The Inner Game Of Tennis Is Played Against Yourself



Player A swats the tennis ball out of bounds. “Oh no! You stupid imbecile! How could you miss such an easy shot? Stupid! Stupid! Stupid!” cries Player A, angry with herself. That’s one way to handle the Inner Game of Tennis.

Player Bs fist jubilantly shoots into the air. “Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! Go me! Go me!” That’s another way to handle the Inner Game of Tennis.

The Ref watches the path of the ball and calmly announces, “The ball is out.” Her voice is level, her face expressionless, and her emotions are in check. After all, her job is to observe objectively. What goes on around her doesn’t affect her inner self. I vote for handling the Inner Game of Tennis this way.

In your day-to-day life, which of these characters is most like you? Do you spend your time self-bashing like Player A? Or are you more like Player B, who allows her emotions to skyrocket (and plummet) based on what life brings her?

Most people have a bit of both Player A and Player B show up at some point during their day. Sometimes we beat ourselves up for simple mistakes (teens are especially susceptible to this), or we celebrate like we contributed to events we have nothing to do with (think spectator sports). 

Both approaches jumble our emotions like a rollercoaster ride. Player A gets emotionally scrambled internally, and Player B is emotionally whipped externally. The Ref, on the other hand, doesn’t have either of those ups and downs. She understands her self worth as she simply observes.

The thing is, you can choose. You can decide which approach you prefer, and use it.

Let’s apply this philosophy to getting back a test grade.

  • With your Player A mindset, a low grade is grounds for beating yourself up, or feeling like the victim of an unfair teacher.
  • On the other hand, celebrating an unexpected high score, as would Player B, takes away your responsibility for the grade. You probably feel lucky, instead of giving yourself credit for knowing more than you thought.

For either case, you are like a puppet hanging by a bunch of strings, subject to the whims of your world. Something good happens, and one of your emotional strings is yanked. Something bad happens, another emotional string jerks you around. The  Player A and Player B in you never knows how your day will go because you don’t know who/what will mess with you next.

Who wants that?

If, however, you begin to train yourself to be more like The Ref, you will be able to claim your power. Whether the test grade is good or bad, The Ref looks objectively at the preparation for the test, not at a personality flaw.

  • Was there enough study time?
  • Was the material truly understood?
  • What was done this time to insure success?
  • What could be done to make it better for the next time?

Make it your goal to maintain your equilibrium like The Ref. The sooner you get started, the better off you will be.

  • You will be able to better handle an emotionally-charged situation.
  • Self-bashing will be a thing of the past.
  • You will objectively see areas that can be improved without feeling badly.
  • You will control your feelings and reactions, not others.
  • As you realize your power, your power will grow.

Dealing with problems objectively will help you enjoy being calmer and less reactive in stressful situations, just like The Ref. A mere tidbit of gossip will no longer have the power to send you into a tailspin.

Why not practice on an old issue now?


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