Given that the typical adult is said to make about 35,000 decisions per day, we should be tired! How can we know the right thing to do? What if our decision options appear to be equally good? Or, what if we have to decide between two equally bad choices?
In Emily P. Freeman's new book, The Next Right Thing: A Simple, Soulful Practice for Making Life Decisions, we are provided with the kind of prompts, reflections, and reassurances that take much of the stress out of our daily decision wrangling. For those of us who have always sweated it out like there is that one best decision we must find before acting, Freeman's approach to breaking it down and doing the one next right thing is a huge relief.
This is a book that works well as part of an ongoing reflective practice. Instead of a decision list of pros and cons, we learn to approach things more organically. We are reminded that we are making a life and that we learn to make good decisions by actually practicing making decisions. And, gasp, not every decision has to be perfect. Why, we can even offer ourselves grace for having made a bad decision in the past.
Freeman shares stories about her own experiences making both major and minor decisions. Each chapter provides an example, which then leads to a reflective exercise, and finally offers up a prayer. Though written from a Christian perspective, there is a universal benefit to approaching life one next right thing at a time.
What kind of impact can reading a book like this have in a life? Well, for one thing, instead of resenting all of the decisions pressing down on me today, I feel gratitude that I have so many choices. I think of all of the individuals in the world who live in regimes where nearly all of the decisions are made for them. It is a privilege, and blessing, to be able to choose—to have free will.
Another benefit of this read for me was the focus on having an uncluttered soul. I am providing my soul with more space to breathe these days. Without this space, it is almost impossible to experience the serenity of a life built one right thing at a time. Right things need breathing room. When we pause to oxygenate our souls, we can more easily fall into a peaceful rhythm where right things become a natural way of being.
We can live a life where unmade decisions hold all of the power, or we can choose to harness that power for good. For too long I allowed difficult decisions to hold a certain tyrannical force over my days. They drained the energy I could have been using in creative, more fulfilling ways. For anyone facing important decisions, or wanting to breathe more easily when choosing among the competing priorities of the day, reading The Next Right Thing may just provide the needed soul space where peace can lead the way.
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