One of my clients shared in a recent coaching session that she was totally and utterly overwhelmed. She couldn’t think straight, couldn’t decide what on earth to do next in any moment, and wasn’t able to make decisions, even really tiny ones.
It was tough to hear her beat herself up so much. She’s a high-powered leader in a non-profit organisation with a great track record, but she’s been under a lot of stress lately. And – to put it bluntly – she was freaking out.
What she needs, I thought, is a little unfreakability.
Unfreakability is the state of having a calm, clear mind which allows you to observe things exactly as they are, and take sensible action.
It’s the exact opposite of the overwhelm she was talking about.
I first came across this concept in the Inner Game of Tennis, the 1975 bible for tennis coaches by Timothy Gallwey. I’m a huge tennis fan, so any excuse to link my blog to my favourite sport suits me fine (and what better time than Wimbledon fortnight when we see players like Nadal and Murray being deeply unfreakable). Playing the inner as well as the outer game is key to success in tennis. And so it is in all walks of life.
According to Gallwey, in any situation there are two games going on: the outer game, against physical obstacles (the tennis player’s opponent, our sector’s lack of financial resources, time restraints etc), and the inner game played to overcome self-imposed obstacles. Obstacles that can contribute to overwhelm, such as self-doubt, lapses in focus, resistance to change, limiting beliefs and unhelpful assumptions.
Playing the inner game
In his books (now including The Inner Game of Stress and The Inner Game of Work) Gallway argues that the inner game is the one to focus on – and this is the game to win.
I focus on this inner game in all my coaching. I often tell my clients that the only thing they really need to do is change the story that is going on in their head.
I believe they are able to access their true potential only when their inner game is successfully played. A strong core of unfreakability helps them ‘get out of their own way’ whatever else is going on, be it competing deadlines, a difficult colleague, or seeing a complex project through to completion.
To help them get there, one of the things we work on is transforming negative limiting thoughts and beliefs into ones that will serve them better.
It’s amazing what a difference these tiny changes make.
Have a go now…
How much more helpful is the thought “I have plenty of time” to “Argh. I’ve got so much to do”?
How about “I choose to start right here,” versus “I just don’t know where on earth to begin”?
Or “I am learning to be more organised” to “I know I’ll never get on top of everything”?
The first thoughts lead to calm, taking charge, getting on. The second to a continuation of overwhelm.
Which would you rather have?
Over to you
Are you feeling overwhelmed? Do you need to strengthen your unfreakability? Or perhaps you’re already winning the inner game and have some tips to share that might help others. Let me know in the comments below; I’d love to hear your thoughts!
If you need help with your inner game so you reach your full potential at work contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0208 772 7808 (or 07958 501 427) for a no-obligation chat to see how coaching can help.