Day 15 – Achieve a Peaceful Calm State of Mind

“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: tranquilcenteredserene, and peaceful.  I also think of a series of “R” words including restfulresourcefulrelaxedresponsive, 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.
  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.
  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.
  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. 
  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.”