How to Maintain a Sense of Peace No Matter What Life Throws At You
“Ships don’t sink because of the water around them; ships sink because of the water that gets in them. Don’t let what’s happening around you get inside you and weigh you down.” — Unknown
Do you ever feel like your life is a rollercoaster?
One second, you’re on top of the world. The next, you’re down in the dumps.
For me, this feeling of going up and down began back in high school.
Before then, everything in life seemed like a test run. Sure, there were exams, extracurricular activities, and the usual social pressures. But now that university was only a few years away, things suddenly turned serious.
“These are the most important years of your life,” people would say. “Make the best use of them.”
And so, every single thing, no matter how big or small, seemed to have an amplified effect. If I didn’t do something right, my life was over. But if I did achieve a step in the right direction, my life was set.
When I applied for a leadership position that I thought was a good fit, I convinced myself that I absolutely had to get it. I read the leadership responsibilities diligently, practiced the same speech over and over, and thought about what I would do when I got the position.
The result? I didn’t get it. My life, as I knew it, was over.
Fast-forward a few years to university: I had decided by this time that I wanted to go to business school. My friends and I would talk about the application process and how to improve our chances of acceptance. With bated breath, I finalized my application and submitted it.
The result? I was accepted. Since the school had strong internship and job prospects, my life was set.
While I had fun, school was also incredibly stressful. Classmates and I would beam with excitement when we were invited to interviews, only to be disheartened a few days later when an offer didn’t come.
Later, I received an offer to work in a role that seemed perfect for what I was looking for. I was elated.
As you can probably guess by now, that feeling didn’t last.
It began to feel like no matter what I did or how much effort I put in, life was never a smooth path. Seemingly promising opportunities would lead me to obstacles in the way. Even when I did get something I wanted, it would lead to another stressful problem that needed solving. And so on it went.
After dealing with these emotions and thoughts for years, I felt exhausted. It felt as if there was no end to the tunnel. No point in time when I could just put down everything, sit, and enjoy the scenery for a while.
Eventually, I figured that it wasn’t simply the swirl of events surrounding me that caused my ups and downs. It was my perspective. I consistently attached myself to specific outcomes, as if my life depended on them, and felt devastated when things didn’t work out.
Sure, some of the things I experienced could easily make anyone feel the same way. Had I taken a different view, however, I wouldn’t have constantly psyched myself up and created these unhealthy emotions.
When I look back at what I thought were huge victories and setbacks at the time, they seem insignificant now. My life wasn’t over, as I believed it to be, nor was it set in stone. And truthfully, I wouldn’t want either.
I learned that no matter what happens, life goes on. Celebrations and challenges are a part of everyone’s life, not the be-all and end-all. With practice, I’ve started incorporating a sense of peace into my life by using some practices that anyone can apply.
4 Practices to Help You Maintain Peace and Perspective
1. Expect twists and turns.
Recently, I went on a long-awaited vacation. Soon after landing, I stepped off the plane relieved and excited to begin my holiday.
Unfortunately, my new luggage case arrived less than intact.
“Why me?” I thought. This was the first time in years that I had used the airport check-in, and my luggage was the only one that was damaged.
I realized then that I had two choices: I could let this ruin my vacation, or I could enjoy my holiday regardless.
I admit, I did grumble about it initially. But later I took the contents out and put the case out of view so that I wouldn’t spend my holiday thinking about it.
Unexpected events happen to everyone. It’s important to acknowledge them as a part of life and plan for them when possible. Even though I felt upset about possibly tossing out my new favorite luggage, I reminded myself how fortunate I was that I got to use it in the first place.
Thankfully, the airline ended up offering to get my luggage case repaired.
I realize some twists and turns are more emotionally trying than damaged luggage, and far more difficult to accept. But if we learn to expect the unexpected, we’ll spend less time resisting life’s inevitable curveballs and more time proactively dealing with them.
2. Look at the big picture.
Painful events and experiences happen to everyone. Sometimes, they’re so painful that it feels like nothing will ever take away the feeling of sorrow or hurt. But everything heals in time, and sometimes good can come from even the most traumatic situations.
A few years ago, a relative of mine lost her husband to cancer. It was devastating for everyone, especially for her family. At the time, it felt almost unimaginable that someone so close and well loved could leave so soon.
While he is still missed and thought of every day, good things have happened since then:
A marriage and the addition of a new family member
A stronger bond between the family
The realization that it’s crucial to laugh and enjoy life while we can