What do you do when life is difficult and you feel like things are completely out of your control?
Here’s a suggestion from an optimistic actor waging a very public battle with Parkinson’s disease.
Do the right thing, and then do the next right thing, and that will lead you to the next right thing after that. -Michael J. Fox
Versions of this quote are credited to a variety of coaches, speakers and authors from C.S. Lewis to Michael Hyatt.
And yes, these words show up in a popular song from Disney’s Frozen 2, sung by the beloved princess Anna.
But wherever the phrase originally came from, “do the next right thing” is good advice.
This is very true in relationships. We cannot control what’s going on in the world. We cannot control how others respond to challenging circumstances or tension resulting from current events.
But we can choose how we treat those around us during seasons of confusion and anxiety.
We can do the next right thing.
During a pandemic, if your spouse is fearful, maybe that means listening to their concerns and offering a hug. Or just sitting with them for a bit acknowledging their feelings without brushing them off.
If your spouse has been cooped up in the house with kids, you might offer space for them to be alone for a bit, or just get out and take a walk.
Doing the next right thing could mean spending time together on projects that have been on the back burner for too long. Or it could mean putting aside your to-do list to play a game, work a puzzle or watch a funny movie together and de-stress.
Knowing your spouse’s top emotional needs can help you figure out what “doing the next right thing” looks like in your situation.
But doing the next right thing will almost certainly mean speaking words of kindness and not criticism. Going the extra mile and not keeping score. And taking care of yourself so you have mental and emotional energy to reach out.
Staying connected and caring for each other in difficult times is always part of doing the next right thing.
So much in life is out of our control. It makes sense to concentrate on what we can control.
And we can control the choices we make for ourselves and in our relationships.
It is wise to choose the next right thing.