5 min read

Raise Your Inner Game by David Levin - Summary and Book Notes

Have you ever thought to yourself, "What's wrong with you? Why can't you keep it together?" Who are you arguing with?

In this short but highly actionable book, David Levin presents a unique framework for thinking about your 'Inner Game'.

Raise Your Inner Game by David Levin


The book is split into two parts. Part 1 outlines Levin's 'Levels' framework. It's a neat way to reveal why you act the way you do. Part 2 shows useful tools for raising yourself to a fully engaged state.

The book is full of little exercises which help reinforce the concepts and raise your inner game. Towards the end Levin gives you steps to implement and apply these exercises in your life, which is a nice touch. Too often books give you a ton of new concepts and tools without a guide for implementing them.

Full Disclosure: The author sent me a free copy of this book. I only post book notes if I think the book is worth reading, but remember that I am subject to reciprocity bias

The book is short and actionable. While I like books that are to-the-point, I wish some of the sections were more fleshed out.

I would have like to have seen more tools for dealing with impulse control, and emotional self-regulation. These two subjects are difficult for everyone, and while the book gives some tools to fight them, I think a deeper discussion is warranted.  Additionally, I wish Levin had leveraged his previous client work to give us more examples from outside of his own life.

I really like the levels framework Levin presents. The book is worth a read for this concept alone, as it's way more actionable than the common 'System 1 vs System 2' type thinking.

The Exercises presented throughout the book are all challenging and thought provoking. It's tempting to just blow past examples in books, but here it's worth it to stop and work through them. I especially enjoy 'lifts' and have added them to my routine as something to look out for.

I recommend this book for anyone who:

  1. Is 'in their head' all of the time
  2. Wants to feel more 'engaged' throughout the day.

Buy "Raise Your Inner Game" on Amazon, read it on Kindle Unlimited

, or check it out at the library.

Want to level up your productivity and start getting work done?

We built an interactive coach, available 24⁄7 to give you a feasible next step to improve your productivity skills.

Get the Digital Productivity Coach

Quick Summary

The following are rough notes I took while reading. These are mostly paraphrased or quoted directly from the book. My thoughts are in italics.

The Inner Game and How it Works

Have you ever thought to yourself, "What's wrong with you? Why can't you keep it together?"

There are two people in there!

This book is all about developing:

  • Cognitive control
  • Emotional self-regulation
  • Impulse control

The Inner Game Framework

A model of your inner game: 4 levels, an elevator, and you.

The 4 levels:

  • "Level 4"
  • Intellectual
  • Emotional
  • Physical

Key point: You are seperate from the levels

You move between the levels all the time. As you move to each level, you change--you "become" a different person.

Level 1: Physical

The level of primitive, instinctive impulses. Appetites. Compulsions.

Level 2: Emotional

Your emotions take charge. The problem come swhen you get so consumed by emotion that you say and do things you don't mean. Road rage. Knee-jerk reactions that you later regret

Level 3: Intellectual

Your Logical, analytical self has taken over. Most of us are on level 3 by default. This may sound like a good level to be on, but it's generally not. You can become "checked-out," get lost in thought and forget to be present with those around you. Your emotional and physical selves get pushed to the background and you lose all empathy.

Level 4: You at Your Best

There in the moment, fully engaged with what you're doing.

Level 4 Thinking takes all of the levels into account, which makes for more insightful, higher-quality decisions.

The Elevator

The elevator pulls you up and down to different levels. Most of the time, we're not in control of our inner state.

The whole process of moving between the levels plays out in tiny moments that happen throughout the day.

Inner Gravity

You want to operate from level 4, but there's always a force pulling you to the lower levels--call it gravity.

Some days you have 'high gravity' days; maybe you're sick or everything feels tougher for no good reason.

Your environment can be high gravity: Television, donuts at work, news sources, negative people.

Inner Game Skills and Tools

Be the CEO of your inner company, who listens to his VP of Body, VP of Emotions, and VP of Brain, but ultimately makes the decisions.

Practice using tactics outlined in this section to build the skill of raising your inner game.

Cognitive Control

When level 3 tries to pull you off track, say "No. Quiet," and keep your thoughts where you want them.

If something keeps coming up, schedule time to think about the issue, so you can put it aside for now.

Impulse Control
Lifts: Small wins that help build mindfulness

Lift examples:

  • You notice some litter, walk past it, then choose to double back and pick it up.
  • On a run, you feel like stopping early but push through anyway
  • You absent-mindedly reach for an open bowl of chips, then think better of it.

These little "lifts" feel good and remind you to be present. You were acting unconciously, but now that you've resisted the gravity and acted intentionally, you've brought yourself to level 4.

Focused Sitting

The author describes a form of Vipassana meditation. I think he is purposefully avoiding the term 'meditation' to avoid putting off skeptics

Remember that meditation is an exercise, and it will at times feel like you're "bad" at it. The act of sitting is enough.

Meditation is not the end-all-be-all exercise, it is one (powerful) tool in your arsenal.

Inner Game Tracker

Setup a spreadsheet to track your progress in the exercises mentioned in this book.

Inner Game Tracker Example

You can dowload a pre-formatted Inner game tracker at David Levin's site.

Don't worry about the gaps in your sheet. It's the tracking that matters.

Feel free to change what you track

You can track negative behaviors too. One bad-habit in the morning can have a 'negative spiral' effect on your whole day.

Controlling your compulsive behaviors is the make-or-break factor of raising your inner game.


Phases of adopting these new tools:

Phase 1: A new Baseline

These new concepts and tools are new and interesting, you start to feel the differences they make. You quickly develop a new baseline

Phase 2: Find the Balance Point

Real life happens. You need to figure out what it takes to maintain your new higher baseline without the initial excitement.

Phase 3: Inner Game MasteryOnce you have your new baseline and know what it takes to sustain it, from then on you're in control of your inner game.


Have you read 'Raise Your Inner Game?' Let me know what you thought of the book!

Buy "Raise Your Inner Game" on Amazon


If you like these notes, you'll also be interested in: