PEACE OF MIND - Part 1 of 3
Peace of mind is the most sublime yet most elusive of human goals. To experience it, even for a fleeting moment, is to experience one of life’s most exquisite and precious gifts. It’s something I have been seeking as far back as I can remember.
How do you get it? That’s hard enough. The bigger question is once you get it, how do you keep it?
Peace of mind starts with self-acceptance. It is being at peace with where you are in life, of how your life is, of your circumstances. Not next week, not next year, certainly not last year, but right now. It is truly being in the moment.
Being at peace implies taking responsibility for your life. It means not blaming someone else for your circumstances, not blaming someone else for what you have become, and definitely not blaming someone else for what you did not become. You are ultimately responsible for everything that happens to you.
Knowing you are responsible for everything has the potential for creating a deep sense of freedom because the corollary of that is knowing if you created it you have the possibility of changing it. It’s also pretty scary.
It’s not easy, this self-acceptance thing. Who among us is living the life they dreamed of when they were a teenager? When you were younger, the sky was the limit. You dreamed of becoming an artist or a musician or a writer or a designer. You wanted to be happy. Yet here you are in your late 40’s or 50’s or 60’s...and you’re not. You’ve got a mate that doesn’t appreciate you, a boss who doesn’t appreciate you, kids who know where all your buttons are and who never fail to push them at will. There are days where it seems even the dawg hates you. Who in their right mind wants to accept that?
But self-acceptance is not complacency. Because you accept where you are doesn’t mean you are satisfied with where you are. You can still be striving, still be seeking, still looking to improve.
Because the universe is full of things you cannot control it’s important to find the things you can control. The one single biggest element you can control is your reaction to whatever happens to you. How you decide to respond to what happens to you is completely up to you. You are the final arbiter.
In Athens, about 2,400 years ago, philosophers grappled with the same problems that concern us today and founded the Stoic school of philosophy. Stoicism flourished in Rome under the influence of the emperor Marcus Aurelius. Many of the great Stoic thinkers, like Epictetus, said some version of: “It’s not what happens to you but how you react to it that matters. Men are disturbed not by things, but by the view which they take of them.” And it was Marcus Aurelius himself who said: “Accept events as they actually happen. There is no place in life or anywhere else for wishful thinking.”
Lord knows we all have challenges, real or imagined, that confront us every day. It’s sometimes good to remember there is no right or wrong way to respond to a challenge; the only effective response to a challenge is to come up with a response that works best for you. "In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing.” That was Teddy Roosevelt. Make the best decision you can with the information you have right now.
It’s no fair going back and beating yourself up because the decision you made today turned out to be wrong. I have a news flash for you. You will make wrong decisions. If you make them with the best information available at the time and they turn out to be wrong it will still hurt, but it will hurt less. Sometimes well-thought out decisions turn out to have been wrong based on circumstances you couldn’t know that arose later. What counts is what you do after you realize the decision was wrong. It’s how you recover. It’s the capacity we humans have of resiliency. I agree with F. Scott Fitzgerald, perhaps my all-time favorite writer. “Never confuse a single defeat with a final defeat.” That’s all that counts.
If you can truly control the way you respond to the challenges of life, you have a very powerful tool in your metaphorical toolbox.
Self-acceptance also implies being in the moment. Not looking back and not looking forward. What people often call mindfulness. I have many thoughts on that and on the importance of self-honesty that I will be posting here in about a week or so.
Please let me know your thoughts in the comment section or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.