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At The Doyle Practice, we emphasize doing the next right thing.

We literally can’t go back and do the LAST right thing.

We can’t do anything over again.

We can’t leap until the future and do the right thing a week, or even an hour, from now.

What we CAN do, all we can do, is the very NEXT right thing.

Why is that so difficult sometimes?

Well, we have brains that like to play “what if.” Our brains are magnificent machines that, unlike the brains of many other animals, can imagine alternative futures and alternative pasts for ourselves. Our brains can imagine, as well as perceive and think.

Imagination is a powerful tool.

And just like any powerful tool, it can make our projects much easier…or it can really hurt us if we use it carelessly.

If you, like me, are a fan of the self-help, pop psychology, and personal growth literature, you’ve probably heard, countless times, “anything your mind can think, you can make happen.” This idea often accompanies material about the Law of Attraction, positive visualization, or mental programming.

I think there are great, interesting things to be said about each of those subjects. I think there is validity to the idea that the things we repeatedly rehearse and see in our minds’ eyes have a greater propensity to manifest in our lives.

I think the jury is out on whether this is a true metaphysical phenomenon or a relatively unremarkable trick of applied neuropsychology related to the placebo effect, but either way, using our imagination to envision positive outcomes and greater resourcefulness is very much a skill worth developing.

The thing is, however, it’s not nearly as simple as “whatever your mind can picture, can exist.”

Your mind can picture rewinding time…but that is never, ever going to happen to you.

Your mind can picture jumping forward in time…but that, too, is never, ever going to happen.

I know. We’ve been told for decades by science fiction novels and movies that time travel is absolutely possible. There have even been documentary movies about all the rich possibilities that manipulating the space/time continuum may offer once we finally master the physics and technology involved in such a feat. Even Einstein— we’re told— was a proponent of the idea that space and time were merely constructs that had no more validity than we assigned them in our own heads.

I’m not a physicist. I can’t speak to whether or when time travel will be available for us to take advantage of. (Though I have to be honest: if it’s anything like it’s portrayed in the movies, I’m emphatically NOT looking forward to that day.)

What I am is a psychologist whose job is to help people realistically build better lives in the real world. And I can tell you, with absolute certainty, that people lose hours, days, months, YEARS to the fantasy that the images in their heads— rewinding or fast forwarding time— can be anything but science fiction.

Because you can imagine it doesn’t mean you can do it.

Even if you really WANT to.

Even if it would be SO MUCH BETTER if you COULD do it.

You can’t.

Doing the next right thing seems mundane when compared to the fantasy time travel worlds we’re capable of constructing in our heads. Our imaginations can build these fairy tale fortresses in which we don’t have to deal with the pressures or the obligations of figuring out, let alone doing, the next right thing.

Those fortresses and fairy tales and fantasies are robbing you of your true wealth and opportunities. Those exist right here, right now— in the sometimes unexciting, sometimes unglamorous, sometimes painful, sometimes pedestrian moment.

Trust me, though: doing the next right thing, instead of fantasizing about the last right thing or the right thing two or ten steps down the line…that’s what separates those who come out ahead from those who remain stuck in second gear.

Humor me. Do the next right thing.

Then the next.

And the next.

 

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