Do the next right thingOct 17, 2022
Having gotten sober in AA, I find that I have a lot of 12 Step cliches as part of my vocabulary. I often use them in my professional trainings and get grins or head nods of acknowledgment from other friends of Bill. I, also, get feedback from people unfamiliar with the rooms about how spot on, or wise, or clever I am. Depending on the situation, I may or may not share where the saying came from, but I always share that it was not my original thought.
Perhaps ironically, one of the sayings that I am especially fond of is actually a misquote. The saying is, "just do the next right thing". (The wording in the Big Book of AA actually says, “ask (God) for the right thought or action".) Typically, I don't like messing with quotes, but I love this change.
The reason I love this (mis)quote is the deceptive complexity of the concept.
First, there is the realization that there is not necessarily *a* right thing. We have so many factors influencing and impacting our decisions, our understanding, and our possibilities that it is darn near impossible for there to be the be-all-end-all right thing. Exceptions abound, life is unpredictable, and the butterfly effect creates long-term results that we have no way of pre-knowing. Looking for the *next* right thing is so liberating and centering for me because it allows me to be in the moment and not expend too much energy on all the "what if's": just working with what I have and know in the moment.
Connected to all of that is the concept of "hindsight is 20/20" and how judgmental and critical hindsight can be. If I can acknowledge that, in the moment, I did the next right thing, I don't have to beat myself up in the future. Did things turn out the way I planned, wanted, expected? Not necessarily. Does that mean I *should* have done something different? Not necessarily. If I had done something differently, a different outcome may have occurred; but we don't really know what that other outcome would be. I can let go of all the second guessing and put my energy into using the experience to do the next next right thing.
Which leads me to my next point. There is usually a next next right thing. I don't have to accomplish everything right now. I just need to do one thing. I don't have to overwhelm myself with everything that needs to be completed, the goals that need to be achieved, the changes that need to be manifest. So, this means I get to think small. I get to be aware of all the opportunities and choices I get to make on a moment-to-moment basis. Did I mess up? Did I miss an opportunity? Did I make a decision that, long-term, turned out to be not what I wanted? Fabulous! How can I use the awareness of where I am in this moment to do the next next right thing?
Another wonderful part of this concept, is the understanding of context. My context. I get to do the next right thing in terms of what is healthy for me! While I absolutely take into consideration how my decisions and behaviors impact others, ultimately, I get to put myself first. Because, again ultimately, if I put myself first, that usually benefits the others in my life. Continuing to put self-care on the back burner, or agreeing to do tasks or activities that take time away from my necessary stuff, or feeling guilted into doing something that I don't really agree with have all resulted in a diminished self.
Finally, the reason I prefer the misquote or the evolved version, is that the focus is on action. I really have a tendency to think too much. To overanalyze. To get caught up in my head about all the...stuff. Most of the time, it is the action that is necessary. Nike has known forever: Just do it. I get to make a decision and do something. Now. Right now. Something small, just to get going. It's amazing how easy it is to create positive and productive momentum just by doing one, small, purposeful thing.
So...what is the next right thing that you need to do RIGHT NOW?
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