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The next right thing (isn't easy to decide on) 🤔
Thoughts on stuckness, slogging and stepping in a(ny) direction. 🥾
Do the next right thing.
It’s a phrase I’ve seen and heard many times in the past few years. From coffee mugs to motivational posts on social media, the words sound good and make us feel good. But the truth is, the application of the phrase in our “real” lives is a challenge not only to “do” but also to know.
How do you know what the next right thing is?
The question brings me back to the Chinese proverb attributed to Taoist philosopher, Lao Tzu: “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” It came to mind recently as I was reflecting on some of the common denominators that carry across my 1:1 creative coaching sessions. I meet weekly with both writers and photographers and coach in areas of business, marketing, logistics, book structure, editing, and more. I meet virtually with clients in several time zones across Canada and abroad, from Helsinki to Edinburgh. Though each creative has their unique challenges and perspectives, many have expressed how stuck they feel, usually due to overwhelm of the “thousand miles” ahead and not knowing what the right next step is.
On a hike with friends recently (both photographers) we got talking about this and one of them asked me: What do you think the “next right thing” is? I pondered. “It’s situational,” I said. “But thinking back on my clients who have felt stuck, maybe the next right thing is the very thing you’re avoiding.”
And like a rock in my shoe I came to terms with the fact that the advice I give is (face-palm) just as pertinent to me.
Before I dive into that humble pie, I have a few more ideas about the so-called next right thing. Big projects, for instance, can’t be tackled all at once. We write a book one word at a time. A building is built brick-by-brick. And when it comes to this documentary film project I’ve been working on — the one about the early 20th-century explorer/writer, Mary Schäffer Warren — between logistics and financing, it indeed feels like a thousand miles ahead for me and my co-producer. The idea of the “next right thing” has come to mind many times through the project, especially when we’ve hit a wall and need to get creative and resourceful in figuring out our next steps. In those cases, I don’t think the right thing to do is that thing we’re avoiding. It’s instead asking ourselves, amidst all the things we can’t control and the details in the air, what can we do now? Focusing on the areas we can control (including our mindsets) has been integral in inching the project forward.
Now back to avoidance. There are many things I struggle with, but sitting in a chair and doing some serious gruntwork, even without a clear end in sight, is not one of them (it creates the opposite problem for me and I’ve learned not to act immediately on my instincts). But this, I’ve noticed, is where some of my clients fall into overwhelm or analysis paralysis. They choose a trajectory and gear up only to think their way to another crossroads and doubt the path they were on. Or, their ideas are so scattered that they struggle to create a structure or plan (that’s where I come in).
But don’t let my ability to sit and slog fool you. It doesn't translate to all aspects of my life. I have things I’m avoiding, that I know are the next right thing for me. I turn 40 in eight months, and with that comes awareness and some goals that I want to be in better shape, physically, mentally and emotionally, as I leave my thirties. What this looks like is better boundaries around my time and commitments, better self-care as I care for others, and more movement, more often.
Yes, it’s a lot. 😬 It involves micro-decisions each day. And that’s where I think the next right thing, where that single step Lao Tzu referred to, comes in. It’s choosing not to edit this post again so that I can fit my run in. It’s waking up fifteen minutes early so that I’m not rushed getting my kids out the door. It’s saying “no” to the wrong projects, even if they sound like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. It’s choosing to do something in line with my vision for my life instead of leaning on old habits that feel good in the moment (because they are familiar) but don’t actually get me anywhere.
The next right thing is only made “right” by the very fact that you’re making a choice, with mindfulness. We can’t know how each decision will turn out. But the only way to look back on our choices is to actually take steps forward.
What’s caught my attention lately… ✨
Currently on my night-stand (or desk): Set Boundaries, Find Peace: A Guide to Reclaiming Yourself, by Nedra Tawwab; Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants, by Robin Wall Kimmerer; and Beautiful Writers: A Journey of Big Dreams and Messy Manuscripts--with Tricks of the Trade from Bestselling Authors by Linda Sivertsen.
I recorded something… 🎙️
I recently joined the hosts over on Kids Who Explore Parent Edition to discuss the transition to parenthood, tips for adventures and travel with kids, thoughts on privilege, and more.
Check these out too… 🙌
The Wonders That I Find - my children’s book
My Email Newsletter - updates about my books, projects, and 1:1 coaching