Book Review: Outsmart Life’s Challenges and Fulfill Your Potential

Therapists are great resources for helping you deal with stress, but maybe money’s a little tight and your insurance benefits are limited. Or maybe it’s hard to fit therapy appointments into your busy lifestyle.

Either way, the book The Inner Game of Stress: Outsmart Life’s Challenges and Fulfill Your Potential by W. Timothy Gallwey, Edd Hanzelik, and John Horton is a great at-home stress management tool.

Out and In

As its name implies, the book looks at stress in the framework of an “inner game” It differentiates between the “outer game,” which involves overcoming obstacles in the world around us as we work toward external goals, and the “inner game” of creating internal obstacles like self-doubt, frustration, and fear. The inner game also involves allowing yourself to be drawn off course by distractions.

You may already be familiar with this approach if you’ve read any of Gallwey’s earlier works. He’s well-known for his sports books, like The Inner Game of Tennis and The Inner Game of Golf. Over the years, he’s applied a similar plan to everything from music to the workplace, and stress is the next step in that evolution.

Gallwey and his physician co-authors tackle inner challenges with three main principles: non-judgmental awareness, trust in yourself, and the exercise of free and conscious choice. They give useful strategies for implementing those principles in a variety of life circumstances.

The Inner Game of Stress: Outsmart Life’s Challenges and Fulfill Your Potential is realistic in its view of how some stress is unavoidable. It acknowledges that things like layoffs and health problems can drop up at any time. Rather than trying to avoid stress, it teaches readers to draw a strong line between stressful events and their own personal identities.

Strategies You Can Use

The book is very empowering. It puts forth the premise that people instinctively know how to keep themselves out of a harmful stress cycle. They simply must learn how to tap into that inner wisdom. The payoff is relieving chronic stress and avoiding its physical and emotional effects.

Part One of this book discusses the plan in the context of what stress is and helps readers measure their own stress levels. This makes a perfect lead-in to Part Two, where the action begins. You look for your “roots of stability,” or the things in your life that can anchor you during a stress tempest.

Part Three kicks the action up a notch with eight “inner game” tools that help you inoculate yourself against stress and effectively deal with any that slips through. The book includes exercises that let you apply the principles directly to your own life. It also weaves in many anecdotes that demonstrate how to do so.

A Practical Plan

The exercises are one of this book’s biggest strengths because they draw readers into taking immediate action. Instead of reading first, then thinking of ways to apply your new knowledge, you do it real time as you’re going through the principles of the plan. The anecdotes give it a friendly feel and provide useful examples to inspire you on your own path.

The Inner Game of Stress: Outsmart Life’s Challenges and Fulfill Your Potential is best for readers who are ready to jump into an action plan. It’s still good for those in the learning phases who are just starting to realize they’re stressed out and that something will give if they don’t take action. However, if you’re still in the information gathering stage, there are plenty of websites to do your general research. When they’re scared you into a readiness for action, this book is there to set you on your path.