“Before we can create peace among nations, we have to find peace inside that small nation which is our own being” – B.K.S. Iyengar
I don’t know about you, but as I get older my life seems to be speeding up. There is always something to do, somewhere to go, some place to be. I just can’t shake the feeling that I am increasingly running on overdrive. Busy, busy, busy consumed with tasks that focus me externally rather than internally. This experience it seems is far from unique.
My clients regularly report that they just can’t cope with life’s increasing responsibilities. We can’t deny that we live in a rapidly changing world with advancements in technology keeping us connected 24/7. Is this good? In many ways yes … we are more efficient and can easily work remotely and globally. We can keep in contact and market our businesses without actually having to leave the house (or speak with anyone). Great huh? Well let’s consider the flip side. What is the impact of this fast, frantic and constantly churning society that we now live?
Has the improvement in ability to communicate (for example, sending emails rather than letters) led to a reduction in work hours? Most certainly not!! In fact, for the majority of us, the result has been quite the opposite. We now work harder and longer hours, whilst expected to respond to work emails during the evening and on weekends. We are constantly on the computer or iPhone. Switched on 24/7.
I believe that despite the fact that we are more seemingly more connected than ever, we are actually more disconnected to the things that matter. We are unhappy, overworked and burnt out. Many of us are chronically stressed yet don’t even realise it. I hear people saying, they can’t switch off, cant sleep, agitated, can’t make a decision, moody, suffer headaches, have neck tension and the list goes on. They are fighting with their partners, colleagues, children and friends. Ultimately, they are fighting with themselves, reacting to a constant stream of internal chatter. And let me tell you this chatter is usually far from positive. In such a hectic world we pay less attention to our inner world than ever. Life has become so busy that we have forgotten the art of going slow, creating awareness and nurturing inner peace.
What’s the solution?
Step 1) Work out what is important. As things speed up, we need to take control and learn how to focus our energy on the things that are most important. What are your values?. Where is your life currently out of balance? It often helps for clients to draw a life wheel which allows them to consider and rate how they are performing in a range of areas in their lives.
Step 2) Learn how to effectively manage your time and prioritise. Ask yourself how you can best distribute your finite energy? This is key, not only in work life, but in our home life as well. Create a list of responsibilities and then sort them according to whether they are urgent/ important or both urgent and important or neither.
Step 3) Learn to go slow and switch off. Rest, recovery and smelling the roses!! Elite athletes understand this principal. They oscillate between training and periods of rest and recovery. Think about it. There is an implicit understanding that athletes cannot perform at their peak consistently, which is why there is always an off-season. So ask yourself, do you have an off-season?
When do you switch off and smell the roses? For most of you, it is rarely, as you maintain your many roles (i.e. wife, husband, mother, father, manager etc). You are expected to perform at your peak 100% of the time and criticised or performance managed when you do not. So the goal is to break this cycle and take some time to learn how to slow down. Make this a priority! Some examples include walking by the beach, reading a good book, sitting in a café, meditating or singing… discover what works for you and do it every day.
Step 4) Learn how to cultivate inner calm. It is often a surprise to clients that they actually have all the tools available to them to cultivate a sense of inner calm, peace and happiness. What brings you a sense of calm? Is it when you are swimming in the ocean? Or perhaps after a long run on the beach? If you are like me, then you may experience a sense of inner peace following meditation and yoga practice. The point is to take the time to find out what works for you and make it a habit. I am in the process of doing just this. I have recently embarked in a 40-day yoga challenge, which involves daily yoga and meditation practice. They say it takes 40 days to create a habit so wish me luck on the road to inner peace.
I thought it was fitting to consider one of my favourite quotes: “be the change that you want to see in the world”… So ask yourself, what change do you want to see in the world? Then focus the question internally and consider how you can cultivate this change within yourself. We all have the power and ability to create positive changes within ourselves that will essentially impact others. Whilst this journey must start with us, it certainly will not end there. So break free of the frantic cycle of modern life. Become aware of the madness; take time to consider what is actually important and don’t forget to smell the roses.