How to Stay Calm

Stay Calm

3 Things That Disturb The Peace

Do You Want More Calm in Your Life?

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. ~St. Francis of Assisi

Serenity is the state of being calm, peaceful, and untroubled.  We all want that, right? I would modify the quote from St. Francis slightly:

God, grant me serenity by accepting the things I can't not change …

What if the fast path to calm and peace is to focus, take action where we can, and let go of everything else?  Wouldn't that make it easy?

Here are 3 things that tend to get in the way, and ideas on what you can do about them

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1. What do you mean I can't change it?

We are born believing that we are the center of the universe.  Although it shifts, this perspective rarely changes completely when we grow up. (Admit it – you secretly would love to have superpowers and take over the planet!) Actually, our mind is calmed when we feel in control. We experience more stability. Because of this, our desire for control can get exaggerated. We want to believe that we can control everything (and everyone) we come in contact with (or, at a bare minimum, our spouse and kids!)

What You Can Do: In his “Seven Habits” series, Stephen Covey teaches about the circle of concern and the circle of influence.  When we focus on areas of life that we are concerned about but where we don't have control (like the government, our neighbor's backyard, or our spouse's attitude), our feelings of control decrease, and we feel more unbalanced.  When we focus on those areas where we can actually “do something about it,” our sense of stability and calm increase.

2. It's more fun to complain than to act: 

When we focus on other people's “stuff,” or “stuff” that doesn't matter, or “stuff” we can't change, it takes the pressure off of ourselves.  As long as we are busy, we are less likely to notice that we aren't taking action.

What You Can Do:  Complaining feels like action, but often nothing practical comes of it.  In fact, complaining (particularly when we complain to other people about their “stuff”) puts strain on our relationships.  The solution:  make requests when you can, then let it go once you have asked. An important caveat here:  if you are making a request of someone who has ADHD, you may choose to put some structure in place to help improve success for the other person.  A note or a quick follow-up to make sure they are taking action. At the end of the day, we can't force anyone else to do something.* Asking is different and more proactive than complaining.  Everyone will feel better about it.

3. We can't stand not knowing:

The human brain hates not knowing. We are wired to have answers.  If we don't, we tend to make them up.  I'm reminded of a two-year-old constantly repeating, “Why?”  We need to know – what, when, where, and how. Think about how much you (and the people around you) worry.  It's not about what's going on right now – it's about what might possibly happen sometime in the future.  “Future tripping” (worrying) exaggerates our lack of control and makes us feel even more unbalanced. But we still do it.  We're human!

How often do you find yourself worrying about the future?  A meeting next week, an uncomfortable conversation you need to have with a friend, or even something as far out as your child's future? The reality is that we don't know and can't know what will happen.

What You Can Do:  It is human nature to “fill in the gaps.” When we don't know what's going to happen, we create a “story” about what might happen.  And, for whatever reason, we typically don't create happy stories.  Here's where the opportunity comes in.  If you are going to create a story, create one that makes you feel good.  If you have to have a “difficult” conversation, imagine it going smoothly.  Create a future vision for your child filled with happiness and successful moments.  It's still a story, but your sense of calm around not knowing will increase dramatically.

Simple, right?  If it was, we would all be running around feeling calm and serene. The reality is that we aren't!  But, reading back on my list, you may be thinking, “this sounds like a bunch of mind games.” Well, it is!  The reality is that our mind plays games with us all the time without us even knowing it.  If we are using only 10-20% of our brain capacity, it likely spends the other 80% of the time coming up with things for us to try to control or worry about.  We can either be a victim of it or learn to manage it. Serenity comes from focusing on:

What does that mean for you?  What do you want to change?  Find some action this week, and take it!

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