Originally posted on Dee Ann Turner’s blog.
Over the last few years, I have experienced a tremendous amount of personal change. Our family lost my Dad and both of my in-laws within nine months. Two of our three children were launched into their own lives, careers and families and the third is well on his way. Within our company, after 30 years, I changed roles into a new area of leadership and a new team. In the midst of it all, my first book was published.
All of this change provided more opportunities to grow and stretch than at any other point in my life. With those opportunities, came a lot of stress that needed to be managed. During such times in our lives, it is hard to survive through them, much less thrive through them.
At the end of this season, I stopped to assess where I was and the only analogy I could think of was that I had become a pin ball. When we think about pin balls, we can clearly see them in action. They are first catapulted into the game with great force and then proceed to bounce off object after object with complete randomness. As the energy from the initial hit by the plunger subsides, the pin ball begins to roll toward the black hole at the bottom of the table. While it is in the game, the pin ball scores a lot of points, but it’s fate is always to eventually run out of energy and fall into the black hole. In the backdrop, there is lots of noise of bells and dings.
We can envision the pin ball slowly rolling down the table, and then another force hits it and it is suddenly propelled back into the game. It does not have the same force as it did when it first entered the game, but enough to send it back into the game to score a few more points. A pin ball is reactionary and bounces all around until it eventually runs out of energy, rolls right past the levers that could save it and drops into that black hole.
That’s what I had become and it was not a pretty sight to me. My life had become a set of circumstances to which I was bouncing from one to another with no control over the trajectory or impact. Just as it felt like I was about to drop into the black hole, I froze the game and called a timeout.
During a time of brief reflection (because the game continued around me), I realized that what I want to be is a golf ball. A golf ball is driven with precision and intention. Its trajectory is planned. Occasionally, a golf ball will veer from its intended path and bounce off a tree, drop into the water or land in the sand trap. However, the golfer, in these circumstances, lines up the next shot with the same precision to correct the error.
For the golf ball, the surroundings are quiet as the game is played. The players concentrate deeply and focus all of their energy on selecting the right club, examining the lie of the ball and determining other factors that will affect the flight of the ball. In the end, to record the score, the object is to get the ball in the hole with as few interruptions to its path as possible.
During my self-imposed timeout, it was clear to me that I preferred to be a golf ball rather than a pin ball. To make that change, I had to decide to once again approach my life and my goals with great intentionality and avoid reacting to the obstacles that I bumped into along the way. I took three crucial actions: