On a recent bowling adventure with my family, I had a thought that reminded me of life in general. A fellow was putting forth plenty of effort but was doing poorly. As a matter of fact, in spite of his valiant attempts, he scored rather low – around 120. It was obvious from his reaction that he wanted to do better. But it just wasn’t happening. He was doing essentially the same thing every time and coming up short. And his failure prompted him to try harder, to bowl with more force. Yet his results barely changed.
Have you noticed that life is often the same way? We try hard, give lots of effort, but the results are disappointing. Granted, when we are bowling just for fun, the score doesn’t matter as much as fellowship. But inside, I believe most of us want to see a high score when we’re done. To get that, however, requires that we do more than randomly roll the ball with little forethought and a ton of hope. Even pro bowlers, who train and practice for years, don’t hit 300 every game. But they do produce high scores consistently. How? Well, there are a lot of factors that go into it, of course, but based on my own experiences and lessons learned from those who were much better bowlers than I am, I want to share three areas where being very intentional goes a long way in determining your score. These same principles apply to life as well.
1. Pick a good starting point and an appropriate target
In particular, this has to do with where you position yourself and where you aim (your target). Just picking the ball up from the return, strolling up to the line, and rolling it will rarely result in a strike. And it certainly is not a repeatable way to get one. But being intentional about where you start from and aiming at one of the arrows down lane (have you ever noticed those?) is how pro bowlers set themselves up to get consistent, predictable results. And it’s the same with life. People who are high-achievers, who make a difference, do not start out every day or every endeavor randomly. They put themselves in position before they start, and they aim at a certain point. Pro bowlers, by the way, do not aim for a particular pin. While they certainly look to where they want the ball to wind up, they aim at a spot that experience has taught them will be the best path for the ball to hit where they want. They know that aiming directly for a certain pin is less effective because so much changes between releasing the ball and it hitting the target. We would do well to approach life the same way. Our long-term goals are important and it is critical that we try to hit them. But often the best way to do that is to hit shorter-term goals on the way.
2. Release the ball intentionally
Again, rolling the ball in random fashion will get us random results. There is no single way to do this in bowling – some bowlers use a lot of spin, others just a tad. Some bowl with a lot of velocity, others use a slower roll. The critical thing is that they are intentional. Many bowlers, especially eager young men, wind up and heave the ball with all their might. But they do nothing else to control the ball’s movement. And frequently they are disappointed that sheer force does not translate into strikes. Similarly, in life, it is not enough that we have an eager approach and go fast. There are other factors that come into play and that we can use to control the outcome. A slow roll with a certain amount of spin can net a much better result than merely hurling the ball like a missle down the lane. Being intentional in delivery will get us a far better result and will result in less disappointment.
3. Adjust to changing conditions
Any good bowler will tell you that adjusting to conditions is a crucial part of bowling well. Over the course of just a single game, and more importantly over several games, bowlers take into account factors such as changing lane conditions, the state of the bowling ball, and their own level of fatigue. For me, because I bowl infrequently, I generally end up changing my starting point and target part-way through the second game. Why? Because my arm begins to tire. If I keep doing the same things that worked when I was fresh, I end up with worsening results. But a few small adjustments help me continue getting (hopefully) good results. In life, conditions are constantly changing as well. Because there is often little we can do to improve circumstances, we must adjust our approach, our target, and our velocity to hit the same goals.
There are countless other items I could have explored here, and an accomplished bowler could certainly dive into those. But I wanted to point out that, in life as well as bowling, we must be intentional if we want to get consistently excellent results, and that when we approach either randomly and haphazardly, we should not be surprised by mediocre results.
How has an intentional approach improved your life? Share in the comments below.