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Leadership Thought #414 – An Important Life Lesson – What Next?

November 9, 2012

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I am in the process of reading Gordon Livingston‘s great new book, The Thing You Think You Cannot Do, and as usual, he delivers a worthwhile life lesson.  In one chapter, he talks about the importance of asking the question, “What next?”  While his clinical therapy patients may often be dealing with much more significant challenges than my clients, as human beings we all have things that hold us back and inhibit our positive momentum.  It’s easy to get mired in the past or get caught up with the urgency of managing now. Many of us are far too quick to embrace the role of victim and tell our sad stories to anyone who will listen.  We end up creating negative energy which hinders our ability to move on and create a positive future. I’m not saying we don’t have to make peace with what has happened, but the best way to get out of a hole is not to keep digging deeper but to climb out.

Of course, it is important to be “present” in whatever you are doing and experiencing.  However, it’s equally important to know where your actions are taking you. We all need to be working towards something, otherwise, we are merely existing.  Bad habits and unhealthy thinking won’t just magically disappear one day.  Life is too precious to merely submit to the external forces and claim that as our destiny.  I really appreciate the way Buddhists look at life as a journey and that the journey is merely a series of next steps on your path to enlightenment. What we can only ever control are our own actions. In addition, it has never been about how we respond to things when they occur, but more about what we do with this life experience on an ongoing basis.  We are either moving forward or backward, there is no in-between (a widely embraced life lesson).

Whether you are dealing with a major life crisis or simple business annoyance, life goes on until it doesn’t.  Sadly, the world doesn’t stop and acknowledge our individual misfortune or pain.  We all deal with adversity – it is just a question of when and how often.  I am regularly fascinated by the resilience of the individual human spirit. You just have to read the papers, watch the news, or simply pay attention to what’s going on around you to witness people experiencing and overcoming extraordinary hardships. My life often seems to pale in comparison until I step back and fully realize what I have also faced in my 46 years on this planet. We are all the heroes of our own life.  Thankfully, I am still offered many opportunities to count my blessings with each passing day.  Sure, there are some people that have it better, but many more have it worse. As with all things, it comes down to context and perspective.

I encourage you to proactively get unstuck in any areas of your life where you are currently struggling, by simply focusing on what you can do next.  It can be small or big steps. The pace is always up to you.  Just remember that a journey of 10,000 miles does begin with that very first step.  You’ll be amazed by what consistent movement forward can accomplish in your life.  Push through the energy holding you back and embrace a positive future even if it feels like it is far off in the distance.  You will get there or at least be better off for trying while learning a valuable life lesson.