I’ve been playing racquetball regularly for more than 30 years and over that time I’ve played a lot of people. One of my regulars is the FASTEST person I’ve seen play in 3 decades. He has the most incredible reflexes I’ve ever seen. He gets to balls no mortal should, and can reverse field and hit the ball with a flick of his wrist that I could find demoralizing if I allowed myself to think that way. I consider him to be physically a much better player than I am, yet I am able to beat him.

Why? While he is physically a better player, my mental game is much more focused and disciplined, AND his mental game trips him up left and right. If he is an A player physically, his mental game is a D level at best. He rents out space in his head, big time, to his inner critic. He rents out major space in his head to me and I’m not even trying to be a tenant. When he hits a shot in the ground I hear him mutter to himself, “There I go again,” as if it were his true and natural nature to mess up. I choose to see myself as a child of the universe, blessed with the possibility of greatness and endowed with tremendous potential, it being my destiny and duty to fulfill that potential. My true and natural nature is success.

Never surrender control of your brain to your inner critic. No loving parents would ever coach their kids the way I see some people “let into” themselves on the playing field. If you would not treat your son or daughter that way, why would you treat yourself that way? Some people let their inner critics go on and on in ways that they would consider verbally or emotionally abusive in a spouse or boss. Does the source of the abuse matter? Isn’t abuse simply abuse? And all the worse because it comes from someone so close to us, ourselves?

Never, ever let the other side rent space in your head. Don’t give up the high ground. Stay fully on your own side. Win the inner, mental game first and winning the outer game will be easier.

This is a classic from the NSC Blog archive, originally posted July 18, 2008.