The freedom of inner peace
I can remember in my early twenties reading something about attaining inner peace and feeling threatened and scared. Being at peace just seemed so boring. How could you live your life with all the highs and lows and the tumbles and resets if you were constantly trying to be at peace? Little did I know then I was addicted to the drama in my life. And that’s ok too, except the drama in my life wasn’t particularly happy. In many of the dramas I became embroiled, I suffered deeply. For years my quest for self-awareness was simply to try to prevent any more pain. I soon switched my aim to try to achieve happiness. I was definitely on the right track here. It took a few more years of realising that where my soul and heart wanted me to go was to achieve inner peace.
Raising my own self-awareness has been a life-long quest for me. Even as a child I was reflective and analytical about my own and others behaviour. I was always curious about how people ticked. Having said that I didn’t really make great inroads into my journey to achieve inner peace until I was in my 30’s. Too many dramas had made me realise there must be a better way. I could write thousands of words about the lessons and the journeys I have been on since then, but here are 6 of my top realisations which helped me achieve inner peace.
1. Be your own best friend
I can’t begin to tell you how making the decision to be my own best friend transformed my life. It was a whole new paradigm. Deciding to be my own best friend meant I could ditch that negative pervasive inner critic. I could recognise when I was beating myself up. While I was getting used to this new player in my mind, whenever I found myself falling back into old habits, I would ask myself the question “What would you say to your best friend, who you love deeply?” That would always stop the inner critic in its tracks. It took a long time to break down the negative patterns which had been with me for years. Now my inner best friend automatically intervenes when negativity enters.
When coaching clients, some find the idea of being their own best friends easier than others. If you find the concept difficult then you likely need to think about practising self-love more. Mirror Work by Louise Hay may seem a little self-indulgent and for some a bit too introspective, but if you practice the techniques, you will grow in self-love and learn to be your own best friend. You may have a different experience, but I don’t believe you would be able to achieve inner peace if you were not able to be your own best friend. If you aren’t already, try it.
2. See the best in others
If you’re not your own best friend, then it may be difficult to always see the best in others. This is because if you’re not used to eliminating that inner critic for yourself, you will likely find it difficult to eliminate negativity towards others too. I was once told that one of my problems was that I saw the best in others. I realised that the criticism towards me was not that I did, it was because they believed, as a result, I ignored the worst in others. However, that wasn’t true. You can still be aware of and make contingencies for someone’s worst traits, and still choose to find the good in them.
We’ve all been in or known about relationships which start off with such promise and then disintegrate into two people who once loved each other being sworn, enemies. When you achieve inner peace, you realise there are good factors and not so good factors in everyone and you can accept it all. When you are at peace with yourself, you can walk away from a relationship because it isn’t right while still seeing the best for and caring for the other person.
And so it’s true in less intense relationships, or with family members, or work colleagues. Whenever you are thinking or feeling negative towards someone, pause, and find something good about them you can like.
Forgiveness involves you being able to cut through the negativity and the experiences you may be having with someone, which are not positive and letting your hurt and negativity go. When you feel angry, or confused, or hurt by someone else’s actions, this is really difficult. Some people equate forgiveness with letting someone off the hook. They feel the other person will benefit, and that person just doesn’t deserve it. But forgiveness is always about you. Being able to forgive others for their thoughtlessness, or lack of presence, or whatever they did which you did not like, is the road to freedom. Freedom from anger, hurt and suffering.
Wanting to forgive someone and actually feeling at peace with their actions is two very different things. It’s difficult to feel at peace when you have feelings of hurt and anger within you. However, the intention to forgive is where you need to start. You may find intellectually you are saying the words “I forgive you”, but letting go of your emotions may take much longer. Still, it can be done. The trick is to focus on healing your painful emotions rather than focusing on the person who you associate with causing them.
4. Learn how to switch perspectives
Pivoting as it is called is such a powerful technique which you must master if you are going to get to that state of inner peace. This is the art of switching perspectives. Let’s take a simple example which we can all relate to. We get up and pull back the curtains and find that the sky is grey and the rain is lashing down. It’s a winter day it’s so dark and gloomy, but it’s in the middle of summer. So, on the one hand, you could look at the situation and think “my day is ruined” “bang goes my lovely walk in the park with my friend” etc.. we close the curtains and go back to bed, and feel miserable.
On the other hand, we could say, “I’m so glad it’s raining, the flowers need it so much.” “It’s going to be exciting getting waterproofed up and talking to my friend in the rain”. “I’m excited to see them” I know it sounds a bit of a stretch, but we really do have the choice.
So we can practice switching perspectives with easy situations like the weather, or if something doesn’t turn up when we expect it for example. It’s harder to pivot when more significant situations present themselves. A friend of mine was devastated when they didn’t get the job of their dreams. They had prepared for years, and so it was a cruel blow. Eventually, they were able to pivot their thoughts about the situation and instead of lingering on the disappointment, chose to focus instead on what they were learning. We get stuck in patterns of thinking which often don’t serve us well. Observing our patterns can help us to identify those times when we need to switch perspectives.
To feel at peace with yourself you must be able to practice the art of surrender. Surrender, like the act of acceptance, is designed to alleviate suffering. Surrender is the decision in your mind to stop resisting a situation and accepting it instead. Years ago I was in an intense relationship. In hindsight, I realised it was never going to work, but at the time, I was determined it would. After far too much suffering and angst, I got the realisation that I had to simply let it go. I had to release the vision I had, release the expectations I had built in my mind and accept what had seemed intolerable to me, that it was never going to be. The relief and the happiness that flooded me once I made that decision was unimaginable when I had been tied up in the resistance.
There are many situations where I have had to practice surrender. It is always giving up on the resistance to a situation you want to be different. Practising surrender leads to building our muscle of acceptance. Accepting things as they are is another important route into achieving peace of mind.
6. Look after yourself
For many years I have looked after my mind. Growing my thinking and emotional intelligence has been paramount for me. However, along the way, I have sometimes forgotten to look after my physical wellbeing. Yet, looking after your self across all aspects is crucial. There are many habits you can adopt to make sure you have a good grounding in caring for and loving yourself. These can be making sure you eat well, exercise regularly, get enough sleep from a physical perspective.
You need to care about your relationships. Make sure you nurture positive caring ones and put those which are less positive out of arms reach. You can practice mindfulness, mediation is excellent for wellbeing. Building a positive mindset with some of the techniques outlined here is helpful. Whatever aspect of wellbeing you are not paying attention to, you need to redress that balance. You are very unlikely to achieve true inner peace if you don’t look after yourself. So getting a plan for healthy habits looking after your mind and body is essential.
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I help leaders develop self- mastery, helping them to become confident in their own inner guidance.
I collaborate with leadership experts, managers and HR professionals to help them get their own message and unique services and products to a wide audience.