When you say the words “peace of mind,” it can conjure up a myriad of thoughts and images. Maybe you think of doing yoga… hiking somewhere pretty… being on a remote beach vacation… or magically completing every single thing on your “to-do” list. Perhaps you don’t think of any of those things; perhaps you’re not convinced that real peace of mind is something a busy adult professional is likely to experience.
What if I told you that you can achieve peace of mind regardless of your fitness level or current proximity to a beach – without the weight of that to-do list on your back, no matter how much responsibility you carry?
It is possible to design your life so that you can cope with everything that’s coming at you, and to move beyond that capacity to also feel fulfilled in your life. There are no shortcuts, but there are ways to shift your actions in a way that makes it possible to accomplish what you need to, while also leading a life that feels true to what’s most important to you.
In my first two blog posts on this topic, I addressed the “mountain” of responsibilities and deadlines we all tend to experience, and how you can make a dramatically positive shift in your life if you can alter your relationship to that mountain. If we accept that we’re never going to “get it all done” and begin to prioritize differently, we can go from being stuck in survival mode to being freed up to take on the most important – even if daunting – tasks in our lives.
What we have found is counter-intuitive. Typically, people think they lack peace of mind because there’s too much going on in their lives. It’s easy and obvious to blame the content of our lives as the reason that peace of mind eludes us. But the number of things going on our lives isn’t what stands between us and peace of mind. The source of peace of mind is the ability to confront the totality of everything there is to handle in life.
Imagine confronting everything in your life! For many people, the idea of dealing with everything is overwhelming. Why? It’s overwhelming because we do not know how to capture everything in a way that is not burdensome. However, there is a way.
First, we have to overcome the habit of filtering out anything that seems less pressing and immediate. People tend to deal with the most pressing things – the things most related to surviving – and often these turn out not to be the things that really matter. To have peace of mind, I need to let in everything.
We call this skill “capturing.” It’s about letting in everything, particularly all the things that are not born from crisis, emergency, urgency, or survival. These things often have more to do with self-expression, care, attention to ourselves and our loved ones… in other words, the things that really matter. They’re those things we tend to feel bad about when we never get around to them – and then we blame the stuff we decided was urgent for not being able to get to those other things. How many wedding anniversaries and birthdays have gone unacknowledged because of this?
I had a client with an immense appetite for life. Although successful and accomplished, he had no peace of mind around what he could offer his family. He felt compromised and burdened. When he decided to confront everything there was for him to handle in life, he started to see that he had to choose differently. For instance, there was the time he chose to attend a school event for his daughter, and – much to the amazement of his wife and daughter – chose not to attend yet another late conference call which could be managed fine without him. Through a series of choices like this, he recognized that he couldn’t live life based on what he thought would make other people happy, or what would look good. He had to create a life based on what would make him proud, what was true to his principles and his care for the people closest to him. This led him to stripping his calendar of all the activities he had previously included without challenge. As he did this, his peace of mind grew. He was making powerful choices based on what matters.
Capturing everything makes peace of mind possible. And holding everything in a way that’s not a burden makes peace of mind a reality. This is about realizing that while confronting everything – being “complete” with it all – is possible, doing everything is not humanly possible. Grappling with the difference between completion and doing is something I’ll address in a future blog.