I crave peace. I like happiness too, and I’m often happy, but my primary goal is peace.
I see happiness as periodic episodes, not as a state of mind or emotion that’s ongoing and steady. If I’m peaceful—neither high nor low, just nice and steady—those lovely moments of happiness and feelings of supreme well-being have a better chance of blossoming.
Peace is like equilibrium or homeostasis. It’s a routine on a balance beam and smiling while firecrackers are popping off.
Happiness, on the other hand, is an emotion that’s a reaction to things, people, or events. We get happy because of something, but peace is something that wells up from within, independent of anything outside of ourselves. It’s always there, really, but mental clutter drowns it out.
We can be peaceful in the midst of turmoil and uncertainty, but we might not be particularly happy.
When we’re peaceful, we’re less likely to get aggravated or irritated, less likely to say things we regret, and more likely to enjoy life and be happy—often.
How do we get peaceful if we aren’t already?
Most of us have some degree of un-peace or dis-ease within us. Stress causes a lot of problems, from nervousness and anxiety to full-blown anger and misery. Stress also wears us down, physically and emotionally, and it makes us more susceptible to every little germ or virus that flits by as well as stress-related diseases such as heart disease.
Stress is not peace, and it’s hard to feel peaceful when we’re stressed.
I put together a very long list of tips of tips to reduce stress and cultivate peace, but it just got longer and longer. They’re all good, but I realized most of them deserve a post of their own. I finally whittled it down to three. Three tips that almost anyone can use and adapt to his or her own life situation to reduce mental clutter and find peace.
First things first
Stephen Covey wrote the time management classic First Things First, and while the book is loaded with worksheets and helpful tips, just the title alone is great: First Things First. Ask yourself:
What basic needs or priorities do I need satisfied or fulfilled to have a peaceful day, week, month, or life? It could be anything.
For me, as a freelance writer and editor who works at home, my main priority is to do a great job with all facets of my business. But behind that priority are others and without them, the number one priority cannot exist—or I’ll lose my mind trying.
1) healthy food in the refrigerator or cabinets, ready to go with little preparation needed
2) food for my dogs and cat and any supplies they may need
3) an organized home, clean clothes, and basic supplies stocked
If I don’t have basic necessities in place, stress and frustration build.
How can I work long and hard on a project if I have nothing to eat? I live in the suburbs, and it’s not a simple matter to get reasonably-priced takeout, and most fast food isn’t an option since I don’t eat meat.
I have two dogs and a cat. I can’t work steadily and peacefully if I have to take an hour out of the day to go buy dog or cat food or other supplies. And if I don’t have clean, comfortable clothes available—I’m talking basics—or if I can’t find things I need when I need them, I’m going to be distracted.
What about you? What do you need in place to have a peaceful day or week?
Finish unfinished projects or tasks you’ve been putting off
If something was worth starting, it’s worth finishing. I don’t know about you, but I don’t feel peaceful when I start a task and don’t finish it, especially when the remnants of that task remind me about it.
A few months ago, I started to install a safety bolt on a back door, but I broke a drill bit while pre-screwing for the screws. A whole bunch of other stuff needed attention at the same time, and I left the tools and supplies out—for weeks. No big deal, really, but it was an extra thought every time I let the dogs out, which is 4-5 times a day. Oh yeah, gotta do that. Or grrr what a mess.
Why not just do it so I don’t have that clutter in my head?
Today I finally cleaned out my refrigerator. Every time I opened it I thought, Oh God, I have to clean this up. It only took 20 minutes for a total clean-up and wipe down, but I put it off for weeks. I resolved today to make a weekly routine so it never gets that bad again.
What projects are you constantly reminded of, at work or at home? Maybe it’s a cluttered closet or desk (or refrigerator), or some project you started months ago. Just do it, get it done, clear your mind.
Repair relationships and situations or let them go
This is easier said than done, I know. But here’s the thing. So many people complain about their husbands or wives, friends, relatives, a coworker, a job, or a neighbor, and I wonder: What are you doing to fix this? Instead of complaining about it or living in conflict, why not make changes, resolve things, apologize, forgive, request changes, or accept things as they are? In extreme cases, sometimes it’s best to end the relationship or quit the job or situation, as hard as that can be.
I’m talking from personal experience. My marriage ended in divorce four years ago, for example, and the years leading up to that were far from peaceful. There was a never-ending clutter in my mind, and my emotions were on a rollercoaster. I didn’t complain so much; I took action and read stacks of books, and I spent a lot of time talking or listening and going to couples counseling and a marriage program. I tried to fix it, but it wasn’t fixable, so I ended it. There’s a lot more to it than that, of course, and I probably should have ended it long before I did. But the goal was peace, and I took it in stages.
What is cluttering your mind?
Think about times you have less patience with your kids, coworkers, husband, wife, partner, yourself, or any situation. You can’t relax, and you’re on edge or frustrated. Have you taken care of your priorities and put first things first? Do you have unfinished tasks or projects begging for attention? What about your relationships?
If you want more peace in your life or want to reduce stress, irritation, or frustration, think about what you need to take care of—before you do anything else—so the rest of your day and life can be more peaceful.
What do you think? Do you have situations in your life that are robbing you of your peace? Comments are always welcome.