Two Tennis player selves vying for peak performance

Book Summary: The inner Game of Tennis- A Guide to Peak Performance

By James Razko

In this book summary of The Inner Game of Tennis, you will learn

  • we all have two selves, our conscious (ego) self, and non-conscious (egoless) self,
  • how these two minds are simultaneously competing and cooperating for cognitive space,
  • how quieting your self-talk will help you reach peak performance,
  • and how to acquire new skills and perform effortlessly.

Book summary:

The Inner Game of Tennis, Timothy Gallwey

The Two Selves

  • Self-1 is the “teller,” Our (ego) conscious mind.
  • Self-2 is the “doer,” Our (egoless) non-conscious mind.
  • Self-1 does not trust self 2.
  • Self-2 holds all the potential for learning and peak performance.
  • Self-1 judges and instructs.
  • Self-2 learns and does effortlessly.
  • Self-1 must be quiet for peak performance.
  • Self-2 does not need orders.

Peak Performance

To visualize peak performance, imagine a lioness ready to pounce on a gazelle; she is not thinking about how far she needs to jump, if her footing is correct, or what to do if not successful. The lioness is fully absorbed in the moment and is letting intuition and the gut guide her movements. This is peak performance.

In The Inner Game of Tennis, Gallwey mentions Dr. Abraham Maslow, a renowned positive psychologist, who reports feelings of peak experiences to be,

“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,”
“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.”

Timothy Gallwey, The Inner Game of Tennis

Embrace Natural Learning

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.

Timothy Gallwey, The Inner Game of Tennis

We were born to learn, it’s in humanity’s DNA, and adults often forget this.

Children are the epitome of humanity’s innate ability to learn; they learn effortlessly. While you may no longer be a child, adults can learn effortlessly too.

Our minds remain plastic from childhoods to adulthood.

Trust the body to learn by itself without instruction, and it will outdo your expectations.

Power Of Visualization

Reliance on language hinders your bodies natural memory. Think about riding a bike; you don’t need to shout instructions at yourself to ride a bike. Your body remembers.

Self-2 learns visually.

And, when learning, it is essential to visualize how to do the task and carefully observe others who are already proficient in it. If you do not have a professional to model yourself after, YouTube is a great resource.

Self 2 needs accurate images to learn. The more precise, the easier self-2 will learn.

Treat self-2 the way you would treat a child. Let it make mistakes and learn on its own. As with children, there is no need to judge.

Stop Judgmental Self Talk

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.

Timothy Gallwey, The Inner Game of Tennis

Your focus is a limited supply, and if you are judging yourself, valuable cognitive space is taken away from self-2 “the doer.”

By observing without judgment, you will see yourself clearly. This type of observation helps to learn and enhances focus.

In particular, while evaluating performance use descriptive words and avoid judgmental words.

Remember, it is impossible to judge one’s actions as good without judging the others as less good or bad. You can, however, acknowledge strengths to encourage natural learning.

Repeat Repeat Repeat…

Repetition is fundamental to learning and peak performance. Every time you repeat an action, an imprint remains in your body and mind, The more imprints the easy that work becomes.

How to learn naturally in 5 steps:

  1. observe your current behavior without judging,
  2. visualize what you are going to do,
  3. trust self your non-conscious self,
  4. observe your results without judgment,
  5. focus the mind to be in the present

And, Repeat.


An instructor should be a guide, not a teacher.

No matter how detailed the verbal instruction may be, you must experience it for yourself to learn it.

The saying of an old master is pertinent here: “No teacher is greater than one’s own experience.

Timothy Gallwey, The Inner Game of Tennis

How to Change Habits with Natural Learning

To change habits:

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.

Timothy Gallwey, The Inner Game of Tennis

The Art of Relaxed Concentration

Relaxed concentration is the supreme art because no art can be achieved without it, while with it, much can be achieved.

Timothy Gallwey, The Inner Game of Tennis

Focus occurs when the mind is interested.

To focus for extended periods, take in small details of the things you are working with.

For example, focusing on tiny details, like the seams of a ball while playing tennis will help you stay present and maintain focus.

The only way to learn to focus is, whenever the mind drifts of the task, gently and without judgment, bring it back to focus— and repeat.

Winning vs. Goals vs. Process

The experience of overcoming an obstacle is more valuable than reaching a goal or winning.

True competition is cooperation. For this reason, In this “pure” game, both sides try their hardest to defeat one another.

In pure competition, both parties benefit.

The difference between being concerned about winning and being concerned about making the effort to win may seem subtle, but in the effect there is a great difference.

Timothy Gallwey, The Inner Game of Tennis

Actionable Tip from The Inner Game of Tennis

Role-playing can instantly increase performance, so pretend you are a professional. By “acting” as a professional, you will be more likely to perform like one.


To win the inner game, you must:

  • clearly visualize your desired outcome,
  • trust self 2 to both learn and do,
  • practice and play without judgment,
  • and, develop relaxed concentration

If you enjoyed this book summary of The Inner Game of Tennis, I highly recommend you Read the original book. Click Here to pick up a copy.

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