find the success they seek, but that they will not discover the love or even the self-respect they were led to believe will come with it.
  93. But as I began exploring Self 2’ s learning process in both the teaching and playing of tennis, I became noncompetitive. Instead of trying to win, I decided to attempt only to play beautifully and excellently; in other words, I began to play a rather pure form of Perfect-o. My theory was that I would be unconcerned with how well I was doing in relation to my opponent and absorbed solely in achieving excellence for its own sake. Very beautiful; I would waltz around the court being very fluid, accurate and “wise.”
  94. Why does the surfer wait for the big wave? The answer was simple, and it unraveled the confusion that surrounds the true nature of competition. The surfer waits for the big wave because he values the challenge it presents. He values the obstacles the wave puts between him and his goal of riding the wave to the beach. Why? Because it is those very obstacles, the size and churning power of the wave, which draw from the surfer his greatest effort. It is only against the big waves that he is required to use all his skill, all his courage and concentration to overcome; only then can he realize the true limits of his capacities.
  95. Reaching the goal itself may not be as valuable as the experience that can come in making a supreme effort to overcome the obstacles involved. The process can be more rewarding than the victory itself
  96. Surprisingly, I arrived at the conclusion that true competition is identical with true cooperation as each player tries his hardest to defeat the other and push them to their best and overcome obstacles. Cooperation and completion become one
  97. The difference between being concerned about winning and being concerned about making the effort to win may seem subtle but in effect there is a great difference. One cannot always win but one can always try thei
  98. Perhaps the most indispensable tool for human beings in modern times is the ability to remain calm in the midst of rapid and unsettling changes
  99. Maybe wisdom is not so much to come up with the new answers as to recognize at a deeper level thenprodinditybifbrhe age old answers
  100. The message of the Inner Game is simple: focus. Focus of attention in the present moment, the only one you can really live in, is at the hear of this book and at the heart of the art of doing anything well
  101. Stability grows as I learn to accept what I cannot control and take control of what I can
  102. You know you are on the right path when you care more about your effort than winning. You care but don’t care. You give your best effort but it is effortless at the same time
What I got out of it
  1. A lot of zen principles as it applies to tennis – being present, letting go and not trying to control everything, being mindful and aware and more. The ability to be non-judgmental and aware of your thoughts, feelings, emotions, body and more are vital for mastery in any field. Herrigel’s Zen in the Art of Archery would be a great complement to this book as it applies zen principles but to Archery rather than tennis