Finding Peace

Most of my blogs concentrate on Information Technology and IT Leadership.  IT is stressful, for sure.  So are Finance, Operations, Sales and Marketing.  All business disciplines carry their own sources and degrees of stress.  It does not end when you leave work.  Job responsibilities bleed into your home life.  Maybe hemorrhage is a better term.  Home life, too, has its own stresses and pressures.  Finding Peace in a life filled with stress is challenging.  But here is the thing, stress is killing us.  And when you go, so do all your plans and goals.  Minimizing stress is a start, but we need to find peace in our lives.  Here are some suggested strategies to help reduce the effect stress has on you and to help you find Peace.

7 Strategies for Finding Peace in a Stressful Life

  • Find your WHY – Finding Peace requires that you minimize internal struggles and conflicts. Conflicts occur when you behave as you behave, treat people like you do, and react to stimuli in a manner that is inconsistent to your WHY.  This is true in business, at home, and inside your head.  You need to find your WHY.

    My Business WHY:  I founded Real CIO Consulting to Pay IT Forward by providing Interim CIO Services and Technology Assessments to companies that need help.  I also founded Real CIO Consulting to give back by providing pro bono mentoring to those who wish to advance their careers in technology.”

    As situations come up in your life, ask yourself why you reacted as you did.   Was your reaction consistent with your WHY?  This week spend time in thought about your WHY.  Write out your WHY clearly and concisely.  Answer the following questions:

    • Are conflicts coming from me reacting in a manner that is contradictory to my WHY?
    • Would my relationships improve if I shared my WHY with others and tried to understand  their WHY?
    • Read Simon Sinek’s books “Start with Why” and Finding Your Why”. Simon is the expert. I’m just the disciple.
  • Trust Yourself – We tend to act in two primary ways. First, we avoid decision-making by not putting ourselves out there for promotions, other job opportunities, personal relationships, and things outside our comfort zone. Second, we also try to plan every scenario just to make sure we cover all bases.  We try to anticipate every outcome and plan our response.

    Walter Cronkite (at one time, the most trusted man in America) said the keys to trust are honesty and keeping your promises.  Are you honest with yourself?  Do you allow yourself to keep your promises to yourself?  You promise a lot to others and deliver at all cost.  Why do you let yourself down?  Start focusing on the following:

    • Include the promises you make to yourself on your to do list. Include the personal tasks of exercise and relaxation activities.  Make them a priority.
    • Recognize and compliment your positive behaviors. Give yourself credit for the things you do for yourself as well as for others.
    • When you get a compliment from another, just say “Thank you.” Don’t make excuses or explain it away.
    • Keep the promises you make to yourself. Spend a little time on you.  Take a walk.
      Sit and listen to your favorite music.  Read a book.  You deserve a little “Me” time.
                                          “We earn trust in drips and lose it in buckets”
  • Look Forward to Things – When you were a kid, you looked forward to so many things: birthdays, holidays, vacations, and summers with no school. As adults we dread these events because of the work involved.  Sometimes peace is hard to find because we focus on the negative rather than the positive.  We need to find something to look forward to everyday.  Maybe we don’t look forward as much to joyful events and peaceful times because we spend too much time planning them.  Maybe we don’t look forward as much to joyful events because we worry too much about what others think about our contribution. On your To Do list, add 1 item – “Find Joy in something”.  Think about an upcoming event to look forward to.  There are plenty of things that would qualify.  List them.  Put them on your To Do list and highlight them, circle them in red, or put a tiny heart next to them.  Allow yourself to get excited about these events.  Kids wake up every morning thinking about how they are going to play today, then spend all day playing.  Adults plan, organize and pay others to play.  It is not an age-based behavior.  It is a mindset behavior.
  • Keep Things in Perspective – Perspective does not mean working your to do list in priority order. It means to keep the proper focus on all your priorities.  Do this: make a list of your big rocks: health, financial stability, family, career, etc. Write them on index cards and put these cards on a bulletin board.  Stand back and admire your work.  You can see everything at-a-glance.  Now take one of the cards and pull it as close to your face as possible, touch it to your nose.  Really focus on it so you clearly see it and understand it.  Can you see any other priority?  The rest are hidden from your perspective by the one you’ve chosen.  Even if it is the most important task, the biggest rock, it is not important enough to blot out all the others.  That is perspective.

    Sometimes it helps to look for the humor in a bad situation to keep things in perspective. Humor is a great healer.  Humor is a great tension breaker. Looking for the positives in a bad situation is another stress beater.  Fred Rogers said that when he saw things on the news that frightened him, his mom always told him to look for the helpers in a disaster.  “You will always find helpers” she would say.

