Recently, I was working with a man who taught me a new tech- nique. A recovering alcoholic, he had done well to marry, have two children, and hold down a stable job. But he was prone to dark, angry moods when things didn’t go his way. He would retreat to his basement recreation room where he would play violent video games for hours, and shut everyone out. His wife, exasperated with him and his refusal to help her with the kids, would pick a fight, and the two would escalate to the point of threatening divorce. “I figured out something,” he said in a session with his wife. “I realized I don’t have to do any of that when I’m frustrated or disappointed. All my life I thought I had to do something–you know, get my anger out, fight someone, get drunk, and when I couldn’t do that any more, blow someone to pieces in a video game. Then it occurred to me I could just do the next right thing. The next right thing is just whatever needs to be done. It might be putting a load of laundry in the washing machine. It might be taking the dog for a walk. It might be wrestling my sons. It’s just whatever is right there needing to be done. And I do the next right thing and the anger and the dark mood just goes away.”
This simple principle may seem obvious to those who already do this and never thought that someone had to learn it. But to those for whom this is a new idea, it is life-changing. You do not have to slide into a dark mood when the road of life is bumpy, you can simply do the next right thing and keep going. How could you implement this in your life? This is such a simple principle you can apply to many areas of your life. When you are feeling bitter and betrayed, you do not have to focus on it, you can do the next right thing. When you are overwhelmed with waves of anxiety, you can look around and see what needs to be done. You can focus on the next right thing instead of your anxiety. When you are feeling beaten down and discouraged, put two feet on the floor, get up and look around. There is a next right thing waiting to be done. Go and do it.