Playing the Inner Game to Win

Tom has worked at his company for more than four years and knows he does a great job. His boss even tells him so. He’s been wanting to ask for a raise for several months, but it just never seems like the right time to ask. At least, that’s what he keeps telling himself.
Playing to Win
But could it really be that Tom is afraid of rejection? Or on some level—perhaps a subconscious one—he doesn’t feel he “deserves” to get paid well for the work he does?

“In every human endeavor there are two arenas of engagement: the outer and the inner,” says Tim Gallwey, author of The Inner Game of Work. “The outer game is played on an external arena to overcome external obstacles. The inner game takes place within the mind and is played to overcome the self-imposed obstacles.”

You can try harder to change by taking more action in the “outside,” physical world. But if you’re powered by limiting beliefs and negative feelings, chances are you’re just going to go faster in the wrong direction.

So how do you effect real change, change that starts from within? The first step is to identify just what is holding you back. Some common internal roadblocks are:

  • Fear. Probably the most popular culprit, the list of fears is endless. Whatever your fears, they prevent you in some way from experiencing your full potential.
  • Thinking small. If you expect less, you get less. You have to think big and believe you can have success before you will actually experience it.
  • Being out of balance. When we over-focus on certain areas of our lives to the exclusion of others, we experience stress and incongruence. Creativity is then compromised.
  • Lack of motivation. Without passion for what you’re doing (or at least a big payoff), it’s difficult to get moving in any direction.

Once you determine your specific roadblocks, it’s time to face them head on, reprogramming your beliefs and defining (or redefining) your life priorities and purpose. Working with a coach helps many to determine a practical strategy for navigating the roadblocks. Steven Covey of Seven Habits suggests writing a personal mission statement (as you would for a company) and then organizing your life around it.

For the goals that seem impossible to accomplish, Barbara Sher, career counselor and best-selling author, suggests throwing an “idea party.” Get a group of people together and take turns throwing out your ideas and their obstacles—you’ll be surprised at some of the creative answers you’ll receive.

But whatever you do, keep looking inside. Take responsibility for what you create externally and work on winning the inner game. When you do, you’ll start winning in the outer world, too.