Managing your Inner Game in a Tough Situation

Photo Credit: Photo by phife on Unsplash

Have you ever thought you had a good plan for going forward but then it all just fell apart?

That’s what the last few days have been like for me, and I talk about it in this week’s post.

It’s a personal story, but it gives a good feel for the daily work of raising your Inner Game.



  • A great story of how new situations can throw your Inner Game off track.
  • The three steps that work for me every time.
  • The importance of action!
  • The very best kind of action to take.
  • Watch/listen to get the full message.

1) Free guide: “Three Things You Can Do Right Now To Start Loving Your Work (And Life) Again.” Visit to get yours today!

2) The David Levin Show podcast is now available. Subscribe at

3) COMING SOON: Limited Edition Raise Your Inner Game Medallion. Carry it in your purse or pocket. It’s an UP button for your Inner Elevator! Watch for an announcement.

[ transcript ]

Hey, it’s David Levin. Author of Raise Your Inner Game, co-author of QBQ the question behind the question, founder of Raise Your Inner Game Academy.

Have you ever had a time when you looked ahead at the next week or so, thought you had a good plan for taking care of yourself, and getting things done, but then it all just falls apart?

That’s what the last few days have been like for me.

We’re on a family road trip this week and the first few days have been pretty rough.

I thought I had a good plan, and I was looking forward to it. But just enough things were different from what I expected that it just threw everything out of whack.

So here’s the story. A couple weeks ago we came to Chicago for a short vacation. Just a few days. I was in the middle of a 30-day challenge during that trip, trying to stay perfectly focused with all the things on my Inner Game Tracker, a morning routine with sitting, and exercise, and journaling, and not drinking coke zero, and everything just worked out great.

I got up at 6 in the dark hotel room, had my morning sit, slipped out to fitness center for walk/run on the treadmill and my pull-ups pushups and sit ups, then went to business center, did my morning journal and a journal recording for the podcast. Slipped back in to the room around 7:30 or 8. They were still getting up. It was perfect. And I really loved it. Great start to the day. Just felt good all day because of it.

So I was looking forward to doing that again on this trip. But there is just enough different about the situation this time that it just doesn’t work.

First, the rest of the family can’t sleep in. The kids have to get up at 6:30 to be ready for their classes. So I can get up and sit, but that’s about it. No time for any of the other stuff until after they’ve gone at 8:15. It’s sort of like a typical school year model or rhythm. But at that point, I want to get to work. The day is already under way. There’s a lot of pressure to not do the rest of it. It really works great when it’s all part of the same morning routine.

Also, the first couple of days anyway, the breakfast available was terrible. Just pure cheap carbs. Fruit Loops. Bagels. I had waffles and orange juice yesterday. And a huge crash a couple hours later, as you’d expect. The kind of crash, by the way, that makes a Coke Zero irresistible. You know where that’s going.

Also, the fitness center has no way to do pull ups. I can still do the other stuff, but for some reason, not being able to do pull ups just really bums me out. I don’t want to go a whole week without those.

So like I said there are just a lot of things that are throwing me off track these last couple days and I’m feeling a bit off center.

When I lay down last night, and when I went to write in my journal this morning, I really felt like it’s been a terrible day. I was really bummed out. But on paper, it’s not really that bad. I didn’t eat terribly. Just a couple things here and there. But I still felt like I was basically sleepwalking all day. Not really present, not feeling very happy and energized. Just sort of funky all day, and not in a good way. I was huge into funk music back in the 70s so I want to clarify that. Funky can be a very very good thing. But this was not. This was the bad kind.

So the real question then is what do you do about that? How do you work through it and get back to your Level 4 self? Because this kind of thing, and again, it’s only been a couple of days. I just finished a 30-day stretch that was basically perfect and I felt great. It’s only been two days, and I sort of knew it was coming. But still, this sort of thing can really knock you off track for a long time if you let it. So how do you not let it. How do quickly get yourself back on as good a track as possible.

And I say “as possible” because it may not be perfect. I’m here all week. It is not going to be perfect. The work environment is pretty bad. Interrupted. Noisy. The morning routine is just not going to work the way I want it to. But I need to get my Inner Game back on track or I’m going to lose my mind. So how do you do it? Here is what I’m doing. Hopefully it will give you some ideas.

The first thing is to just not freak out in the first place. I said I felt like it was a terrible day when it really wasn’t? You need to be able to step back from the frustration and the disappointment and get a better perspective on reality. So that’s the first thing I do. I just step back and I think. How bad is it really? What is the reality of the situation? It’s so rarely as bad as it seems.

And by the way, keeping a journal and a tracking sheet really helps with this. I talk so much about the value of the inner game tracker and journal and it’s a little hard to communicate sometimes, but this is a great example. When you are using your tracking sheet and your journal, you can pretty easily remember the specifics of what’s going on. You’re always monitoring in the background. You know what you’re shooting for as far as how you eat and exercise and all of that. So when you need step back and look at reality, you have specific information available. That’s really helpful.
When you don’t have that, you just have your feelings, and feelings warp reality. You think “God it was a terrible day” and that’s as far as you can go. But when you have information — well, I guess I did eat pretty well, and I did get those things done, I guess it wasn’t that bad — that makes a huge difference.