    • Make a list of the things that can go wrong in your life/job/relationship, etc.
      List as many as you can.  Then put a number from 1 to 100 next to each item
      with the relative impact on your life (1 is losing a button and 100 is an apocalyptic
      meteor hitting the earth.  Next give each a probability of happening.  0% for it won’t
      100% for it will.  If the probably is less than 50%, cross it off the list.
      If the impact is less than 90, cross it off the list.  Not much left is there?
    • Remember that nothing you have ever encountered in your life has killed you yet.
      You have overcome everything life threw at you and you are still here.  What makes you think the next event will be the big one?
  • Let it Go – No, I am not going to sing the song from “Frozen”. But we all carry baggage.  We remember the break-ups, the disappointments, and the time we were mistreated.  The truth is, no one remembers it but you.   We hold onto many things, not just our personal disappointments and hurt.  We hold onto things that happen to our kids and our friends.  We hold onto things we consider unfair.  We hold onto our youth.  We hold onto the memories of our past and loved ones no longer with us. It can be mind crushing.

    I try to never carry a grudge or blame anyone for a mistake unless it was made of malice.  I follow these steps:

    • Determine the real scope of any mistake and fix it.
    • Determine the root cause and address it so it can never happen again or draft an early warning system.
    • Perform a Lessons Learned to provide a benefit for the price you just paid for this mistake.
    • LET IT GO! Unless you have access to a DeLorean and a Flux Capacitor, you can never
      undo what was done.
    • When YOU make a mistake, follow these steps. In the end, Let it Go.  That includes forgiving yourself!
  • Invest in Yourself – Stephen Covey states in “Seven Habits of Highly Successful People” that #7 is sharpen the saw. That mean we should spend time every day working on ourselves to learn and sharpen our minds for continuous improvement. Also, with few exceptions, we are only given 1 body and 1 set of parts.  Although, sometimes we share organs (Thank you organ donors!).  We can invest in our minds and bodies and use them to grow, or let them atrophy.  Put at least one thing on your daily to do list to improve your mind, and one thing to improve your body.  Short on time?  Here is a 5-minute task to accomplish both:
    • In a quiet room, stand, sit, or lay on the floor. (I recline on an exercise ball to work on balance too!) Do 8 repetitions, one for each word below.
    • Hands outstretched at your side, inhale completely as you raise your hands over your head.
    • Put palms together and pull your hands to your chest (Sun Salutation). As you exhale, say these words.  Really think about each word, focus on what they mean, and how you want to improve this aspect of your life:
      • Faith
      • Acceptance
      • Strength
      • Patience
      • Appreciation
      • Repentance
      • Forgiveness
      • Love
    • End by sitting in perfect silence for the balance of your 5 minutes. Wait for you answers.
  • Create Life Balance – Most people picture life balance as a seesaw balanced somewhere between work life and home life. However, Life Balance has more than one degree of freedom.  It is more than just home/work balance.  Live balance is more like a disc pivoting on a nail. Your disc will have Work, Home/Family, Faith, and YOU.  The Balancing Disc is a better visualization than the seesaw.  Shifting your perspective towards any one aspect reduces your focus on all the others.  Now, let’s combine balance and perspective and come up with an even better way to visualize Life Balance.

    Let’s consider a Balance Wheel.  Picture the Chuck-a-Luck wheels you saw at the county fair.  On the wheel are the big rocks in your life: Your WHY, Family, Faith, Work, Health, etc.  As it spins around, focus on what’s on top.  You can spin it fast or slow.  You can spin it to the right or to the left.  You can even write whatever rocks you wish.  It’s your wheel.  The important thing is to balance your life by giving all the rocks their fair share of you.  And notice that you can see all the big rocks at-a-glance.

Here are your take-aways: make a conscious decision to focus on Peace.  This starts with your WHY.  Understanding why you do what you do is life changing.  Start trusting that YOU will never let you down.  Invest time to continually improve your outlook and body to ensure your success.  Focus on the important things as they come spinning past you.  If something is out of your control, ask for help, take it off your plate, then let it go!  Always remember that this Balance Wheel is always spinning.  Whether quickly or slowly, something else is coming past that has great opportunities.  Look forward to them, celebrate them.  Challenges will pass.  Manage your wheel and be at peace.

Ok, so this one was a bit longer than the rest.  It also had zero content on Technology, Leadership, or Business, per say.  But it does address the most important asset you have, your well-being.  If you lose that, all your rocks sink.  Eliminating stress and finding peace is critical to your ability to succeed.  I hope these suggested strategies help a little.  Please email me or leave a comment with your thoughts.  The link is below.  Peace to you!