Mental Health//

Managing Your Inner Game

We all focussed on our physical health during lockdown, have you given a thought to your mental health too?

Photo by Sarah Kilian/ Unsplash
Photo by Sarah Kilian/ Unsplash

At a recent webinar that I conducted, I got a number of questions from participants over mindset and emotional health challenges that they continue to face at this point of the pandemic. The questions ranged from continued struggles over work from home, to understanding how to manage negative thought patterns, to dealing with insecurity, feelings of fear, to overcoming a sense of failure, navigating demotivation to handling stress and overwhelm, while trying to remain productive and positive. 

Having conducted programmes and sessions from the first week of the pandemic, as a leadership and performance coach, it has become apparent that every added month in our lockdown journey is placing its own level of challenge on each one of us. And if there’s any constant that’s emerged during Covid-19, it is that at some point during this time we will all be thrown out of our comfort zones and made to step up to the test that life is placing on us.

As we navigate this middle point in the journey where our endurance is being tested to the maximum, how do we manage the trials of the external environment and bring our best self to each moment? 

The famous tennis player Martina Navratilova said the entire game is played in the six inches between our ears. If we look at star athletes, it isn’t necessarily skill, motivation, practise, hard work or talent that sees them through, but their ability to silence the external and win the inner game. 

Because after all, it is at times of challenge, discomfort, uncertainty and change where all those limiting beliefs, negative thoughts or what we call saboteurs show up and hold us back from being our best selves.

And while we focus on improving our health and fitness, developing key skills and capabilities in our professional life, how much time are we dedicating to building that mental muscle that’s required to win our inner game?

The famous coach Tim Gallway equated performance with working on our internal disposition and defined it as potential minus interference. In his work, he has spoken in depth of the importance of a harmonious relationship between the Conscious or Self 1 and the Subconscious or Self 2 to master the Inner Game.

In my practice as a leadership and performance coach, when I work with clients as they look to improve their inner game score, I ask them what they are doing to reduce the interferences and enhance potential at this time?

Here are some areas for you to probe further in your life as you look to build that mental muscle to emerge victorious in your inner game:

1. Focus on the Present: In an evolving and dynamic world, one of the biggest challenges that we face is being able to stay present to a task or a moment. To be able to tune in effectively to listen to our inner dialogue, it is important to develop some form of a routine where we constantly check in with ourselves. This will ensure that we aren’t being consumed in future or past thoughts and instead are dancing in this moment. 

2. Tame the Inner Chatter: As we hone in to what is going on within us it becomes important to identify the narrative that we are telling ourselves. Often these stories become beliefs that we hold onto and that prevent us from moving forward. So, take a moment to identify what is the internal dialogue you are having with yourself and what needs to change in your own narrative at this time.

3. Start with You: The first step to strengthening our inner game starts with understanding ourselves better. Building that self-awareness to understand your motivations, values, beliefs and trigger points will be a powerful step in your own growth and development.

4. Phone a Friend: To be able to understand what is going on within us often requires stepping out and getting a new perspective. Being open-minded to receiving feedback from those around us or alternatively, using effective tools or consulting a coach or advisor will be a crucial step in improving your internal game.

5. Identify Your Recovery Ritual: One of the key differentiators of star players is their ability to recover quickly from setbacks. It is because star players are aware that if they spend time dwelling on a past mistake or worrying about a future outcome, they will miss the ball that’s coming straight at them. In a world laden with uncertainty and change, we are all bound to face disappointment or even have some slip-ups along the way. The critical success factor then becomes developing our own recovery ritual that gives us the opportunity to bounce back so that minor glitches don’t lead to major setbacks.

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People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

- Marcus Aurelius

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