I was reading a story of this woman that was an addict and then became pregnant (yes, it was in Cosmo, but I’m a sucker for reality so excuse me!). She was saying that she felt like a ‘walking contradiction’ when she was a teenager, always pretending to be someone she wasn’t. She pretended very well and was very popular, but deep inside she knew how much she was lying to the outside world – and to herself. Then, she found herself pregnant and finally decided to take action to destroy her worst habits of drinking, bulimia and drug usage. At this point, I thought to myself: ‘Crickey, that can’t have been easy’. And, because it got me intrigued, I carried on reading.
The story unfolded well and in the end she managed to break free of all of her bad habits. She says that she now accepts that she will never be totally happy, so she is happy to accept to be happy-ish most of the time (I personally find this a bit hard to understand, but she must have her reasons). But this story of struggle is not the reason I’m writing this today. The reason I’m writing is because she mentioned something that struck a chord with me. She had a technique to get rid of her old habits that made her so unhappy but at the same time were so consuming. And I thought that this technique could be of use to anyone, hence this post. It can certainly be useful to me (and I have already started using it).
Now, I’m not saying that everyone needs help or anything like that (and I certainly don’t want people to think this is a self-help kind of blog), but who doesn’t find themselves in times of trouble sometimes? Who sometimes doesn’t quite know what to do next? Exactly. The technique is called ‘the next right thing’. If you find yourself in a position where everything is getting on top of you and you don’t know if you are coming or going, just think small and think to yourself: what is the next right thing that I could do? And then do it. And then, if you do this often, it will become a way of life and you will find it much easier to take action when you need to.
Let me translate this into practical examples: you messed up at work. You made a mistake and don’t know what to do now… don’t think about losing your job, how hard it’ll be to find a new one or how people will judge you. Just think of the next right thing you can do to try and resolve the situation. It doesn’t need to be something big, but it will get you moving, rather than freezing because the prospect of all the negative things you thought in the first place. Another example: you feel that you don’t spend enough time with your children and you fear that they will not remember you in the future in the way you hope they would. Yes, this is a very sad prospect, but don’t think that far ahead. Think about the next right thing you can do to never get to that negative outcome. See? It works when you are already in a sticky situation or when you are trying to prevent one.
When I’m overwhelmed, I freeze… I think things like: ‘oh Gosh, this will take ages’ or ‘ ahhhh, I have so much to do, I don’t know how to get started!’ or ‘I want to stop going to bed so late every night, but can never accomplish it’. You can apply this thinking to everything, really (I have been applying it to work, with it being so busy and crazy at the moment).
For a worrier-type like myself, this is a wonderful solution. Instead of over-reacting and thinking ‘this will never be possible’ or ‘I’ll never get out of this situation’, this approach puts things into a much smaller perspective and makes you act. It’ll be a small act, but because you’ll be asking yourself constantly ‘what is the next right thing to do?’, one small act will follow the next and you will end up just doing things instead of thinking them through too much. You will also do what is possible for you at the time, rather than waiting for ‘when the time is right’. Sometimes thinking too much, I find, hinders action. And without doing, we are hardly achieving anything, aren’t we?
Please don’t think that I’m being patronising here. Everyone is different. I’m just saying that this little sentence has already had an effect in my sometimes lazy approach to things… I think, think, think and sometimes don’t really act, and then start thinking ‘why aren’t things happening how I wanted them to?’ Well, it’s my own fault for doing fxxx all about it! Thinking about the next right thing to do makes you constantly do something. And achieve results that can change your life. One step at a time.