Do the Next Thing Best

One very powerful, albeit it seemingly simple, piece of advice I was given long ago in my life is to always do the next thing best.  Often in life we get caught up trying to think about and problem solve many challenges at the same time, and the result ends up being that we do none of those things anywhere near as well as we could.  Our below average results, produced primarily because our thinking was scattered, leaves us vulnerable to feeling less confident and with the mindset that we aren’t very good.  As you might imagine, when we begin to feel like we have little talent, we end up trying less in the future, again producing poor results…and the cycle continues.  It is at this very point where the advice do the next thing best can be a very powerful approach to quickly getting back on track – in pool, and in life.

Stay in the moment

There are potential dangers in both thinking too far back in the past, or too far ahead into the future.  How does this apply to pool players?  If you find that your focus tends to ruminate over the shot you missed last game, or you are focusing ahead on who you will play next in the tournament, you are not giving your undivided attention to the only thing that matters: Doing the next thing best.  The “next thing,” in this example, is the next shot you need to make – not the one you missed three turns ago, or how you are going to play the guy waiting for you in the winner’s bracket.  

Believe it or not, attentional focus is a tough skill to master – even though on the surface it seems so simple.  So many pool players would immediately improve their game if they could learn to simply bear down and direct all their attention and energy to making the shot right in front of them.  Think right now about how many easy “bunnies” you have missed, not because you didn’t know where to aim or how to address the cue ball, but instead because your mind temporarily wandered.

What is the “next thing?”

The philosophy of doing the next thing best extends well beyond playing a game of pool.  For example, from the time you wake up each moment there are a number of important things we do where we can put our absolute best effort toward, including being kind to those we love, giving our all to our jobs, and of course, bearing down on every shot in every pool game.  The “next thing” is also an attitude challenge, meaning that in addition to focusing 100% at the task at hand, that we also embrace what is in front of us as a healthy challenge rather than going in with a defeatist attitude.  

So, what’s the “next thing” you are going to put all your attention and effort toward today?