The pressure to make changes in anticipation of a more fulfilling life are very prevalent in our every day lives.  We are always looking for ways to make things better and personal growth for many is described as getting better at somethingTim Gallwey developed some key insights on the dynamics of personal change that had radical and practical implications for the workplace, through his experiences as a tennis coach.  When students came to him wanting to become better tennis players, he found that he interacted with them by giving a series of ‘should ‘and ‘shouldn’t’ commands.  In this learning environment, the student became dependent on his feedback and learning was reduced to simply doing what she/he was told. As a result, change was viewed as something that goes from bad to good because of the actions of someone other that the one making the change ( figure 1 :).  Gallwey suggested that this learning relationship existed in a judgmental context that usually brings with it resistance, doubt, and fear of failure on the part of the learner. Gallwey stressed that this approach to change undermines the student’s innate eagerness and responsibility for learning.  And although we may struggle with the inherent contradictions in this approach, it continues to be the most prevalent to way make a desired change because of the lack of an alternative method.

Change from Inside the person

Gallwey discovered the importance of the dialogue that was going on inside a player’s head as he/she was trying to process the corrective feedback. This shift of focus to the way information was being processed led to the discovery of self 1 and self 2 as the key components of the inner dialogue.  Self 1 – is the voice of self-doubt and second guessing and Self 2 – is the natural self.  He identified the on-going tension between the inner voice, Self 2, where the focus is on our innate drive to learn and develop our inherent internal capacities, and a critical Self 1, which interferes with this natural process of learning. Finding ways to manage this dichotomy is at the core of meaningful change and achievement.

Tension Self1and2

Tension between the Voice of Self 1 and Self 2

“At the end of the day, it’s important that your convictions are stronger than your doubts” 

Novak Djokovic after his successful match vs. Federer Australian Open 2016

A Better Way to Make a Change – Breaking the Cycle of Interference

Gallwey’s further work with tennis players revealed the importance of PERCEPTION as the trigger for the Self 1 voice to be summoned as a response to a potential threat.  He found that this perception of a potential threat was what was starting the cycle of interference.

The Voice of Self 1 – the ball is perceived as a threat   

  • oh no the ball is coming
  • I missed it the last time
  • I might miss it again
  • “get my racquets back”
  • swing?!?!
  • I feel myself getting tense as I try to focus on getting my racquet back and my view of the ball is almost like a blur s I randomly swing my racquet through and hope to hit the ball
  • Does this feel at all familiar?



Gallwey’s coaching changed from giving specific skill based progressions to helping his players increase their awareness of the flight of the oncoming ball.  By asking the player to become absorbed in watching the flight of the ball, the player became less judgmental of himself.  Gallwey noticed that in this nonjudgmental mode of observation, many of the technical elements of his swing naturally changed. He explains this by outlining the connection between perception – response – results and self image as outlined in Figure 2.  Essentially by purposefully setting up the thinking to allow for nonjudgmental awareness to replace the distorted perception of the ball as threatening, the players were able to access their natural response, which was to step into it and swing.  This felt better and naturally produced better results. With improved performance it was natural for self-confidence to grow in place of self doubt.

Figure 2 – Cycle of Interference (Gallwey, 2000)

Fascinated by the impact of perception on the outcome of learning, Gallwey became increasingly aware of, what he called, a more elegant approach to learning and coaching.  He continued to discover ways that would focus the impetus for change on managing the dynamics of the inner dialogue that was happening between the voice of Self 1 and Self 2.  Gallwey distilled the thinking to three key principles: awareness, trust and choice.  It is these three principles that drive the thinking about how to make meaningful, sustainable change. Further, the three principles are inextricably connected. Gallwey refers to them as three parts of a whole.  The more we trust ourselves, the easier it is to be more aware, the more aware we are the more choices we are able to see. We often feel stuck when the voice of self 1 is dominating the inner dialogue.  Our awareness is blocked by a judgmental view, which limits the choices that we can consider and leads to feelings of self doubt and hopelessness.

Consider this thinking as a way to get “unstuck”



Open awareness and free yourself from the prevalent habit of looking outside for solutions that may be creating this distorted perception. Become more clear about who you are and what you want!

Understand that greater awareness of self will lead to more choices for you to consider.

More choices allow you to see yourself in a way that can build confidence and silence self-doubt.

Mobility for Change –

Given that we live in a world where we often look outside ourselves for the ‘shoulds’ and ‘shouldn’ts’ to help us change to a desired state, I would like to invite you further into using Gallwey’s model as a means for creating Mobility for Change

New Year’s resolutions are often about changing something from one state to a more desirable one.

Eating better, getting more sleep, exercising more, paying more attention to your spouse, being more organized, trying not to get mad, staying away from conflict

What is your desired change?  Want to get more sleep