Do you have a passion for a better world, simple solutions, strong working relationships, open communication, people over profit, sustainability over a quick-buck and valuable results over endless chatter?
Do you struggle to focus on, maintain, and achieve according to these values because of the stresses and pressures that come at you every day?
The world is a pretty crazy place right now. It probably always has been, but perhaps the information (and misinformation) is coming at us at a faster rate. It seems like everyone is vying for our attention, our “mindshare”.
- Politicians seeking to control and drive us with the stick of fear and the carrot of security;
- Corporations seducing us with the promise of a better life in exchange for our hard-earned cash;
- The pure-of-heart, cause-based advocates, seeking our “clicks” and our dollars;
- Gadgets and screens consuming our down-time and keeping us awake into the small hours.
It’s a lot to take in.
Ten years ago, I left “safe” corporate employment with IBM and started my own business. I wanted to make sure I could do work I believe in, for clients I share a passion with, and to achieve outcomes that create a better future for us all. Most importantly, I wanted to be master of my own destiny – to go after my own purpose and vision with all the challenge, freedom, risk and reward that entailed.
In this article, I want to share with you some lessons I have learned through that process around achieving meaning and peace in the face of often challenging circumstances.
The great news is that you CAN choose to take control and create a much clearer sense of purpose and peace, without the need to retreat to a Himalayan monastery, if you take on board just a few of the following habits.
These are a few simple practices which I have found have helped me to maintain balance, health, peace and calm amidst the chaos of modern life – which in the end make me happier, a better husband and parent, and more productive, creative and successful in my career and business.
1. Take time out – Centre Yourself
This first one is about total time out for yourself, to be present in the moment with yourself. Don’t rush into planning – that can come next. Whatever helps you heal and grow. It could include physical exercise, quiet meditation, prayer, reading, hiking. Whatever helps you to unplug from the world and centre yourself. You need to centre yourself before you are ready to go out into the world – this is true whether you are an introvert or an extravert – to varying extents.
My current favourite approach is a very simple meditation technique, which focusses your attention on your breathing. Have a look at the following video for an insight into this simple but very effective approach. How to train your monkey mind.
Another option I use is the app “Peacefull” (available for Apple devices only at present). Full disclosure – I developed this app using footage of peaceful nature scenery, sounds and relaxing music. I might be biased, but I think its a great app.
2. Take time to plan – Envision the Future
Having centred yourself, now you have a clear mind and a firm foundation on which you can plan. Once you are centred, you will have more clarity about your own values, and you can plan for the short, medium and long term, to achieve your most important goals.
I like to plan on a number of different levels and timescales, starting with a vision statement on a 5-10 year timeframe, and working back until I have some concrete short, medium and long term goals.
3. Prioritise and Time-box
To keep the distractions and ‘noise’ to a minimum, make sure you are clear on your priorities for the next day, week, month and 90 days. Limit the amount of time you spend on any one item (a practice referred to as “time-boxing”). Schedule each item according to its priority, to save you chasing one objective down an unproductive rabbit hole. Priorities help you to say “No” to the distractions and things which will get in the way of you achieving your goals.
I find it works well for self-accountability to write down these goals and commitments. That way you have something you can review, measure and revise as you progress.
4. Don’t sweat the small stuff
Did you overrun a time-box by 10 minutes? Did you fail to achieve one of your objectives this week? Did you let yourself or someone else down? Don’t dwell on it. Pick yourself up, learn and move on. There’s no joy or productivity to be had in dwelling on failure – learn your lesson, become stronger for it. Move on to better things.
5. Be kind to yourself (and others)
We are taught a lot of information in school. We are not taught enough about loving and taking care of ourselves. Part of not sweating the small stuff, is learning to be kind to yourself. Forgive yourself, cherish yourself and this life. If you can love yourself, you can forgive, and cherish others. Be unafraid – fear will drain the life from your years (and the years from your life), and keep you enslaved to the agendas others want to set. You can’t necessarily eliminate fear, but you can embrace courage, which is the choice to act and succeed in spite of fear.
Be kind to others – the world is in pain, and like intergenerational abusive behaviours, we learn fear and hatred and violence from each other – particularly through media and politicians who wield these things to for their own gain. We tend towards passing these negative behaviours on.
Let the hate and the violence stop with you. Reject it. You cannot heal the entire world, but you can become part of a movement working for peace where you are.
6. Relax, celebrate, enjoy
Now you can party, celebrate, play games, take a well-earned rest, knowing you have been true to yourself, kind to yourself and others, and that you have done your very best with the resources and time you have had at your disposal.
Each day is gift. Be grateful and sleep well.
7. A word on the media (TV, Radio, Internet, Press)
Be judicious in you use of media – everyone is trying to sell you something in the media, for some reason – from pure motivation or not. Every fact is coloured with the lens the media chooses to hold up to it. Use the media, but don’t let it use you, or make you afraid, or chain you down. Centre yourself, so you own your own values and opinions, and not merely reflect those that others are seeking to force upon you.
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Until next time, take care of yourself and keep on creating.