It can easily be argued that every decision a person makes is in the pursuit of peace and contentment in their life. You might say, “Wait a minute. I go to a job I hate every day just so I can pay my bills and barely survive.” You may be unhappy in your job, but, deep down inside understand that going to that job which are complaining about is much better than being unemployed, and losing the ability to pay your bills – not to mention, you have the choice on whether to work there or to find a different way to earn your money.
The need to be for peace drives everyone, even though they may all have a different definition of what peace and contentment looks like to them. People pursue it through different means. Some believe they’ll be satisfied and have no more worries if they can make enough money. Others believe they’ll find their peace by serving others. Some pursue a family, while other believe the freedom of staying single provides a better opportunity for the life they are looking to live.
Jay Harrington, an author and entrepreneur says, “In an interesting study from the 1970s, researchers studied the happiness levels of two different groups of people: lottery winners and accident victims. The surprising result of the study was that, once the initial elation of winning the lottery and shock of the accident wore off, both groups returned to their original levels of happiness. Over the long-term, these drastically different external events—one seemingly positive and the other negative—had no appreciable impact on happiness.”
Ben-Shahar suggests that it is not reaching a particular destination (metaphorically speaking) that makes us happy, but rather learning to appreciate the journey toward the destination: “Attaining lasting happiness requires that we enjoy the journey on our way toward a destination we deem valuable. Happiness is not about making it to the peak of the mountain nor is it about climbing aimlessly around the mountain; happiness is the experience of climbing toward the peak.”
The main points in the two quotes above indicate that attaining peace, like attaining happiness, is not done with an on/off switch. It’s the process of going from where you are to right now to where you want to be – it’s the journey itself.
Someone once said, an investment banker and a Buddhist monk are still pursuing the same thing, only in dramatically different ways. The statement was made in reference to happiness, but it also applies to a peaceful and contented existence.
Can you make yourself peaceful overnight if you have a drama filled life? Can you pursue contentment and capture it like a child chasing a firefly?
Avoid overestimating the effect of your circumstances on your journey to peace and contentment. Even a perfect relationship and perfect job can become a grind after the newness wears off. You don’t need to live in the perfect location or have the ideal career, nothing is perfect all the time.
Studies show that people with modest incomes and possessions can be just as content as the wealthy. There are happy and miserable people in the US, China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and everywhere else in the world. There are happy and miserable doctors, clowns, CEO’s, customer service agents, tall people, short people, men, and women. The difference is the choice they make – are they going to choose peace, or choose chaos?
Be positive and peaceful as much as you can, but realize it’s not something you can do one hundred percent of the time. Studies find that the most contented people are moderately peaceful on a regular basis. The frequency of positive emotions is much more important than the intensity of the emotions.
Don’t put too much pressure on being perfect when it comes to having a peaceful and contented life. The pressure itself will distract you, and probably stress you out. I believe that only focusing on your total peace, your contentment, and your happiness leads to misery. You end up being consumed with yourself, and miss out on all the good going on around you.
Gratitude is an important component. We all have a lot to be grateful for, we just need to stay focused on our blessings. Make gratitude a habit. Ask yourself what you’re grateful for several times each day.
Want to form a gratitude habit? Here’s an interesting idea from a friend. Set up gratitude prompts, such as when you take a shower, put on your shoes, start your car, walk into your place of work, take off your shoes, and get into bed. These are just a few ideas. Think about your own life. Train your brain to prompt you to stop for a moment and focus on gratitude any time you do these tasks. You can do this with any task, any time of the day. What are your current morning and evening routines? Use the tasks in those routines to remind you to be grateful.
A peaceful life is the goal, but it must be your choice, and it doesn’t just happen overnight. It just happens when you’re living your life trying to be the best version of yourself. A few good friends, the right mindset, and gratitude are all the intelligent person requires to have a peaceful and contented life. Live your life by your ethics, values and standards. Base all you do on whether or not it helps you fulfill your life’s purpose.
One of the lovely byproducts of a peaceful life is happiness. “Happiness is like a butterfly: the more you chase it, the more it will elude you, but if you turn your attention to other things, it will come and sit softly on your shoulder.” – Thoreau. Peace is like that, too.
Find your purpose – find your joy!
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Did you find a few more ideas of your own? If so, I’d love to hear about them in the comments, and as always please reach out with your thoughts.
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