Timothy W. Gallwey (born 1938 in San Francisco) is an outstanding thinker in the fields of personal and professional excellence, business health and education, and the ability to push yourself beyond limits - especially in the area of competitive sports. He developed the concept of "The Inner Game", which became the foundation of modern coaching.
Tim Gallwey is a prolific writer. The books he wrote include The Inner Game of Tennis (1974), Inner Tennis: Playing the Game (1976), Inner Skiing (1977), The Inner Game of Golf (1981), Inner Game of Winning (1985), The Inner Game of Music (1986), The Inner Game of Work (1999), and The Inner Game of Stress (2009).
Two books he creates, "The Inner Game of Tennis", and "The Inner Game of Work", have exceeded several million copies in print.
These groundbreaking books not only accelerated the achievement of peak performance in professional sports but also laid the foundations of modern business coaching. They have also been applied to the fields of business health and offered many effective methods that enable the achievement of high business performance.
These methods revolutionized the training and coaching industry around the world. They showed how organizations can bring out the best in their people and achieve exceptional results at work.
Among many people, Tim Gallwey inspired Sir John Whitmore (please see another dedicated post: Sir John Whitmore - the father of business coaching). John Whitmore, based on the method invented by Tim Gallwey, developed a model of business coaching that still reigns today called GROW.
This is what Tim Gallwey says about his work:
"For over forty years I have focused my efforts on the importance of what I call the Inner Game. I have learned many things on this journey, but throughout both my personal life and my public work, I have had one overarching passion. What I wanted was for both the individual and society to rebalance the importance we place on the "inner realm," of what happens inside human beings as opposed to anything that happens in the outside world.
Our thoughts, feelings, and motivations may be invisible, even to ourselves, but they have a huge impact on how we see ourselves, the choices we make, and how we view and treat others, which in turn creates many external conditions in which we live.
What catches our attention and where do we invest our efforts, individually and collectively? What is most important to us: external wealth or internal wealth? Do we care more about winning the external games we play, and overcoming external obstacles to achieve external goals? Or do we invest in overcoming internal obstacles that prevent us from being happy, enjoying life, inner peace, and fulfillment?"
Timothy Gallwey - A Short Biography
As a teenager, Tim Gallwey (born 1938 in San Francisco), was the top American tennis player in his division, and later, when he began his academic work, he became the captain of the tennis team at Harvard University.
While on sabbatical, Gallwey worked as a tennis instructor in Monterey, California. Initially, he focused his efforts on giving his students traditional instructions - with mixed results.
At some point, he stopped and realized that he was more involved in the teaching process itself than in whether his student was progressing and learning. Tim decided to reverse his priorities and asked himself:
"Where does the learning take place and what happens in the student's head when the ball is approaching?"
At some point, it became obvious to him that his "should" and "shouldn't" instructions were causing student self-doubt, self-criticism, overexertion, and overly stiff racquet strikes.
When Tim replaced the traditional "should" and "shouldn't" instructions with an invitation to try heightened awareness and relaxed concentration, the student learned naturally by using what felt good and what worked.
Soon, Tim Gallwey discovered that if he encouraged his students to focus their attention in a certain way, tennis technique began to evolve naturally and seemed to self-correct. This is how he developed the new game approach.
Players using Gallwey's methods progressed much faster than others, without self-criticism or strenuous attempts to "get it right." By quieting their internal thought processes, they were able to use their natural abilities more easily.
Gallwey's concept was based on the belief that the biggest obstacle to mastering a sport of all was the negative thoughts in the athlete's head.
The coach's job was therefore not to provide instructions in the traditional sense (thereby complicating the internal dialogue in the athlete's head even more), but primarily to help get rid of the clutter in his mind.
Thanks to this approach, three other elements are also reliably increased: the pace of learning, the joy of having fun, and the student's confidence that he can learn from his own experience.
The result of this discovery was Gallwey's first book, The Inner Game of Tennis, which has sold over two million copies in print worldwide.
This book was also discovered by Bill Gates in 2022 and he devoted a special post to it on his blog under the significant title "The best guide to getting out of your own way"
Bill Gates says about the impact of Tim Gallwey's book on him:
After the release of the first book, readers started applying the methods to their lives off the court, and Tim began using the methods to change the business environment. This is how modern business coaching began to be born.
Tim founded a Fortune 500 consulting firm. His longtime clients included Apple, AT&T, The Coca-Cola Company, and Rolls Royce. The methods developed by Tim Gallwey have been used in leadership coaching, sales, change management, and teamwork. Gallwey's work is often recognized as the foundation of new fields: business coaching, life coaching, and sports psychology.
Currently, Tim Gallwey is still active and focused on developing the companies founded in 2012, The Inner Game Institute and The Inner Game International School of Coaching, wanting to make his tools available across the world and help people of all ages and backgrounds achieve their goals anytime, anywhere. As of today, the institute offers its services in 30 countries around the world.
