What’s the Next Right Thing?
3 Steps for Greater Clarity
Recently, I watched the movie Frozen 2 with a very special 5-year-old gal in my life. One of the female heroines was trying to figure out what to do in a difficult situation and asked the question, “What is the next right thing?” (Anderson-Lopez & Lopez, 2019). This question stuck with me. And then a few weeks later another question grabbed my attention: “How do I know I’m doing the right thing?” In my own life wanderings, these inquiries have awakened me as I attempt to reflect on and respond to some of the big questions that come my way. There is lots of noise in my own head and in the world around me, and yet sometimes when I listen carefully, I experience glimpses of much more.
How do we ask, listen to, and respond to life’s important questions? Writer Barbara Breitman (2006) proposes that we hear not only with our ears, but with our hearts – she calls it the “hearing heart.” Perhaps in some moments we have opportunities to engage in deeper, fuller forms of listening. And what do we hear? Perhaps when we listen deeply we can experience glimpses of clarity that inform how we live.
How do we know we’re doing the right thing in any given situation? And how do we figure out what’s the next right thing? Each of us comes to our connection with life’s universal truths on our own terms. Each of us is responsible for deciding how these truths manifest in our life’s choices.
I believe that love is a universal and very human underlying current in our day-to-day lives. When love filters our choices and decisions, we may be more prepared to pause, ask, listen to, and respond to life’s questions.
Love is not just a modern cliche´. The good feelings emanating from connection are hardwired into our human biology igniting positive emotions when we relate to others. According to researchers, the body’s cells physiologically respond to love, releasing chemicals such as the hormone oxytocin, which plays a major role in attachment and social bonding (Fredrickson, 2013). The experience of love helps shield us from illness and leads us toward health and flourishing, amplifying the practical, physical, and spiritual aspects of who we are. Love binds us with each other, impacting who we are and who we can become. Love enables us to truly experience ourselves and others with kindness, care, compassion, and empathy.
Think about it. Infants come into the world hungry for love and connection, instinctively seeking relationships through eye contact. A bit later in development, babies begin to synchronize their movements with caregivers, for example, smiling when we smile. Children and adults seek love in intimate partnerships, friendships, and communities. And researchers have discovered mirror neurons in the human brain, indicating that we are biologically designed so that our brains synchronize as we connect with each other – to the extent that during positive communications people may experience a single shared emotion that syncs or connects their brains (Ramchandran; 2011 Siegel, 2011).
Isn’t it interesting how love can benefit our health and well-being – the actual biology of our bodies?
Three Steps to Help You Gain Greater Clarity:
1. Create a moment in your day to pause. Notice that you are breathing. Gently let your attention rest there for a moment. Now consider an issue in your life and invite yourself to ponder these questions:
- “What is the next right thing?”
- “How do I know I am doing the right thing?”
- “What would love do?”
2. Listen deeply, not only with your ears but with your heart. Offer yourself the gift of lovingkindness as you pause to notice your aliveness. Listen for whispers of the quiet voice within you. Let love light your way as you reflect on the wisdom of your experiences, your learnings, your values, and your own inner compass.
3. Let yourself gently notice whatever comes to awareness. What are you aware of that you may not have noticed before?
- Anderson-Lopez, K.A. & Lopez, R. (2019) “The next right thing.” Song by Kristen Bell, Album Frozen II. Wonderland Music Company.
- Breitman, B.E. (2006). Holy listening: Cultivating a hearing heart. In Jewish Spiritual Direction: An innovative guide from traditional and contemporary sources. Edited by Rabbi Howard Avruhm Addition and Barbara E. Breitman, 73-94. Woodstock, VT, Jewish Lights.
- Fredrickson, B.L. (2013). Love 2.0: How our supreme emotion affects everything we feel, think, do, and become. New York, NY: Hudson Street Press.
- Ramachandran, V.S. (2011). The tell-tale brain: A neuroscientist’s quest for what makes us human. New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Co.
- Siegel, D. (2011). Dr. Dan Siegel – Explains mirror neurons in depth. https://www.psychalive.
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