Peaceful Calm – Achieve a Peaceful Calm State of Mind (Day 15 of 30 Days of Getting Results)

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“After a storm comes a calm.” — Matthew Henry

Your Outcome: Quiet the buzz in your mind.  Achieve a “peaceful calm” state of mind that is relaxed, responsive, and ready.

Welcome to day 15 of 30 Days of Getting Results, a series of posts where I share with you a simple system for meaningful results from my book, Getting Results the Agile Way.  In day 14, we learned a key way to master time management by carving out time for what’s important.  Today, we learn how to quiet our mind and achieve a “peaceful calm”.  From this vantage point, you’ll see things with more clarity, you’ll feel “centered,” and you’ll think your best thoughts.  You’ll also find it easier to quiet your mental chatter, and just be in the moment.  You’ll direct your attention with skill.

A “Peaceful Calm” State of Mind
If you aren’t sure what it’s like to feel a peaceful calm, the best way I can describe it is it’s like looking out over the Grand Canyon for the first time.  Your mind just takes it all in.  There are no worries about the past, the present, or the future.  Your mind is fully absorbed in the moment.

For that brief moment, your mind is captivated by the experience.  Your mind is empty, but fully alert, fully aware, and not distracted by any mental chatter or any of your head movies.  Instead of replaying scenes in your mind, you are the movie.

Relaxed, Ready, and Resourceful
While the world might be a jungle, fight-or-flight mode can limit our best thinking.  To think our best thoughts or create our best ideas, or solve our problems in the most resourceful way, we need to operate from a place that’s “centered” and serene.

When I think of “peaceful calm”, words that come to mind are: tranquil, centered, serene, and peaceful.  I also think of a series of “R” words including restful, resourceful, relaxed, responsive, and ready.

An empty mind is a powerful one.  It’s ready for action.  It’s relaxed, ready, and responsive.

When your mind is relaxed, you can take in information with less distortion.  You’re connected to your emotions, but rather than being overwhelmed or randomized, it’s more like using your emotions as input.  When your mind is ready, you are responsive.  You are able to easily see the situation and respond with skill instead of react out of fear or anxiety.  When your mind is resourceful, you are able to easily think the thoughts that serve you.  Your creative mind is ready to solve problems with you instead of work against you.

3 Ways to Achieve a Peaceful Calm
Here are three actionable things you can do to achieve a peaceful calm state of mind:

  1. Dump your brain.   Put it all down on paper.  Just dump it all out.  When it’s on paper, you can better decide what’s worth worrying about and what’s not.  Otherwise, you’ll stew in your own juices.  See Dump Your Brain to Free Your Mind.
  2. Have a time and a place for things.   Schedule a time for things that you really need to make time for.  Simply by having a time for things or a place for things, you can free up your mind.  If you know that your carved out an hour for worrying about your problem, than whenever it pops up, remind yourself that, “Now, is not the time” and more importantly, you have a specific time and a specific place for it.  It’s when you don’t make time for things, that they will keep harassing you.   You can also create a block of time to consolidate things and deal with them in a batch.  One example is to schedule a worry break, where you can worry all you want, but only for a limited time.  This way, whenever something to worry about comes up, instead of just saying you’ll worry about it later, you actually have an appointment!
  3. Change your focus. Direct your attention with skill.  Don’t just tell yourself to think about something else.  It doesn’t work.  Instead, ask yourself a different question.  You can change your focus by changing the question.  For example, if your immediate response in a situation is to start figuring out everything that’s wrong with the situation, you might ask yourself, “What’s right with this situation?”  If you find you get stuck in your head, ask yourself, “What did it feel like the first time I saw the Grand Canyon?”  To experience a “peaceful calm” state of mind, you want to focus more on feeling, sensing, and experiencing, than on your mental chatter or analysis.  It’s a balance and a blend of your senses and your mind, where your mind is empty of racing thoughts, mental chit chat, and worries about the past, present, or the future.  It’s relaxed, ready, and responsive.  Play around with the questions you ask yourself to find what works for you.  One thing that works very easily for me is simply to remind myself to, “remember the feeling.”  That’s a trigger for me to recall when my mind is in its best state.

One thing that I will point out is that if I don’t eat well and sleep well, that takes away from my “peaceful calm.”  I’ve also noticed that if I have too much caffeine that takes away from my “peaceful calm” too.  What happens is that my  mind has to keep analyzing and making sense of that feeling from the caffeine in my body — is it the caffeine or is there something to be worried about.  It’s a distracting loop.

