What happens next in life is of prime importance

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Just a Thought... by Rick Kraft

So much of life is what happens to us. So much of life is what we do with what happens to us. What is important in our life today isn’t what happened yesterday, but what happens next. 

One of my core beliefs in life is, “Life is 10 percent  what happens and 90 percent how we respond.”

To illustrate this point, let me start with a story of two identical twin brothers. They grew up together in the same home with the same circumstances. They were both physically abused by their father. It was a terrible atmosphere for the two of them,  and their mother was unable to stop the regular and repeated abuse. The poor living conditions impacted and defined both boys’ lives. 

They both left home at 18 and headed into the outside world. About 30 years later,  there was a study done on identical twins and both brothers were approached as part of the study. One of the boys had gone on to college, got a great professional job, was happily married, and together they raised three children.

The other boy had moved from job to job, been married twice, and divorced both times. He had a severe alcohol problem and essentially “lived in the gutter.”

The interviewer asked both of these men as they were approaching age 50, “To what do you attribute where you are in your life at this time?” Ironically, the identical brothers gave identical answers, “What do you think, look at the home I was raised in!”

The upbringing programmed into them was the same, but the two brothers made different choices in response. One brother chose to become a victim of his circumstances and the other chose to rise above them.

After practicing law for more than three and a half decades, in my legal career I have heard some of the worst experiences people can ever have. As I listen at my first meeting I am helpless to do a single thing to change the history of anyone who walks through my door. What is important to me is that I have the opportunity to impact the future of the person across from me.

What I do for a living is to ask the question, “What happens next?” After listening to a person who has experienced more pain, hurt, anger, and frustration than any person should ever have to experience, we visit about what happens next. 

When someone asks me what I do for a living I sometimes say I come alongside individuals who are walking the valley, I put my arm on their shoulder, and I walk them through the remaining valley to the mountain ahead of them.

Every person I have ever met has had a history, a personal story that has led them to today. I never want to discount the traumas anyone I meet with has experienced. It is very real to the person sharing his or her story. Their history is ingrained in them. It defines them. I am regularly grabbing a box of Kleenex next to my meeting table to allow the person I am meeting with to wipe away their tears. 

So when I meet people in the valley, I ask them “What happens next?”

Broadening this concept, let’s add another dimension. There are people out there who are currently on the top of a mountain. They have done great things and they have succeeded in their mission. I picture a silhouette of them on top of the mountain with both arms raised in the air, maybe even dancing around. When a person gets to this position, they truly need to celebrate, and usually to celebrate well! They have earned their celebration.

But after taking a little time to celebrate their victory, I ask a person in this position, “What happens next?” There are people who carry their trophy with them for the rest of their years. Sometimes they allow the historical success that defines them to hinder future success available to them.

I have been blessed with many accomplishments over my 60 years. If you were really bored with nothing better to do, I could rattle them off. I am proud of what I have been able to accomplish in the years I have had. But spending all my hours talking about me would make my life about me. And even more importantly, what I have done in the past, both my successes and my failures, is history. What is important in my life is “What am I going to do next?”

Circumstances have led you to today. You have never been to today before. You can let past circumstances define you and you can live life looking in the rear view mirror, or you can look inward and ask “What happens next?” This question will define you going forward.

My challenge to you is to not let past events that have occurred in your life rob you of your future and of what you need to be doing today. 

This could be anything from high level of successes to the deepest valley of failure. You may have impacted countless lives for the better last year or you may have been abused as a child. Regardless of what you see when you look backwards, consider what you need to be accomplishing today.

I believe your past, good or bad, has equipped you to make a difference in the future. Reach back to the past only to help you fly higher in the future. Drive a stake in the ground today and recognize that the most important decision you will make today is how you answer the question “What happens next?”

Just a thought...


Rick Kraft is a motivational speaker, a syndicated columnist, a published author, and an attorney. To submit comments, contributions, or ideas, e-mail to rkraft@kraftlawfirm.org or write to P.O. Box 850, Roswell, New Mexico, 88202-0850.

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