We all experience problems and losses at different times in our lives - some great and some small. Many of our dreams and plans will inevitably shatter, despite the effort invested. Yet peace of mind is not defined as living a life devoid of challenges; it’s the ability to cope with setbacks with the right attitude.
Many of us are perplexed at the various possible roads through life, fearful of the dizzying possibilities and numerous uncertainties. We may dwell on worst case scenarios or feel stuck in the ‘what if’s’. We might invest a vast amount of energy analyzing and battling against our life’s direction. Yet, most of us realize we cannot change every situation or circumstance in order to maintain a life devoid of pain and challenges.
There is a way to experience day-to-day happenings with greater inner calm. Not by changing our reality, but by changing our perspective on that reality. Following this three-step process will help us achieve tranquility.
1. Internalizing the knowledge and faith that God knows best
By internalizing the belief that God loves us unconditionally and is taking care of us in the most precious way, we can actively contribute to our inner calm.
When confronting a crisis, we should strive to remember that God is looking out for our ultimate best. He is always there to protect and preserve His nation.
Just as parents look out for their children’s interests, so too does our Creator. Yet just as young children may feel perplexed and occasionally fail to understand their parents’ ways, we often do not understand why God directs our life in a certain way or see what He has planned for us next. Nonetheless, we must constantly remind ourselves there is a master plan from Above, and all that happens is in our best interests.
2. Accepting what we cannot understand or change
A key point in reaching this place of serenity lies in our ability to accept what is and what has been. External triggers are outside of our control. This world is blemished by imperfections, negative energy and craziness. We cannot control what goes on around us; only what is happening within ourselves.
For instance, I may find myself staring at a frozen computer screen, frustrated at the computer or at myself for forgetting to save my work. I cannot change those circumstances. However, I can change the way I think and therefore feel.
Though difficult, changing our thoughts are within the realm of our control. Externally nothing changes, nevertheless reclaiming our thoughts and re-routing them to the healthier place of acceptance and peace will eventually change our perspective. In turn, this may dramatically affect the way we feel and respond to situations. Emotions generally ride with our thoughts yet with determination and practice they can be channeled.
What today will be like is up to us. We get to choose what kind of day we will have through self-talk and shifting thoughts. Hardships such as losing a job or not closing a business deal are challenges that are outside of ourselves; they have nothing to do with us personally.
As a practical example when you feel overwhelmed in your responsibilities as a spouse or parent - trick yourself. Say out loud, “I can do this” or “There is no reason to be frazzled, I can handle this!” Verbalizing these words not only confirms the statement in our minds but builds our confidence, leading us in a positive direction.
3. Attempting to change what we can change about ourselves or the circumstances
Believing everything God orchestrates is for the best, and fostering an attitude of acceptance leads to a healthier mental outlook on life. Having worked on these, we can now approach the third step from a position of strength. That is, attempting to change ourselves and/or our circumstances without experiencing despair in the event of failure.
Now we can act on our values. Nothing matches willpower. It is testimony to the true strength of the body and soul. Our will is like a muscle; it needs to be exercised in order to strengthen its power.
Changing one’s ingrained character traits is a great challenge. For many of us, it takes far more control to not react than to overreact and losing control is thus a sign of weakness. No matter what trait we are working on, we need to motivate ourselves and be gentle with ourselves in order to keep on track.
Inner composure is ours for the taking. While struggles and setbacks may temporarily throw us off course, being aware that they are part of the plan God has set for us minimizes the anguish we feel inside and enables us to achieve inner equilibrium.
For the times when I feel off-balance I humor myself with a saying I made up: God has a plan, I just don’t know what it is yet! Emotional and spiritual development occurs in stages. Practicing these steps will enable us to more easily weather the storms and sail more smoothly through life’s choppier waters.