FlipperYears ago, I missed seeing a smart fellow around the community. We had been trustees on a not-for-profit board and he had disappeared from the monthly table. So I called and we went to lunch.

He told me that his wife was seriously ill. Quite in love with his wonderful wife, he had decided to focus on only two things: wife and work. He stepped away from everything else, such as board commitments and teaching. He made all his time available to enjoy life with his wife. He said, “It’s been a great decision.”

I asked sincerely, “Should I make that same decision now? Or should I wait, heaven forbid, for my wife to be ill?”

His words: “Make the decision now. Don’t wait to be forced into the decision. It would be all the better a decision without the pressures and anxieties of illness.”

His words reminded me that I was living life as a pinball, rather than as a flipper. A pinball accepts all invitations, dutifully responding to every request. A flipper makes choices about life’s moment-to-moment direction. I wanted to become a flipper.

As a pinball, I am constantly busy. Alisa and I often discuss my difficulty in making time. When I asked her if I should accept a new invitation to work on a worthy cause, Alisa said: “Absolutely. And there is still time to do it in your busy calendar. I think that time is from 2-4 a.m. on Sundays.”

On the path to becoming more of a flipper, about a year ago, I met my friend, Steve Anderson, founder of Integrated Leadership Systems. He observed about me:

You pop out of bed at 4 or 5 every morning, move fast, get lots of good things done, and flop into bed tired at 9 every night. You’ve already eliminated television, so you are not wasting any time. But you spend no time in reflection. You aren’t stopping during the day to ask yourself, “Is this what I want to be doing? Is this what gives my life meaning? Do I enjoy what I am doing, even right now?” Effective people reflect. They find a comfy chair, away from distractions, and write down their thoughts. Why are you running so hard. Are you running from reflection? If so, what are you afraid to learn about yourself?

Around the same time, another friend, Stuart Lazarus, a Young Isaac client and founder of Run to Remember sent me a copy of Chasing Daylight,¬†the last words of Gene O’Kelly. Chasing Daylight describes how a man transforms his dying days, into days of intense living, by focusing on the present.

Daily life encourages me to live in the blur of the immediate future: the next meeting, the next destination, arriving on time, being ready. According to Daniel Gilbert’s introduction to Stumbling on Happiness, happiness is grasped when we invest at least partly in being happy today, not investing solely in being happy later.

I’m becoming more of a flipper every day. And I’m seeing that I’m worth more to those around me.