Many of us feel a sense of peace when we are out in nature. We feel a sense of timelessness. We become aware of the reality and absolute operation of natural law. We become aware of our own almost insignificance in relation to it.
There is a sense of balance and harmony in nature. Seasons come and go with regularity. There are cycles of life, giving and receiving in a beautiful harmonious whole. Stephen Covey opines that even cataclysmic events such as storms, earthquakes, floods are part of a larger harmony, a natural cycle of growth and change. Nature is always becoming. The beauty of nature constantly unfolds in accordance with its laws.
Nature teaches us much about peace. It reminds us that there are laws and that they are in control. With that reminder is a sense of comfort that there is order in the universe. “We simply cannot be a law unto ourselves without consequence. Peace and quality of life come only as we discover and align with fundamental Laws of Life.
WHAT IS PEACE?
The peace Covey and his colleagues are talking about is obviously more than the absence of war. It is not a retreat into the wilderness to avoid the complexities and challenges of daily living. The peace they are talking about is a function of our deep inner life. It is joyful living. It is found in the midst of life, not in retreat from it, they reiterate.
The independent achievement approach generally seems to say that peace and happiness come from such things as: money, control, recognition and fame, material possessions, and superior social status. The focus is essentially on becoming faster and better at getting more of these things. But what is the result? Is it peace? Is it built on things that will last?
The principles we have been discussing in this column for the past several weeks create different paradigms based on true north principles, purposes, and perceptive that help create happiness and peace. In nurturing these paradigms and principles of the fourth generation, we can see how all the true strengths of the first three generations of time management are enhanced and the weaknesses eliminated.
Peace is essentially a function of putting first things first. Foundational to “first things” are the four needs and capacities: to live, to love, to learn, and to leave a legacy. Putting first things first is a function of using our four endowments: self-awareness, conscience, independent-will, and creative imagination; to fulfill our needs and capacities in a principled-centered way.
There are principles. We have conscience. And those two things make all the difference. They impact our thoughts and how we see everything around us. We see how vital it is to pause in that space between stimulus and response so that we can listen to our conscience and exercise the attributes of the heart to make the “best” choices. We see that there are purposes higher than self toward which we can focus our energies and efforts with passion and confidence that we can create quality-of-life results. We see the world as a place of infinite third-alternative solutions. We see the importance of creating aligned systems so that the very way we go about organizing and planning our lives reinforce the habits of the heart that create peace.
FIRST THINGS FIRST NURTURES PEACE
The principles we have been describing nurture peace in all four dimensions of life – peace of conscience, peace in our relationships and even peace of body. Vision gives purpose and meaning. Roles become synergistic avenues of contribution. Goals become conscience-driven, purposeful, integrated accomplishment. Each moment of choice becomes a space in which we can exercise our human endowments to act with integrity.
Shared vision empowers us to see people in terms of opportunities instead of problems. We realize that people are not things. They are living, breathing human beings with their own unique endowments and the capacity to synergize with us to create first things together in a way that far surpasses that we could ever do on our own.
Many of these principles change the expectations many of us have about time and the quality of our lives. This is critical to peace because frustration is essentially a function of unmet expectations – we expect something to be certain way or to produce certain results, and it does not. As a result, we feel frustrated.
At the root of the problem, Covey believes, is that many of our expectations come from scripting, the personality ethic, or the social mirror instead of true north. “They are flawed paradigms not based on the fundamental Laws of Life.”
Many of us expect either consciously or unconsciously to be able to go through a day and accomplish what we planned. As a result, when some unexpected challenge comes up we are frustrated. When someone has a need we did not anticipate, we are frustrated. We see people as essentially interruptions. We view change as the enemy. Our peace and happiness are a function of whether or not we are able to make it through that day and check everything on the list.
But what happens when the expectation changes – when we see each day as an exciting new adventure for which we have a roadmap, but also a compass that empowers us to navigate through uncharted terrain, when we see problems as opportunities to help others. When we look forward to meeting situations that challenge our priorities, confident that our compass will help us keep moving toward the best?
Let us consider another expectation. Consciously or subconsciously, many of us expect life to be without challenge. As a result, any challenge or problem creates frustration. It does not match the expectation.
But that expectation is not based on reality. Opposition is natural part of life. Scott Peck observes in his book The Road Less Traveled: “Life is difficult. This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths. It is a great truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it. Once we know that life is difficult – then life is no longer difficult. Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters.”
If our expectation is that there will be challenge, then challenge does not create frustration.
For another example, many of us expect other people to agree with us; to carry out what we feel should be done. When others disagree with us, when they have questions or concerns, when they do not enthusiastically support our decisions, or when they come up with alternative ideas, we feel frustrated.
What difference does it make when we expect people to see things differently, when we value that difference, when we anticipate the synergistic use of human endowments to create third-alternative solutions.
Unmet expectations create frustration, but our expectations are within our control. We are not talking about lowering our expectations, but about basing them on the realities of true north. One of the richest areas for eliminating much of frustration we experience in our lives is to examine our expectations. Whenever we feel frustrated, we can go back to the root of the problem and interrogate our expectations. When our expectations are not based on true north realities, we set ourselves up for frustration and lack of peace.
Ralph Waldo Emerson once observed: “Nothing can bring you peace but yourself. Nothing can bring you peace but the triumph of principles.” Becoming principle-centered is a lifetime quest, but there is intense peace and satisfaction in undertaking the journey itself. The results lie along the path, not just the final destination. It requires letting go of all the things that hold you back at present and working towards making contribution to society.