Like many of you now forced to work from home—especially those of you with children in tow—I find myself occasionally working while animated movies play in the background. Under such circumstances, you cannot help but take in a little bit of the action from afar, which is how I found a lesson I’d like to share from a central theme of the movie Frozen 2.
While I never thought I would find inspiration for a blog post from a Disney film—in all honesty, I never considered myself much of a princess [or for that matter a dispenser of pop psychology]—this is a little something I think we can all take to heart, especially in these trying times: do the next right thing.
In the Cave of COVID-19 Despair
The context for the song [spoiler alert!] comes from the emotional low point of the film, when Anna is trapped deep in a cave after learning the dreadful truth about the past. She fears her beloved sister Elsa is dead and watches her #1 snowman Olaf dissipate before her eyes. In the depths of her despair, she feels as though she cannot go on.
I've seen dark before
But not like this
This is cold
This is empty
This is numb
The life I knew is over
The lights are out
I'm ready to succumb
The past several weeks have been truly unprecedented. Whether hunting for essentials [BTW, anyone got a lead on TP?] or being cooped up at home for long stretches of time, this is something we’ve never experienced. The global scale of the crisis, along with its immediate impact on not only our health but the freedom to conduct everyday tasks—many of which we’d previously taken for granted—has had a profound effect on us all. It is truly difficult, all things considered, not to feel the urge to just give up, but something tells us to persevere.
Doing Something [as Opposed to Nothing]
Meanwhile back in the cave, despite not having her sister to guide her, Anna feels she must do something to get through her present despair.
Can there be a day beyond this night?
I don't know any more what is true
I can't find my direction, I'm all alone
The only star that guided me was you
How to rise from the floor
When it's not you I'm rising for?
Just do the next right thing
Take a step, step again
It is all that I can to do
The next right thing
With a virtual flood of information about the current situation, it’s difficult for us to determine what’s actually going on. Are things getting better? Or will they get worse—possibly much worse—before then? How will this affect my family, my friends, my organization [and my job!]? In the midst of overwhelming and, at times, contradictory evidence and the related confusion it causes, from the confines of our homes we can feel a bit fatalistic about our choices.
However, Anna’s choice to carry on is a great reminder that while we can't do everything, we can do something. In fact, doing something is essential for maintaining our sense of agency and self-determination. Whether that something is practicing proper distancing, reaching out to neighbors in need, or simply taking better care of one another and ourselves, by focusing on what can be done—instead of the long list of things that [at least for the present] cannot—we can find a renewed sense of purpose.
When it’s All Too Much
Even though the sheer extent of her loss threatens to overwhelm her, our plucky heroine determines that she can, in fact, she must go on. Her inner voice guides her to break it down into small but manageable actions that can help her overcome her present adversity.
This grief has a gravity
It pulls me down
But a tiny voice whispers in my mind
"You are lost, hope is gone
But you must go on
And do the next right thing"
This whole COVID thing just seems too much to take in at one time. None of us really know how much it will change our world in the future. But one thing is certain: things will never be quite the same again. However, there have been a number of momentous events in the past, and somehow human beings have found a way to keep going, bit by bit.
Not Knowing What’s Next
Without a real plan in mind—at least at first—Anna decides to just put one foot in front of the other and make a move. By turning inertia into momentum, she puts in place a chain of events.
I won't look too far ahead
It's too much for me to take
But break it down to this next breath
This next step
This next choice is one that I can make
It may seem difficult to know what the next right thing actually is. However, it’s often something staring us right in the face. We all make countless choices every day—whether we’ve really thought about it or not. Focus on what is directly before you. How can you take your present circumstances, no matter what they are, and make something of them? One of my friends has a favorite quote from Teddy Roosevelt: “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” Those have always been words to live by, even more so these days.
One Step at a Time
When Anna emerges from the cave, she knows what she must do—not just immediately but moving forward into the future as well. Even though things will have changed beyond recognition at each juncture, she’ll look at what’s before her and choose to do what is right, again and again.
So I'll walk through this night
Stumbling blindly toward the light
And do the next right thing
And with the dawn, what comes then
When it's clear that everything will never be the same again?
Then I'll make the choice
To hear that voice
And do the next right thing
No one knows what will happen once we return to ‘the new normal.’ But right now, getting there, as safely as possible is the main objective. We are ALL facing uncertainty due to the massive changes wrought by the novel Coronavirus. The pandemic has significantly disrupted [and will no doubt continue to disrupt] our lives.
Rather than be overwhelmed by it all, we should focus on taking it one day at a time, doing one thing at a time, and doing the right thing. This can truly make a difference for our individual and collective physical and mental health. Stay safe, stay well, stay home—we’ll get through this thing, together.