The history of the development and application of the Inner Game concept - from tennis to modern coaching and organizational culture changes in business
Published in 1974, Tim Gallwey's first book surpassed both author and publisher's expectations, selling over a hundred times more than expected, and soon became a New York Times bestseller.
Shortly after, KCET television station produced a six-part television series that was watched across America called Inner Tennis. Each episode focused on a specific topic, such as overcoming fear, achieving concentration, breaking bad habits, etc.
Published in 1977, the book Inner Skiing applied the same learning techniques to a more icy sport and specifically dealt with overcoming the different kinds of fears common to the sport.
In 1980, Random House, the world's largest English-language literary publisher, asked Tim Gallwey to write The Inner Game of Golf, describing the learning process from the point of view of a golf student (Tim was learning golf at that time). Probably more than in any other major sport, the golfer is susceptible to subtle shifts in mindset that can have a drastic effect on his performance.
Around this time, Barry Green, then principal bassist of the Cincinnati Philharmonic Orchestra, approached Tim Gallwey about collaborating on The Inner Game of Music, another activity in which both fear of failure and doubt can be an obstacle to high performance.
Beginning in the mid-1970s, many corporate leaders and managers recognized the implications of the concept and began to use them as methods to bring about desired changes in the workplace and business environment.
One of Tim Gallwey's first long-term corporate clients was AT&T. In the early 1980s, Gallwey faced the challenge of changing the mindset of what was then the largest company in the United States. As Tim Gallwey himself wrote about it, it was about changing the monopolistic thinking presented by the "bell-shaped head" to the thinking of a modern, competitive, market-driven, entrepreneurial company.
Soon after, Tim was asked to help IBM change the dominant corporate mindset of “we know it all” to the learning and coaching organization approach.
His methods were then used in Apple Computer Company's leadership development program. Leading Apple designer Alan Kay used the principles to train computer interface designers. In the video below, Alan Kay shows you a movie based on The Inner Game of Tennis. The video contrasted the speed with which two students learn to play tennis.
The first student was told to meet the ball at a certain angle at a certain stage of its bounce, in other words, a typical teaching method was used. The second student was told to "fly the ball over the net".
The first student experienced frustration and a serious sense of clumsiness. The other student was making rapid progress and was enjoying himself.
Kay naturally associated these concepts with computer interfaces, because this is where his greatest natural ability lies. Listen to his approach and see if something sparks in you.
In the 1990s, Tim's methods were used by The Coca-Cola Company to train top managers in modern coaching of their employees, better develop teamwork skills, and ultimately, to achieve an overall transformation into a learning organization.
The Inner Game of Work, published in 1999, summarizes the benefits of using the method in a business environment. This is an inside look at how the methods and models were used by many people in various companies in the twenty years leading up to its release. This book focuses primarily on achieving individual excellence.
At the turn of the century, Tim Gallwey's interests shifted to the Inner Team Game. The job of overcoming the obstacles encountered in effective human collaboration is both challenging and fascinating. In the second half of 1999, Tim Gallwey helped lead over 50 team workshops and teamed up with Dr. Valerio Pascotto. This collaboration resulted in pioneering work in the field of human learning that addressed the question of how to collaborate effectively.
In his work with teams and companies, Tim Gallwey has found that stress seems to be the main obstacle to achieving goals for most people.
Therefore, in 2009, he teamed up with two respected physicians, Dr. John Horton and Dr. Ed Hanzelik, to study how stress affects the human body and mind. They also explored how the principles of the Inner Game can help not only manage stress but also reduce and prevent it. Based on this research and experience, Tim Gallwey wrote his latest book, "The Inner Stress Game".
Having discovered such a significant cyclical relationship between work and stress, Gallwey couldn't resist looking for a way to help people navigate the quagmire caused by stress, work, and the desire to achieve goals. It seemed that one-on-one coaching (individual coaching) was the best way to do it, but then it would not be possible to reach everyone who needed help.
So, working with Myles Downey, founder of Performance Coaching International, Gary Wessely, and Richard Merrick, they developed a pilot called eCoach to help anyone achieve their desired goals.
This program used the principles of the Game and guided coaches through personalized coaching sessions aimed at finding and eliminating thinking obstacles, breaking limiting beliefs, and making progress toward both long-term and short-term goals.
The Inner Game by Timothy Gallwey - What is This Concept?
All human activity can be divided into two main parts: external play and internal play. Without some mastery of the often-neglected skills and goals, success in any outer game is not only limited and difficult but also relatively stingy in terms of realizing one's true potential.
The Inner Game presents a novel approach to accelerated learning and the realization of higher achievements. It requires you to reexamine everything you do, including your underlying motivations for doing things and your definitions of what success is.
