Bowling Balls and Why Change is Hard

Now how is that for a strange title for an article?

I’ll bet not many people have linked those two ideas together.  Right?

OK, so now that you are curious, exactly what do I mean by that statement?

A Bowling Example

I actually really liked to go bowling. I have not gone in many years but I remember it being tons of fun.

I liked watching the bowling ball rumble down the alley on its way to that collision with the pins.

And no matter how much I yelled at the ball or twisted my body to force the ball to go in a certain direction, once released the ball just kept going in the direction it was thrown.

There seemingly was nothing that could be done to change the direction of that bowling ball once it was set on its course.

Is That What Our Life Path is Like

On any given day we have around 15,000 thoughts go through our mind. We have 100s of decisions to make each day that clamor for our attention. Decisions such as “should I get up to go to work or hit the snooze alarm” or “should I blast my horn at the car that just cut me off” or “do I want a small or large mocha frapp”.  We are also constantly being confronted with emotional choices such as “do I get hurt by my co-workers sarcasm or just laugh it off” or “do I fully accept my partner’s statements of love and affection” or “do I act aggressively to get noticed for that promotion at work”.

When we look at all of our choices during the day, are certain actions and reactions more likely to occur then other actions?

For instance, if someone cuts you off while driving are you more likely to get angry and scream at the other driver or just ignore it and calmly keep driving.

In large part, the answer to that will be determined by how you reacted the last time you were cut off in traffic.

In fact, since we are so overwhelmed with thoughts and decisions and emotional choices on a daily basis, most of our actions and reactions become habitual. In other words, what we did the last 5 times or the last 10 times or the last 100 times will probably be what we do this time.

Why is Change Hard?

Each action, thought or emotion that we have is like a bowling ball thrown down an alley. Our reaction has a momentum and direction determined by the initial throw of that bowling ball, and this initial throw could have taken place many years ago.

In bowling, the pins are at the end of the alley and are only hit once. But in life the “pins” are constantly in the path of the ball and are “hit” every time that situation arises.

The momentum of our past actions determines the course of our present and future actions.

And that is why change is so difficult. Our actions have been set in motion in the past and we are replaying them now. And we are replaying them often without knowing the origin of our actions or the initial throw down the alley.

What to Do

The first thing to do is to realize that even though we appear to have choices in how we act, the truth is that our choices are constrained by the momentum of our past behavior.

The momentum of that bowling ball causes our actions to repeat themselves over and over again.

The next thing to do is to stop and insert a pause before your reactions. That pause can be a breath, a blink of an eye or even a mental stop sign. And during that pause we can take that instant and decide if the way we are going is the way we want to go.

In that pause the momentum of the past does not exist. In that pause we are set up to make a new throw of the ball down the alley.

In that pause we have the ability to start a new life!

If we do not take that pause we do not have freedom of choice and change become nearly impossible.

When we take that pause and break the momentum of the past then all things are possible.

Our new life waits in that pause.

Happy bowling.


  1. Margaret Nailor August 3, 2011
  2. Janet August 3, 2011
  3. Dario August 3, 2011
  4. Janet August 3, 2011

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