The Next Right Thing

Woman’s hand on chess piece

I’ve been feeling pretty swamped lately. There’s a lot going on at work, there’s a lot going on in life, and as organized as I am, I’m still having moments of “eek, I have to do X, Y, and Z, and dear God are we already back to A, B, and C again?” That’s just for the tasks and projects that are specifically expected of me. Add into that the feeling that I, along with most people, could be doing a lot more to contribute to solving what’s ailing society.

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by it all, and overwhelm can be paralyzing. In the big scheme of things, we can’t afford to be paralyzed right now. We have rampant racism, homophobia, xenophobia, a pandemic, and climate change to deal with. Paralysis is not an option.

Even in my day-to-day life, I can’t afford to be paralyzed by overwhelm. I have a family, teammates at work, professors and students preparing to have the fall term (and possibly winter) taught and learned remotely, all of whom need what I bring to the table on a daily basis. I want to bring it, but overwhelm is nipping at the heals of many people these days, so how do we continue to show up?

While recording an episode of the Better Me Podcast with my friend Jen (the episode will go live this coming weekend) we were talking about a couple of books by Glennon Doyle – Love Warrior and Untamed – which reminded me of something she says:

“Just do the next right thing, one thing at a time. That’ll take you all the way home.”

I’m a fast walker, and sometimes my wife or friends need to tell me to slow down the pace a bit. I think that’s a good metaphor for a lot of things in my life. I need to slow down the pace a bit. I need to see what my next step is and take that one step. Eventually if I keep walking, I’ll get to my destination. 

In the midst of everything going on we need to remember that we can’t do it all right this second. We need to figure out the next right thing any one of us can do, and then do it. We need to keep moving forward.

Frankly, I think too often, too many of us run around like the proverbial chicken with our heads cut off. That won’t get us where we want or need to go. We act without considering what the next right thing is.

Todd Henry recently said in a podcast

Bravery exists whenever a person engages in right action at the potential expense of their own comfort. Cowardice, on the other hand, exists when someone chooses self-protection at the expense of right action. It is possible to appear brave to others while actually behaving in a cowardly way, or to appear a coward to others while doing the brave thing.

Be brave, figure out the next right action, and act (even if the next right thing for you is getting a good nights sleep). You’ll stumble, we all do. If you get up, figure out what you tripped on, and get on with doing the next right thing, you’ll get home, and probably help others to do the same along the way.

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