I think we all would agree that inner peace is often elusive (unless you are a yogi, spiritual leader, live under a rock or are just plain lucky!). But as a coach, helping my clients to manage overwhelm and anxiety, I hope to give you three new ways to achieve inner peace. Let’s get started.
What Is Peace In Today’s World?
I was having a conversation with a friend recently about ‘peace’. We discussed the barrage of distressing and emotive news reaching us daily, the challenges of modern life, dealing with the COVID pandemic, and I realised that this is something that as humans, we strive for on a daily basis, and yet fail to attain ever so often.
This caused me to dig a little deeper about what peace means and therefore, to better understand how to find it. My first step was to look at the dictionary definition of peace. Peace, as per Oxford English Dictionary, is “Freedom from civil unrest or disorder; public order and security’. It is also ‘Freedom from anxiety, disturbance (emotional, mental, or spiritual), or inner conflict; calm, tranquillity’
While correct in meaning, I didn’t feel this quite explained what peace means to most of us. As I investigated further, I found a second definition that I felt worked much better for modern life.
“Peace is not the absence of conflict, but the ability to manage conflict constructively, as an important opportunity for change and increased understanding.”
This led me to reflect on whether our understanding of peace should actually be based more around acceptance. Much of our inner conflict is due to our not accepting what is going on around us, or the things that are happening to us. Therefore, if we just accept them, shouldn’t it mean that we will find peace?
Well, this doesn’t necessarily always ring true. How can we stand by and accept what is happening in the face of discrimination, injustice, violations of human rights and the like?
This got me to thinking about the book by Victor Frankl – Man’s search for Meaning – in which he described his time in a prisoner of war camp during World War 2.
During this time, he planned all of the things that he would do when he was released with meticulous detail, and shared that he always had freedom of choice, even in time of severe suffering.
The inner hold a prisoner has on his self relies on having a hope in the future, and that once a prisoner loses that hope, he is doomed.
Several years later, Nelson Mandela, when describing his 27 years in prison in South Africa wrote to his wife –
‘Remember that hope is a powerful weapon even when all else is lost’.
During his time in prison, Nelson Mandela never lost sight of the fact that he would one day be free.
It could be argued that to find inner peace, or some element of calm, it might take a combination of things. The management of conflict, a level of acceptance for things we cannot change, and the freedom of choice to change the things we can, with a sense of hope for the future. Let’s break these down.
Finding Inner Peace: Managing Conflict
Management of conflict can be a tough thing to master. It’s even more difficult to find tranquillity in turmoil. However, to quote Victor Frankl again,
‘Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom’.
What is meant by this, is that in the split second between arguing back, or saying something you may later regret, which may cause inner turmoil and outer conflict, you have the choice to choose your response. It doesn’t mean you necessarily accept the argument, but you choose to adopt a different approach.
Some ways to manage conflict and de-escalate a situation are:
- Ask an open question to find out more about the other person’s point of view
- Count to 10 before responding
- Reflect back what the other person has just said, to show that you hear them and have understood what they have said
- Excuse yourself for a moment to change the dynamics
Try these methods the next time you have a disagreement with someone and observe if it helps you keep calm.
Finding Inner Peace: Accepting What Is
Acceptance for the things you cannot change is often a matter of reframing, a technique that is used in coaching and positive psychology to help people think differently. Being caught in a rainstorm could cause you to be angry at the weather, but you could also think about how much the plants you love around your city need the rain. Your boss being unreasonable, whilst upsetting, could be because he is having hard time from his boss, or he has just had some bad news.
Some ways to reframe your thoughts is by asking yourself the following questions:
- What are other ways I could see this situation?
- What am I missing here?
- What are my beliefs about this situation, and are they true?
- What’s the best thing about this current situation?
By posing these questions to yourself, you can often discover a way to find the positive in things, which in turn brings your mind back to a sense of calm.
Finding Inner Peace: Choosing Action And Hope.
The final part is where we start to make changes and build hope. Think for a moment about some of the areas in your life that cause you mental unrest or anguish. What would a better outcome to look like? When you think about this and its benefits, you can start to find ways to improve things. Here’s an example. Say, you don’t like your job. You decide what a great job would look like, you think about what it might take to get you there, you talk to people who are doing it. By researching this, you are no longer thinking about the negative, but focusing on the positive and how to get there. By taking small steps towards change, you are no longer stuck in a negative space.
Some ways to choose action and hope are:
- When there is something that is disturbing you, visualise a different scenario.
- Take note of the details in this given scenario and start finding out what it would take to get there.
- As the action plan gets clearer, so does the path to hope.
There are many paths to inner peace. Take a deep breath and get started on your new, peaceful journey!