The best elite athletes have developed and continue to develop both their ‘inner game’ and their ‘outer game’, to the point that they feel more and more true to themselves regardless of the situation they find themselves in, even if it is intensely pressurised. Coherence between who we are, and how free we feel we are to express that in our working lives makes an enormous difference in our engagement with work, and those we work with. To help athletes experience this coherence, they prepare in advance, and take time to reflect on what helps them enjoy it, and perform to their best.

From Tim Gallwey and his ground breaking work on the inner game, through to Dr Michael Gervais with the super bowl winning Seattle Seahawks to Enda McNulty in Ireland with Irish rugby teams, there is evidence that optimizing our inner game significantly helps our resilience and performance in our outer game, and helps us to stay true to who we are regardless of the pressure that appears to be there.

Here is a model to help you reflect on how well matched your inner and outer game currently are. Most athletes need to SOAK in an ice bath to recover from time to time. Why not do the same yourself put your inner game into action to help your outer game.

S = Skills

– How are our skill levels for the current game we are playing, and any future games we want to play in? What skills have we acquired, and what do we need to acquire? Every athlete is usually working on one or more skill they want to improve, for their own satisfaction, and to perform.

For example, If I am a top drawer engineer, who is ultimately looking for a management job, what I like about engineering I might not be able to use as often in management. What people skills, or political skills will I need to play in that game, and retain satisfaction with my work?

What small skill improvements are you working on?

O = Organization.

– How well organized are we? How are our relationships, how are we spending our time, how often do we play to our strengths, or organize into our schedules what we really want? How often did I get to do what I completely and thoroughly enjoy this week? Athletes schedule in their training, and their sleep and they know they will get to do what they want because they are organized to make it happen

For example, if I really want to spend time on learning something new, it won’t just happen, unless I organize myself, so that I have the time and resources available when I want to do it. Why not have a read or review folder, and schedule time to check in on it? You can set up reading folders with apps like Pocket, or Evernote.

What one step would help you be more organised to play to your strengths more, or do what you love?

A = Attitude

How much choice do we feel we have to change situations? How positive is our attitude towards ourselves, our families, friends, colleagues?

For example, Michael Gervais asks athletic coaches, do you expect people to have a perfect game every week? Obviously not, in which case a positive attitude towards mistakes, and recovering from them is much better than judgement of people, including ourselves.

Win or Lose, athletes always compete, and have the attitude that they can improve.

What shift in attitude would help you be more positive, more resilient, or happier today, or help your team to be more positive?

K = Knowledge

– How comfortable are we with our knowledge levels on what is important to us, or what we want to perform well in? We cannot know everything but we can know enough to be well prepared, and satisfy our curiosity.

For example, if I am a professional, just to stay at the top of my game, I need to make sure my knowledge is up to date. If the rules of the game change, or there are innovative ways to play the game, its better if I know about them and practice.

Why not take a refreshing SOAK and review your Skills, Organisation, Attitude, Knowledge, and take one small step to improve each area today, to help you perform better, and have a better experience the next time the pressure comes on.

Can you take one step to improve your knowledge of your inner and outer game today?

Recommended Reading:

Tim Gallwey – The Inner game

Michael Gervais in the Irish Examiner

[First published on LinkedIn]