There are several tips to bowling a great game that every bowler knows such as the importance of picking the right bowling ball, wearing the right shoes, having a relaxed swing with consistent follow through and perfect body positioning. Sure, there are all kinds little bowling details (and probably some funny superstitions) that avid bowlers will say are must-haves and they probably vary from bowler to bowler. In the end, however, every bowler can agree on one thing – you can’t hit a strike from the gutter.

If we can look at the game of bowling and use it as a metaphor for life, the pins would represent our goals, hopes and dreams, the ball would represent our momentum towards those goals, hopes and dreams and the lane would be our journey. Simple enough, right?

Let’s say the 10 bowling pins that are set at the end of the lane represent a new job that we are trying to find, or a better word might be ‘attract.’ This perfect job would include a reasonable commute with a perfect manager for our style and temperament. This job would be with a company that has a wonderful mission as well as products that really align with our values. In short, these pins represent our dream job. We can actually visualize these pins at the end of our lane even if the ball just left our hands.

The ball moving steadily down the lane represents our momentum towards our dream job. The momentum is fueled by all kinds of things such as passion and a natural disposition to do the work well and have the work be rewarding. We’d wake up excited to go to this job every day – living, breathing and thinking about this kind of work with a fever that reminds us that we were “born to do this.”

But, often times what happens in life is we start out in a great space – we have our eye on the pins and our intentions and energy are great – but then we start to get wobbly – and a wobbly ball loosing its momentum heads right toward the gutter.

What makes a ball wobbly, you might ask? There are a several things but they all boil down to thoughts and feelings that don’t align with our ball hitting those center arrows with perfect speed heading for the strike. Maybe these thoughts are comparing ourselves with a friend on a similar path who is in the lane right next to us and maybe he or she appears to be making more progress than we are. Maybe our wobble is centered around our need to control every little aspect of every little thing even after we’ve released the ball because we just can’t help ourselves and our egos have convinced us that our way is the only way. Maybe our wobble is due to our constant need to worry because we simply don’t know who we are if we aren’t worrying about something. Maybe our wobble is simply because we question our ability to deserve that perfect job because great jobs like that simply “don’t happen to people like me.” It’s really pretty simple. If we want to hit a strike, we have to have strike-like thoughts and energy. This will feed behavior that is consistent to that of a person who throws strikes. If we think and feel like we’re going to land in the gutter, don’t worry, we will.

If we keep this theme of not being able to hit a strike from the gutter on the front burner of our awareness then we will be able to catch ourselves if we are having a gutter type of thought and get our ball back on track. If we can instill some gutter bumpers to help keep aligned, such as meditation, visualization, and friends who can get us back on track by reminding us that we are having a gutter-thought, all the better.

Let’s watch an example of gutter-thoughts playing out:

  • MONDAY  – “I am so excited about my big presentation on Friday. It’s going to be great!”
  • TUESDAY – “I just heard that my best friend got a raise and a promotion. How exciting for her. I wonder how big that raise will be? I wonder if she’ll be making more than me? If she does she’ll probably buy that new car she’s been talking about. It’s a great car. What if this presentation on Friday doesn’t go well? Will I miss my chance to advance in the company? Will I ever get a new car? Mine has all kinds of problems and we can’t afford to send it to the shop with all the repairs it will need. I need this presentation to go well so I can ask for a raise. Man, I all of a sudden feel exhausted. I need a nap. I’ll fine-tune that presentation tomorrow.”
  • WEDNESDAY – “I can’t believe I didn’t work on my presentation last night. I’m such a procrastinator. I always procrastinate. Only losers procrastinate. Who am I kidding with this presentation anyway. My boss will be there and he has it out for me. I feel sick to my stomach. At this rate, I may not even be well for the presentation on Friday. Bobby may have to give it. Everyone likes Bobby. I used to like Bobby until he tried to steal my job away from me. Doesn’t he know that my way is the only way that makes sense to handle this account? What does he know? He’s just a kid. I’m going to text my colleagues at work because they totally understand me and they totally understand why Bobby is so off the mark. I’m definitely feeling under the weather. I’m going to call everyone I know and complain over and over and over and over and then watch a movie about a sucker getting shafted.”
  • THURSDAY – “I don’t feel well at all. Bobby is definitely giving this presentation. I’m sick of this stuff always happening to me. I’m going to call my brother to have dinner with me. He knows what it’s like to be shoved down by the man!”
  • FRIDAY – “I’m just staying home today. I can’t even go into the office. I’m so disgusted. There goes my raise!”

As we move through this woman’s scenario we can absolutely highlight her gutter thoughts. Her thoughts compare, worry, berate others, indulge ego-centered thoughts and question self-worth. And because they were left unchecked, they landed her in the gutter, sick in bed and missing a golden opportunity.

Now let’s watch an example of strike-thoughts playing out.

  • MONDAY – “I am so excited about my big presentation on Friday. It’s going to be great!”
  • TUESDAY – “I just heard that my best friend got a raise and a promotion. How exciting for her. I wonder how big that raise may be? Hopefully it’s big because she deserves it. (If any thoughts of jealousy creep in, grab the gutter bumpers. Meditate or play the highlight reel of all your past successes. Remind yourself something bigger is at play here and is orchestrating things far better than you can possibly imagine.) Let’s work on that presentation now and really tighten it up. I want the customers to be as excited as I am about this idea.”
  • WEDNESDAY – “I’m so glad I worked on my presentation last night because it reads even better with those changes. I can already imagine the looks on their faces. A strike is coming, I can feel it. I’m going to call my sister and ask if she wants to have dinner with me. She is so funny and always makes me laugh. We can go to my favorite restaurant because we love the same foods. Let’s crank some feel-good music from my favorite band! Yeah!”
  • THURSDAY – “I feel great and I’m ready to kill it tomorrow. I’m so lucky to have a team where everyone has their talents and their own way of doing things. I feel prepared and amazing. I’m going to meditate for a while so I can visualize tomorrow going perfectly. Then I’ll make my favorite meal and then watch that great feel-good movie. I contemplated watching that heady documentary but I don’t want to get too in my head so I’ll save that for another day.”
  • FRIDAY -“What a great day! That presentation went better than I could have imagined.I couldn’t have asked for more. STRIKE!”

This scenario is strike-thought after strike-thought that leads straight to an outcome that feels great.

Now, realistically speaking, for some of us we may find our way in and out of the gutter in any given week, especially until we get the hang of all this stuff. The critical thing is recognizing a gutter-thought when it’s happening so we can start to reverse it and get back on track with our thoughts and our mood instead of indulging the gutter and staying out there for far too long. Some of us have lived in the gutter of comparing or worrying or controlling or feeling unworthy for so long that it feels like home. Some of us have literally furnished our gutters. That’s ok, it doesn’t have to be permanent. We just have to be aware so we can shorten our stays from the gutter being a permanent resident to a place that we visit once in a while for short moments of “being human.” We need to remind our selves that we not only deserve the strikes but know the secret of staying in our lane.

-Dawn Culp. © Copyright, 2017, The Zen Room