So stepping back, getting perspective is the first thing I do.

It’s also helpful to just have a realistic expectation. Meaning, to remind yourself that life does not always fall in line with our plans. In fact, it rarely falls in line with our plans, especially if we’re coming in to some sort of change, some new situation.
When I’m home, I can look ahead at the coming week and have a pretty good idea how it’s going to go and how easy it’s going to be to stay on track or not. But heading into a road trip with the family, who knows what’s going to happen? For example, the first night here, Peter had a bad stomach, so he and Margret we up most of the night, which totally changed the whole dynamic for the next day. Made it that much more difficult for me to do what I had planned.
So you can plan ahead as best you can, and you should plan, but you have to hold the plan loosely, too, or you’re just going to go crazy and be no fun to be around. Or at least that’s what happens to me. I lose my happy place. Which of course, only makes things worse, right? My cranky state is exactly the opposite of what I want and what is actually helpful in the situation. It becomes part of the problem.
So, just knowing as you come in to a new situation that there’s going to be things you didn’t expect and things that are not ideal and all that, essentially making that part of your expectation is helpful, too. Because then, when things do get rough, you can say, That’s right. I thought this might happen. And it helps.

So, getting perspective. Setting expectations ahead of time. Very helpful.

Then the next thing, and probably the biggest thing, is to start taking action. Some kind of willful, intentional action.
And the best kind of action is what I talk about in the Book as a Lift. L-I-F-T. Lifts, if you don’t know, are basically Impulse Control. You notice a pull to do something, and you resist. So, for me, this morning, someone was eating a granola bar, it sounded good, I thought maybe I’ll have one of those. But a granola bar would represent me breaking my plan for eating. I’m on a low-carb program right now. So, I don’t really want to do that, even though right in that moment, I did. So a Lift is noticing that pull and saying, No, not going do that. And that’s what I did. No granola bar. And it felt good.

Another one, we’re in the hotel room here, four of us, a little cramped. Kids are watching some morning cartoons. I’m just sitting there, half watching, feeling sort of stuck in neutral. I want to get in my morning pushups and sit ups but it’s a little weird to just flop down on the floor in the room with everyone. So I’m feeling some resistance to doing it. You don’t need to do it now. It’s okay. You can do it later. But I thought, Nope, now’s the time. The more I wait the less likely it is. This is a good use of my time. So I’ll do it. And I did. And again, it felt good, on two levels. The exercise itself feels good. But more important, resisting that pull against doing what I want — that inner gravity — really opens things up in a great way.
What it does is, it engages your will. It’s like a big on-switch for your will-power. And will is what gives you the strength to have the focus and energy you want throughout the day.

So I did a few things like that this morning and all of a sudden I’m feeling much much better.

So the first thing is to stop the freak out and get some perspective. The next thing is to take some willful, intentional actions and break the pull of this Inner Gravity.

And from then on, I just have to keep being flexible and keep resisting Gravity. For example, I get a little work done this morning — writing this actually — but I only have about 45 minutes to really work. Then I have to shift gears, get with the kids for a few minutes. Then I get another chunk of time. I did another Lift actually today and got myself out for a run. Lots of resistance against that. I only have this small chunk of time. I have other work to do. It’s getting hot out. Blah blah blah. But I did it anyway and it felt great. And again, you get this two-tiered benefit. The run has its own positive effect, plus I get the extra bonus of overcoming gravity. And I know that’s hard to describe, but I’m telling you, that’s the golden piece. There’s nothing like that — overcoming gravity in these moments — to pick yourself and get your day back on track.

So anyway, that’s what I’ve done this morning. And it’s feeling pretty good. Hopefully it will continue. I’m sure I will need to keep being flexible as the week progresses. And it won’t be ideal any of it. But it will be a million times better for having done these few little things to get my Inner Game back on track.

I know this is very specific to my situation this week. But it gives you a good feel for what it’s like to be engaged with your Inner Game and to work to keep yourself up where you want to be. So I hope it gives you some ideas for your own life and for how to be your best when you’re stuck in a sub-optimal situation.

All right, that’s it for this week. If you’re hearing this somewhere other than on my site, come on over,, put your name on my newsletter list so I can send you the free report, “Three Things You Can Do Right Now To Start Loving Your Work (And Life) Again” and let you know about other posts and trainings when they come out.

If you’d rather get these posts in your podcast player, you can subscribe to my podcast, The David Levin Show. Just go to iTunes search for that.

Otherwise, thank you. Keep up the good work. I’ll talk to you next time.


  • Diane

    July 5, 2018

    Thanks David! I can so relate to things going astray on any kind of trip. Love all the encouraging words and helpful suggestions. Raising my inner game is a daily endeavor!

  • David Levin

    July 5, 2018

    Thanks, Diane. It is a real challenge!

Leave A Response

* Denotes Required Field