The basic premise of the Inner Game concept is that there are two selves in each person rather than one. Self 1 is the ego-conscious mind that we as humans have conceived on top of the True Self we were born with. The true self is Self 2. Self 2 is the whole complete human.
Self 2 embodies all the innate potential we are born with, including all abilities -already updated and not yet updated. It also embodies our innate ability to learn and develop any ability. This is the Self we all enjoyed as children and enjoy most as adults when we allow ourselves access to it.
All evidence shows that our best results are when the voice of Self 1 is quiet or busy in some way, and Self 2 can do what it already knows it does naturally or by observing others.
When the situation is reversed (which is usually the case), when Self 1 is in control, Self 1 provides a running commentary on everything Self 2 is doing - and often critical commentary.
Not only does Self 1 remind Self 2 of anything that has happened in the past that was incorrect or wrong, but it also creates the tension and fear that tend to plague us when faced with a challenge.
In fact, Self 1 generates the worst challenges and, by having a negative internal dialogue, manages to place all the blame on Self 2. It's like a failed floppy disk giving commands to a billion-dollar mainframe and then expecting to be credited for the best results while blaming the host computer for the failures. Realizing that the voice that makes controlling demands and criticisms is not as intelligent as the one that receives them is revealing!
This understanding can be expressed in a simple formula that defines the Inner Game. We present this formula in the below graphics:
The formula that defines the principles of Timothy Gallwey's Inner Game
Performance in any activity, from hitting a ball to doing anything in life, is equal to a person's Potential after subtracting the Interference factor from that person. Unfortunately, for most people, Performance rarely matches Potential. A little doubt, a wrong assumption, a fear of failure - this is enough to significantly reduce a person's Productivity.
The goal of playing this game is to reduce everything that prevents you from discovering and expressing your Potential. Unless we learn some of the basic skills of the Inner Game in this century, our technological advancement in the Outer Game will be of little benefit to ourselves or humanity as a whole - in terms of our sense of oneness with nature and the universe. We have a deeper need to better understand and learn to make changes in the domain we call ourselves. And that can only happen when we change in a way that is consistent with our true nature, not at war with it.
To fully understand the serious implications of the simple formula that defines Tim Gallwey's principle, let's take a good look at the relationship between personal productivity and learning and enjoyment. Yes, an enjoyment!
The relationship between Performance, Learning, and Enjoyment
If you ask managers what the word work means, they will focus on work as doing something - as achieving a goal, such as delivering a product or service. In other words, for many people, work means nothing but productivity. But definitions that equate work with productivity can be not only limiting but also soul-destroying, especially in today's business environment.
How are these fundamental elements of work — performance, learning, and enjoyment — related? They are undeniably interdependent. If individuals do not learn, their performance will decline over time; if their main work experience is boredom or stress, both their development and productivity will suffer. These three dimensions can be represented in a mutually supportive "work triangle", with performance at the top and learning and enjoyment at the base level.
You can find these three critical variables and the relations between them presented in the below graphics:
When you ask managers, "Which of the three work outcomes gets the most support and encouragement in your work environment?" their answer is overwhelming "Efficiency". And when you ask them, "How much more priority is performance than learning and enjoyment?" the answer generally has a level far beyond the triangle, so it's only about external performance and nothing else.
In a competitive business world, it's easy to see why performance can be more important than learning and experience (understood here as experiencing enjoyment by an employee). But what are the consequences of pursuing efficiency at the expense of learning and experience?
The consequences are dire in any but the shortest time frame: performance itself will decline. What will be the typical response from management? Greater pressure on productivity results in even less time and fewer resources devoted to employee learning or quality employee experience.
The definition of performance must include the experience and development of employees, as well as their results. The real value of this redefinition of work is that it engages and sees everyone as an individual and the organization as a whole as a place to grow, learn, and enjoy.
A summary of Timothy Gallwey's way and mindset
This is how we have reached the end of the story presenting the path that Tim Gallwey - the precursor of modern coaching - both business and life coaching - went through.
And now I would like to invite you to watch a 6-minute movie. This is a special interview with Tim conducted as part of the "Soul Biographies" series, created and owned by Nic Askew.
Due to copyright restrictions, I cannot present this film directly on our website. But I strongly encourage you to click on the picture below. It will take you to the place where you can see the movie.
This conversation explains the origins of Gallwey's interest in such deep topics, why he found studying philosophy unsatisfactory, and how meeting a 13-year-old Indian man affected his entire life.
Among the answers to the questions posed to Tim, you will find the following golden thoughts:
You start listening when you want to know something. When you think you know it all then listening becomes a little harder.
Do you listen beyond your opinions of right and wrong?
The question is: what do you really want? Because whatever you want (e.g a car, a house ...) the question is why do you want that?
See also other biographies: