Have you ever realized something that changed everything? Sometimes you learn life lessons slowly, and sometimes they hit you over the head like a giant Acme anvil. This is the story of one of those Wiley Coyote lessons.
I spent most of my 20s and early 30s mired in self-help books, workshops, intense life coaching and therapy. After being diagnosed with severe depression, I was on a mission to “fix myself.”
I just knew that once I could figure myself out, get more done, make more money, and get better hair, I could allow myself to feel peaceful and happy. Like one day I would magically find happiness and peace at the end of the rainbow.
So I would get the success, or the money, the man, the beautiful daughter, the clean house. And when peace and happiness didn’t show up at my door, I worked harder and pushed myself more.
I was burned out, anxious, and still depressed. I understand now that I was going backwards. I was swimming upstream. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me start at the beginning.
One Cup of Inner Peace Please
I was in line at Starbucks about 5 months ago when I realized it. Suddenly, for no real reason, instead of surfing Facebook or checking email for the 500th time, I stopped and looked around.
Everything slowed down, I took a deep breath, and I felt…calm. Just 30 seconds before, I was feeling guilty for the salted carmel mocha I was about to order and annoyed at the lady in front of me ordering 8 freaking frappichinos .
I changed. But my circumstances did not. I was still in line at Starbucks. The woman was still ordering a zillion drinks, and I was darn well still getting my mocha. But I felt totally peaceful.
That’s when it hit me.
Happiness, peace, and all of that yummy stuff that I want has nothing to do with doing things “right,” being productive, or fixing anything.
In fact, in any moment I could choose to feel peaceful and enjoy it, or I could choose not to. I have a choice in the way that I respond to the circumstances around me – whether at Starbucks, in a heated argument, or watching trees blow in the wind.
Taking Back the Wheel
Once I made this realization, I felt so powerful. But I also felt uneasy, like someone handed me the keys to a jet plane with no prior instruction.
If I can really drive how I feel…how do I want to feel? Have you ever asked yourself that? How would I like to feel, right now, in this moment?
Most of us live on autopilot. We let how we feel ebb and flow in the wind, without trying to influence ourselves.
Or we do try to influence how we feel, with alcohol, pain killers, chocolate, cigarettes, or coffee. We all have something.
When I suddenly felt peaceful in the Starbucks line, that feeling of peace became my ultimate goal. Instead of working on fixing myself, I started working on feeling happy and peaceful in my current life.
I did a little experiment over a few months. And it worked like gangbusters.
I stopped swimming upstream and could swim faster, and easier, and even enjoy the process. I got more done. I made better decisions for myself.
And all of that stuff I was trying to fix, started to work out easily. Life started to flow!
How to Give Peace a Chance
Now as I reflect back on my process, here are a few lessons that I learned:
- Make Peace a Priority
If you want to feel happier, less stressed, and more peaceful – you have to first make a conscious decision that feeling happier, less stressed and more peaceful is important to you.
You have to prioritize inner peace.
- Pay Attention
Awareness is key. When you become aware of something you do, you have a choice. Pay more attention to how you feel and why you feel that way. Start to understand what triggers the more destructive or unpleasant emotions.
- Choose Peace in the Moment
Most of us put our inner peace at the bottom of the priority list. We let ourselves get stressed over what other people think about us. We get mad at ourselves when we don’t get enough done or don’t exercise. We are choosing this stuff over our own peace.
You have to decide, over and over again, that your inner peace is more important.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed with things to do, you might decide that inner peace is a more important than what people think of you for serving store bought brownies. So you stop by the store and you let it go.
If you’re mad at yourself about that medical bill that went to collections (or maybe that’s just me), you decide that inner peace is a higher priority than perfection. And you let it go.
Over time, these decisions will get easier. And you will start automatically choosing your emotional health over things that actually, in the long run, don’t matter anyway.
You have the freedom to enjoy more of your life than you let yourself enjoy. Open the cage door and let yourself out. Trust me, it’s worth it.