10 May Spring Forward Into Recovery, by Greg Binns, LMFT
This month’s theme is Spring Forward into Recovery. That sounds inspiring, right? It should. “Springing” implies a commitment to a course of action, decisiveness in the moment, combined with a big burst of energy. Do you have a good idea about how to enhance your recovery that you’re ready to act on? If you can seriously answer yes, then you can finish this article later – it won’t tell you anything that’s more valuable than the action you’re about to take, so go and do it now. When you’ve finished, this article will be here waiting for you. Sometimes what keeps us from acting is little more than the habit of not acting. I’m reminded of the concept of “inertia” in physics – the tendency of bodies at rest to remain at rest.
Ok, so that takes care of one simple cases. Let’s get another simple case out of the way and then I’ll get to my main point. Simple case #2 – you’re at a loss for a good idea about enhancing your recovery. First of all, you’re not alone – everyone is at a loss for good ideas from time to time. Fortunately, as a person in recovery, you have access to a lot of help and resources. There are loads of good ideas already identified in the Outer Circle of your Circle Plan, and there are probably a few people in your life who can share what they’ve done in similar circumstances to move their recovery forward.
Now let’s talk about those moments when you have a good idea about how to enhance your recovery, and you’re clear enough about your basic desire for the outcome. And yet you still find yourself motionless when you think “I really ought to ……. right now.” Sometimes the hangup might be hidden in how we’ve defined the task, and, implicitly, our success criteria. Productivity author David Allen has come up with a helpful concept called the Next Action. As described at the link below, a Next Action is the “next visible physical activity required to move something forward.” One feature of identifying the Next Action is that it “triggers action and positive engagement.” In more experience near terms, that’s the feeling of “oh, I can do that; I could actually do it right now.” A well-defined Next Action might just take 5 minutes to accomplish. If the project is “clean out the garage,” (UGH!), the next action might be “walk to the garage” (I can do that!). Sometimes the initiation of movement is all it takes to get yourself unstuck. The tasks that seemed burdensome or confusing from the vantage point of your armchair seem to flow one into the next once your body is in motion and your mind is engaged.
In summary, if you feel hesitant to spring forward, the problem might be that you haven’t identified a concrete thing that you can physically do right now. And, you might have convinced yourself that initiating a single concrete action step couldn’t possibly be significant. I’m asserting here that’s wrong and that taking the next action is springing forward. So try working backward from the result until you get to something that’s clear and small enough that you could physically do it now. See if there’s a moment when your thoughts shift from “ugh” to “I could do that.” And then, act and see what happens next. You might find that once in motion, you remain in motion. Or you might find that your mind follows suit and has other good ideas. Or you might find that you complete the next action and then stop. In all of those cases, you’ve just moved that ball forward. Now you’re in a position to define your next action.
If you’re interested in learning more about David Allen’s ideas about the Next Action and the productivity philosophy that he develops around it, this link is one place to start:
-Greg Binns, LMFT