Additional Ways to Center Yourself and Achieve a Peaceful Calm
Here are some additional ways to help you achieve a peaceful state of calm:

  1. Take away the threat.   If there’s one thing that can keep eating at you, it’s the threats in your life.   If you take away the threats, you solidify your foundation.  You either have to decide what to do about it, or let it go, or decide it’s not how you’re going to live.    One of the best ways to deal with a threat is to reframe it as a challenge and take the bull by the horns.  Another way is to assume the worst case scenario and deal with it.  For example, lets say your threat is losing your job.  Then assume you’ll lose it, and make the preparations – get staffing companies on your side, build your network, and create a winning resume.
  2. Make a map of what’s important.  This simple step will add clarity for your mind and a place to focus your thoughts, when they might seem random or all over the board.  Map out your priorities and outcomes.  See Hot Spots – Map Out What’s Important.
  3. Find your why.  By finding your why, you simplify your life down to a driving purpose.  It gives you a simple way to prioritize and evaluate what you will spend your time or your energy on.  See Discover Your Why.
  4. Learn to pause.  By taking a brief pause, you can respond over react.  It will help you stay centered in more situations and respond more effectively.   See The Power of the Pause.
  5. Reset your mental model.  Ask yourself, “Who do you want to be?” and “What experiences do you want to create?”  Do you want to be running around like a chicken with its head cut off or do you want to show some self-control, confidence, clarity, and deliberate action?  Simply by doing a reset, when you find yourself off-kilter, can help you center yourself with skill.
  6. Focus on your breathing.  You’d think we do this well, given how much we breathe all the time.  Well, usually we don’t.    It’s easy to get stressed and then breathe high and shallow instead of deep and full.  If you want to center yourself, then focus on your breathing.  Key tip – don’t treat it weird or act like it’s a magic ritual.  Simply feel the flow of your breath in, down, and around, then back out.  Pause when it’s fully in, and simply notice what a full, deep breath feels like.  Simply enjoy your breath.  Then have another, it’s on the house.
  7. Visualize with skill.   This is particularly effective if you tend to be very visual.  You can simply recall some of your favorite scenery or scenes from your life, where you felt a “peaceful calm.”  This will help you remember the feeling, and it will give your mind a quick way to focus on something that it already knows.
  8. Remind yourself that things can always be worse.  They really can.  If you need examples, you can find them easily.  Somebody is always worse off.  If you adjust your frame of reference, this can help you keep things in your own life in better perspective.  One thing that sticks out for me here is a line from Navy Seals try outs that goes like this, “The only easy day was yesterday.”  And of course, yesterday, was an absolute nightmare … but by comparison, it’s a walk in the park.

Today’s Assignment

  1. Get a good mental picture that you can use to get to your “peaceful calm”.  Remember a time when your mind was at it’s most relaxed, ready, and resourceful state.  Really get a good picture in your mind of this experience.  Notice what it feels like.  Walk your five senses one-by-one (site, hearing, touch, smell, taste):  What do you see? … What do you hear?  …What do you feel? … What do you smell? … What do you taste?”  For example, if your image is on the beach, you might sea the waves lap against the shore, you might hear the seagulls, you might feel the sand between your toes and the warm sun on your shoulders, you might smell the boardwalk, and you might taste the salt in the air.  Simply walking your senses will dramatically improve your ability to fully remember the feeling.  The more you practice the better you get.
  2. Write down everything that’s buzzing around in your brain.  Whether it’s things that are bugging you or ideas that keep floating around.  Just empty it and keep emptying it until you’ve got it all down.  Breathe a sigh of relief.  You’re looking at your mind on paper.
  3. Make a time and a place for things.   For the things that you really have to deal with, create an appointment with yourself, add it to your schedule, and whenever the issue comes up, reminder yourself that you have an appointment to “deal with it.”

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Photo by RichardO.

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13 COMMENTS

  1. I love the worry appointment :)! I could use that and trick myself and maybe achieve a calmer peace of mind….thank you JD! I am curious: you didn’t mention meditation as I would have thought you would – these are interesting topics no doubt though….great series.

  2. J.D. Great post. I really thought your recommendation to dump your brain was a good one. Things can weigh on our mind and we can waste our attention and focus on trying to remember things that we can just write down. I also think if we can find a way to continually find our center and clam our mind, we really set ourselves up to experience things in the greatest ways.

  3. @ Farnoosh — I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised by how much a worry appointment can help, especially if it becomes a launch pad for taking action.

    You’re right, I should have mentioned meditation. I lumped it into a longer-term bucket for best mental performance, along with aerobic exercise three times a week for 20 minutes (according to Brain Rules.)

    @ Sibyl — Thank you. It’s definitely an on-going process. I regularly dump my brain, reflect, reprioritize, let some things go, and figure out my next best thing.

    @ Alik — Sometimes the ebb and flow is a lot more ebb, than flow 😉

  4. J. D. This is an excellent description: “If you aren’t sure what it’s like to feel a peaceful calm, the best way I can describe it is it’s like looking out over the Grand Canyon for the first time. Your mind just takes it all in. There are no worries about the past, the present, or the future. Your mind is fully absorbed in the moment.

    For that brief moment, your mind is captivated by the experience. Your mind is empty, but fully alert, fully aware, and not distracted by any mental chatter or any of your head movies.”

