Most of us weren’t born to live and die in the same spot, doing the same thing day in and day out, following the tail of the tiger in front of us until we churn to butter under a tree.

But sometimes we get comfortable in our lives, in our boxes, in our cages. Sometimes we become convinced that how things are is how they must always be. And sometimes the Universe jumps out from behind that tree and hollers, “NEXT!”

In some languages, that sounds remarkably like, “Gotcha!”

And some of us say, “Great! Bring it on!” and others say, “Do I have to?” And sometimes people say, “No, I won’t.” That’s when it gets messy.

A woman rose to the pinnacle of her profession, only to fall hard in a political move she didn’t anticipate. For several years, she wallowed in the muck of her resentments. They took her down even further. Finally, she said, “I’m not going to let them win. I’ll show them – I’ll do it again, only bigger and better,” and she began trying to build what she’d had before just so she could realize a vendetta against those she thought had wronged her. But it didn’t work. It didn’t work because doing the same thing twice isn’t NEXT, it’s the SAME. Doing something to exact revenge on someone else isn’t what NEXT is.

A man was famous in his town – lauded for his great works and contributions and rumored to be a shoe-in for Mayor. Suddenly, through no fault of his own and completely out of his control, a series of unfortunate events caused him to fall from grace and sent him packing. He awoke in a new place where no one knew him. His fame had vanished and his new community didn’t care a lick who he thought he was or what he had accomplished in another town. Like most, his journey to NEXT was quick, but his discovery of what NEXT was was very slow. His identity had been challenged, and he wasn’t sure he knew who he was anymore. Being defined by his job, his first instinct was to try to replicate his previous role in a new place, only bigger and better so he could “show them.” The Universe said, “No, that’s not what NEXT is.” And he was forced to reinvent himself… to do what was NEXT, not what was the SAME.

A sixty year-old man – father, husband, brother, son, friend, employer, mentor, civic leader, and neighbor – made lots and lots of money for many years, but his wife wouldn’t stop spending it, he said. And one day he awoke unable to make payroll.

“Did you tell your wife about your money problems?” his friend asked him. “No,” he said. “I don’t want to worry her. She wouldn’t understand.”

So last weekend he parked in a spot overlooking the Gulf of Mexico, pulled out a handgun, and shot himself in the head.

NEXT can be a curious thing. When presented to us alone, we are much more likely to hide it from others lest they think we’re not one of them anymore. We embrace our humiliation as if it were the only thing standing between us and death, and let it control our every decision. We cling to SAME and reject NEXT. Natural disasters and mass tragedies like Hurricane Ike, though, give us an extraordinary collective gift – the gift of understanding that SAME is temporary, that everybody goes up and everybody goes down, that sharing that ride makes it all bearable, and that curiosity about NEXT makes it an adventure. Not sharing his story – rather drowning in his own fear and humiliation – killed that man just a surely as that gun did. He couldn’t see that going broke would get him out of SAME – out of that ring of tigers — by cleansing his life and taking him to NEXT.

The most powerful word in every language: NEXT. Embrace it.

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  1. #1 by Terri Hamiter on January 20, 2011 - 10:31 am

    This is so true in so many lives. It makes me think of all the visionaries in the 1930s who lost everything and could have given up but instead looked immediately to next. The ideas and courage of those resilient ones still influence our lives today.

    You have a gift, Alice!

  2. #2 by Carol on July 6, 2012 - 11:49 am

    Alice, very timely piece for me and many others. I do love the comfort of sameness and constantly remind myself to expand and keep growing to the NEXT. Thanks and very well written!

  3. #3 by Donna on July 6, 2012 - 11:50 am

    my life has been, and continues to be, in an ongoing unending sequence of “nexts.” sometimes I want to say simply, “i’m tired.” however my belief system is such that “i’m tired” does not work and I have to meet “next” head on, but “i’m tired.” very thought provoking post, thank you.

  4. #4 by Terri on July 6, 2012 - 11:50 am

    I do love my ruts. I heard a motivational speaker say one time that she loved her rut so much she carpeted it and hung pictures. It’s hard to break free and try the unknown. While it has a tragic ending, this is a beautiful piece that makes us all think and realize that maybe NEXT isn’t the worst thing that can happen. Thank you Alice!

  5. #5 by Kim on July 6, 2012 - 11:50 am

    Once again, a beautifully written, thought-provoking piece! Thank you, Alice.

  6. #6 by Winter on July 6, 2012 - 11:51 am

    Excellent. Am on day # 2 of Next, in fact!

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