Inner Game of Work – Book Review

Reading Time: 4 minutes

I like this book. The author shares many examples of how paying attention to tiny details can help you learn more effectively, and how a coach’s role isn’t to provide answers but rather to help draw the student’s awareness to the right things and encourage them to trust in their own learning process.

The Self 1 / Self 2 is perhaps the easy way to show the distinction. Self 1 is our over critical conscious mind that gets in our way in doing things. It is our inner component (what we think and how we talk to ourselves about what we are or aren’t doing as we do it), Self 2 is the action body that does things, the outer component (physical skills, abilities, techniques)

Coaching, book review, lessons

As human beings we have a tendency to get into our own way. For example a small action of hitting a single tennis ball – player sees an approaching ball, then responds to it by moving into a position and striking the ball, producing results into action.

“Perception, Response and Results”

Usually after results and before next action, there is some thinking. this thinking becomes his interpretation resulting into a self image.

Words like ‘oh, here comes a difficult shot’ ‘you were terrible’ come from this. This interpretation undermines players ability and confidence thus affecting his next action. And the cycle continues

The key to success and top-performance is to ACT (Awareness, Choice, Trust).

Success arises from three resourceful states: awareness (knowing the present situation with clarity), choice (moving in a desired direction in the future) and trust (of one’s inner resources as the essential link). These three factors make for success in any field.

Awareness is non-judgmental awareness; it is awareness of what is.

Choice is the power to recognize where we want to go with clarity and precision and ownership of one’s power to take charge.

Trust is trusting the natural learning powers of one’s true self, Self 2.

This is the self that expresses our potential, “the vast reservoir of potential within each one of us” that contains our natural talents and abilities.

The Inner Game approach is about unlearning the personal and cultural habits that interfere with our ability to learn and perform. The approach was summarized in a simple formula: Performance = Potential – Interference

“Potential” includes all of our capabilities—actualised or latent—as well as our ability to learn; “Interference” represents the ways that we undermine the fulfillment or expression of our own capacities.

The author talks much about this conversations with a friend whom he refers to as EF (Executive Friend) while he was still a tennis coach. These conversations resulted into coining the word ‘mobility’ used repeatedly throughout the book. The author defines mobility as the ability to move or adapt, change or be changed.

Movement doesn’t focus on what it can’t control but moves by making changes in what it can control. Mobility is about conscious wisdom. It’s not just about being in the flow, but about being very clear about where you are, where you are going, and why. In essence, it is about working consciously.

These five elements takes us from being rigid and conformed to certain self-created conditions, to freedom of change.

Not all movement is mobility. The hard part is to remain conscious while working. The STOP tool can be used when you feel overwhelmed or flustered.

Step back means to put the distance between yourself and whatever you’re involved with at the moment. Stepping back from the momentum of action, emotion and thinking, to collect yourself and find a place with balance and poise

Create a Think space – a distinct physical and mental environment that is reflective and strategic. It could be a room, a chair or any environment you can go to repeatedly to slow down and make reflective conscious thinking

Creative thoughts can be coming from different directions, especially when it is a longer STOP. There is a task of bringing order to your thoughts before you are ready to proceed. But to organise is your chance to pull your thinking together and bring coherence to your plan, prioritise them and provide sequence of actions.

Proceed is picking up the sword again. It is the time of descent from the ‘think space’ with a refreshed brain. You continue with actions until clarity fades and you need to STOP again


Author talks about how having a great coach can make a difference in the boardroom. He teaches you how to find that coach and, equally important, how to become one. In the Inner Game Approach, coaching is defined as the facilitation of mobility. It is the art of creating an environment, through conversation and a way of being, that helps the process by which a person can reach his goal in a satisfying manner. The author introduces the ‘transposing tool’ to the corporate leaders and asks them to think of someone who can benefit from coaching.

The ability to transpose another person is perhaps the fundamental skill of a coach. Its not necessary that you agree the other’s point of you but you learn as much as possible of what that person is thinking and feeling.

Inner Game coaching can be divided into three conversations.

  • Conversation for Awareness – Getting the clearest possible picture of current reality
  • Conversation for Choice – Getting the clearest possible picture of the desired future outcome
  • Conversation for Trust – Calls for unlearning of client’s inner obstacles to move to desired future outcome

Coaching Mobility is basically a synthesis of these three conversations. A coach should keep the client focused and balance between inner and outer games

All the tools and concepts in the book are applicable to coaching as they are to learning. What represents here is a toolbox for coaching.

Reading Time: 4 minutes

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