    Although I was hesitant about it at first, I am finding that the brain dump is working so well for me. I don’t need a page a day; one a week seems fine for me. I just put everything there and know it’s not lost. But I also find I don’t need to go there much.

    Thanks so much.

  5. @ Sandra — Thank you. Brain dumps are a key to success and peace of mind and a way to let things go. You’ll be surprised by how many ideas flow faster once you make the space for them. When I first started dumping to my little yellow pads, I would just have a few pages at the end of the week. Now I fill multiple pads with ideas. It’s like the flood gate is opened now that there’s room. New ideas rush in to fill the void.

  6. Hi JD .. It’s good to know and realise “What’s Not Wrong” – rather than what’s wrong. The process of dumping my brain I’ll do once I move (shortly) .. but worrying ‘I can’t be done with that’ – I mull things over at times .. and the answer comes along and then I deal with it .. or I have queries and then I can ask the questions; I’m sure I’ll feel more at ease in a few weeks – I’ll be over the worst of the move (& two more to do .. mother and me again!) and the way forward is coming together.

    Like you I can’t function if I don’t maintain my body and its clock .. both for food, when my body needs it – otherwise I’m off functioning, or having a good night’s sleep .. I need a lot more of that – but the brain has been stretched a great deal .. and I drink lots of water during the day after my morning coffee .. and very rarely have more coffee or tea.

    This post is a great 15 day mid-point summary .. thanks once again … Hilary

  7. @ Hilary — I’m glad to hear things are coming together for you. Life has its ups and downs. I always think of the seasons of change and how nothing lasts forever (though I like to stretch out the good, and consolidate or condense the bad 😉

  8. J.D.,
    I love the feeling of a calm after a storm, in fact the last day has been just that, and I have been trying to embrace this feeling for as long as possible. It certainly requires practice work.

    my favorite portion to take away tonight is:
    “An empty mind is a powerful one. It’s ready for action. It’s relaxed, ready, and responsive. & When your mind is relaxed, you can take in information with less distortion.”

    I have taken a step back today in some areas because I know I need to receive more to continue to Be more and ripple out that genuine quality from Source.

    In the past, so often an empty mind has felt intimidating but I am learning to come back to this concept again and again and not to fear it or think of it as lacking, rather enabling — also, as connecting to the power center –waiting to be filled up with The Ultimate Best! A sacred container for what we are each born for – Greatness.

    Thank you for this helpful post, J.D.
    ~Jenn

  9. @ Jenn — It’s the power of that tension and release combo. I tried to find a sticky way to capture the heart of it, and I finally settled on relaxed, ready, and responsive.

  10. […] Program Manager on the Microsoft patterns & practices team, has a book and a website (Sources of Insight) devoted to helping people get results through insight. To achieve peaceful calm, he says, you need […]

  11. Just added “worry appointment” to my Start-up Routines. I thought about adding it to “Brain dump file,” but I’d rather make it a separate unique space to explore 1) Worries, 2) Change of focus, 3) Why, and 4) Take away the threat. I should find some trends and frictions that I can resolve. As you said, it should become “a launch pad for taking action.”

    I liked your comment for Alik: “sometimes the ebb and flow is a lot more ebb, than flow.” First of all, I had to look up what ebb means (a foreigner moment). Then I had aha-moment. Flow is what comes through life, whatever it is. Ebb, to me, is our emotion, thoughts, internal reaction, take away, what takes us to the next level… or simply our output. I tend to complicate any ideas, but watching “my ebbs” should help me simplify my balcony view 🙂

    Thank you for the kind reply for my comment on Day 14. I definitely feel “healing through growing stronger.”
    I have 3 Workout DVD sets: T-25, RevAbs and Insanity. I won’t be able to get back on the Insanity until my back gets a bit more stronger. Maybe I can do it in 6 months or so. If not, I will take it easy to build muscle and flexibility until I am ready for it.

    • I am a fan of keeping simple “all up” lists, as well as discreet lists for specific purposes (ideas, worries, thoughts, etc.)

      Jack Canfield calls the worry list his “Irritation List” and I like it. It’s actually a great focus. So you can use your “worry breaks” to worry about your “Irritation List” 😉

      Believe it or not, consolidating your worries into a single “Irritation List” works wonders. It gives you a perspective that you just can’t get by letting issues bounce around in your mind. You’d be surprised by how quickly some issues melt away, and by how other issues could be tackled in some pragmatic or simple ways.

      I think the most important thing to remember about the “Ups” and “Downs” of life is that sometimes our great “Down” time can lead to great “Up” time. Also, it’s important not to wish our problems smaller, but instead make ourselves bigger so we can deal with whatever comes our way.

      It’s counter-intuitive, but if you shift from problem-avoidance, to a “capable of anything” mindset and approach, you can learn how to deal with anything that comes your way.

      What this does is give you a freedom and sense of self-confidence that problem-avoidance can never achieve.

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