Do you ever feel stuck? Not sure which direction to go or what to do next? Or maybe you’re in a season of fear and feel paralyzed? You can barely remember to brush your teeth let alone take the next step in front of you? We all find ourselves in that place sometimes. And I believe it can be most challenging when we are there because of outside forces that are beyond our control—like this 2020 Pandemic!
I listen to a variety of podcasts when I go out on my walks, and one of my favorites is by Emily P. Freeman, author of the book, The Next Right Thing. Her podcast and book focus’ on decision fatigue and taking the next step. When I first discovered her, I was especially taken with just that phrase … “doing the next right thing.” I found my mind bouncing back to that idea as I went through my days. This was at the end of the year during the time I begin to ask God to give me a “word” (but it’s usually a phrase) that will be my “word” for the upcoming year. I will create a piece of jewelry from our engravable line from the company I represent to remind me of that throughout the year.
When I examine that phrase sometimes it is a simple question of “What should I do next in my day?” but at other times it is deeper and more personal. Maybe my thoughts about someone are not kind and I do not want to respond appropriately – but into my mind pops the phrase, “Do the next right thing.” Or I’m visiting with a friend who is struggling with a life situation and asking for my advice, in comes the thought “Do the next right thing.”
There are so many nuances in just those few short words. First is “Do” … it’s an action. Not knowing what to do usually causes us to stop and do nothing. Nothing may be okay for a day, but it’s not a good idea for multiple days, weeks or more. Inactivity creates complacency, which leads to negativity. So we need to “do,” but do what?
Skipping ahead to the word “next,” makes me think again of action or movement. Next is moving forward … not staying stuck where we are but taking the next step, no matter how tiny. Most of this world has a logical order to it. God created the world with order and most anything we need to accomplish has steps that naturally follow each other.
“Run with purpose in every step.
Be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord.”
I Corinthians 15:58
“Right” is really the key word in this phrase. If you take it out, you’re left with “Do the next thing.” Well, that doesn’t really lead you anywhere, does it? The next thing may not be the right thing. “Right” is a wonderful filter to run our decisions through. Now I do recognize that what is right for you may look completely different than what is right for me. I’m defining right as a morally, ethically positive step that doesn’t go against God’s desire for me. “Doing the next thing” could mean brushing off your child because you have heard the word “Mom” 180 times already today. But “doing the next right thing” will motivate you to respond lovingly to them because someone older and wiser than you reminded you that eventually they will be going to someone other than you and you will wish you were still being asked for input into their every decision. Or it could mean giving your spouse the benefit of the doubt before responding—"doing the next thing” could cause an uproar while “doing the next right thing” will make all the difference in how the rest of your day plays out and save you from a humbling apology later. Even in simpler things—"the next thing” could be eating half a dozen cookies during the day where “the next right thing” could be making the decision to eat one or forego altogether (I’m sorry – I know I’m meddling now!) But seriously, spend a little time and think about what the word “right” means to you. As you move throughout your day, are you “doing the next thing” or “doing the next right thing?”
Finally, we have the word “thing.” I love “thing” – it’s so broad and all encompassing! That means this phrase can apply to every single aspect of your life. Decisions you make in your mind, in your work, in your relationships, with your body, your words, your money. Nothing gets left out of “thing.”
So let’s think about this again. What would “doing the next right thing” look like if I am paralyzed by fear, by finances, by food, by friends (wonder how many words I can think of that start with F!) The answer will probably be different for you than it is for me. But the “next right thing” does not have to be Step A to Step Z … it can simply be to Step B. If it’s food, maybe that means walking out of the kitchen and brushing my teeth so whatever I’m craving won’t taste good anymore. Maybe it’s closing my Amazon page so I’m not tempted to buy something I don’t really need. Maybe it’s taking 5 minutes of quiet time in the bathroom so you can respond to the word “Mom” without losing it! Whatever the baby step is, just take it! Then be proud of yourself for “doing the next right thing.” If you don’t know what to do in the face of fear, maybe it’s putting on music that is going to lift you up, writing out Bible verses with God’s promises on them, or calling a friend who would understand. The more you think on it and put the phrase somewhere in front of you, the more you will be pleasantly surprised when that phrase pops in your head frequently as you go throughout your day. And maybe, just maybe, you will soon move past that hurdle that has had you paralyzed.
I’d love to hear your success stories of “doing the next right thing!”
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