We live in a time where fear, uncertainty and doubt can dominate our surroundings. This atmosphere seems to breed these and other emotions that keep us from feeling anchored in life. If unsure economic times weren’t enough, how about regular life challenges—the death of a loved one, the birth of your child, marriage or divorce?

Life is too exciting to remain stuck. Stuck is anything that keeps you from moving forward. It keeps you from seeing what’s next. True progress cannot take place until one acknowledges when, where or why they became stuck. Only once we have taken an honest look at ourselves can we can move ahead with our self-discovery and set a direction.

You can choose to give in to every emotion and let it control you, or you can “grab the reins” and use these moments to contribute to your personal growth in a positive way. Yes, it’s easier said than done, but that is what will create forward motion.

Where does one turn in times like these? Do I just believe more in myself? Do I purchase and read every book in the world on the topic of personal growth or pay the perfect professional? While these choices can and do bring an element of security and confidence in your next steps for each day, I truly believe that a simple and balanced approach to life is the key to long-lasting and decisive decisions that enable you to become who you are meant to be.

A good friend of mine lives by the word, “thrive,” and passes on this philosophy of living to others every chance she gets. Thriving assumes that one is in the position to grow, move ahead, get ahead, and prosper. I believe that thriving in life can be the goal to one day achieve as a lifestyle. Yet in order to get there, you must often get yourself out of the rut you find yourself in with each challenging season of life. That’s where the need for NEXT comes into focus.

I’ll never forget my senior year in high school when, during one of my varsity baseball games, I was pitching to a young man named MASH. That’s right—his last name was MASH in all capitals on the back of his jersey. His physical appearance made him look like he was on the “six-year plan” for high school. I threw my best curveball—and that’s when it happened. I had never heard such a beautiful sound of a baseball coming in contact with a baseball bat. It was one of those sounds where you knew that the ball was not only hit as hard as a human could possibly hit it, but where I actually thought I heard the ball itself scream “Ouch!” I could have been angry or upset, but I had to just laugh. As MASH rounded first base, our eyes met. I gestured to him with six fingers (suggesting that he was on the six-year plan) to which he gestured back to me with only one finger. I’ll let you decide which finger he used. I could have “responded” right then in another manner and “cleared the dugouts.” (Our team was known for the occasional scuffle with other teams) But I chose to just laugh. I made a choice right then to respond with the positive.

Fortunately, by my senior year, I had begun establishing a positive response outlook on life. This baseball moment was one of the thousands of choices that I faced daily. Little did I know how important this conscious and positive direction of the choices I made would become. Early in my senior year of high school, I was blindsided with the news that my father had been diagnosed with cancer. Here was yet another opportunity for me to choose to respond positively and grow or give in to the daily challenges of life.

Life threw me seasonal curveballs and I chose to respond with what I now call “The Power of Next.” My life has followed this thread of understanding in my marriage, my work and in every relationship I’ve had in each area of my life. Each day continues to bring with it the opportunity to grow in the Power of Next.

The Power of Next focuses on the never-ending challenge of bringing balance to an individual’s life intellectually, physically, spiritually, and socially. Key principles behind this balance are the “Element of Discovery” and the “Element of Direction.” It is in Discovery that we find the Power we need to thrive in life, and it is in Direction that we continue to discover the vital necessity of Next, thinking forward and always living with purpose. Find your NEXT and begin living with a forward momentum and a positive purpose.

Written ByMike Bearden

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