As a young attorney in Boston, my life was fast-paced both in and out of the office. My office life consisted of long hours and literal sprints around the office in heels. My personal life was made up of fun nights out with friends, softball games on the weekends, and using any spare minute I could find to clean my apartment and process personal paperwork and email.
There were very few moments of quiet. After a while, the lack of quiet – of peace – caught up to me.
Peace is one of the most overlooked values in American culture, where we focus on accomplishment, prestige, active socializing, and the hustle and bustle of life. It’s usually as we get older (and even busier) that peace becomes something we crave. And if you’re anything like I was, it can take you getting to your breaking point before you make peace a priority.
Here’s the good news: if you’re reading this, then you’re well on your way to building more peace into your life, hopefully before you reach a breaking point. It won’t happen overnight, but you can make the decision today and if you keep reading, we’ll build out a full process for you to implement.
Life doesn’t have to be so go-go-go, overwhelming, and stressful. By adding peaceful activities into your life (and in a way you can actually enjoy them), life can feel more doable and enjoyable – and more importantly, you can feel more like the you that you want to be, even in the midst of a crazy day.
What does peace look like to you?
The first thing you need to do is get clear on what peace means to you. And get specific.
Does it mean three nights a week with no plans with anyone else? Does it mean spending an hour on Saturdays reading in a park and grabbing a cupcake from your favorite bakery on the way? Does it mean getting into bed an hour early two nights a week to read those books you keep buying but never finding time to read? Does it mean deleting your Instagram app for the weekend? Does it mean getting way more stingy with your phone notifications?
For that young attorney me, I found peace taking a watercoloring class with a friend, which forced me to leave the office at a reasonable time and sit in meditative silence for an hour while painting (poorly). I can’t overstate how much breathing space and peace this weekly silence brought me.
Peace can have many expressions, and it’s likely that you’ll have a few different ways that you like to express peace in your life. Close your eyes and really visualize what peace looks like in your life. Take your time here, and don’t feel the need to rush. Know that you can always experiment. Sitting down to get clear on what activities would allow you to feel peace helps you to create a game plan because now you know exactly what the goals are and what they look like. That gives you the power to make them happen.
It’s worth noting that these peace activities can be small. You might be tempted to go all-in and try to overhaul everything all at once. However, more often than not, too much change too quickly can just lead to more overwhelm and the misinformed belief that we cannot have peace and success at the same time.
My advice: Start small.
According to author James Clear, big change can come from the small choices we make, moment to moment.
While trying to do too much at once can cause some strong identity resistance, small and consistent changes are a powerful way to build more peace into your day.
Treat peace pockets the same as you would any other commitment in your life – Break out the calendar
Often, even when we know what peace would look like, we don’t truly make time for the activities that bring us peace. Instead, we try to find time for them after everyone else has taken what they need from our schedules. By that point, we’re often too tired to think of what those peace activities are, so we just scroll our phones – and walk away feeling far from peaceful.
Let’s change this. Let’s proactively and intentionally protect time for our peace, just as we would for work projects and dates with friends.
To do that, commit to a weekly planning session where you plan out your week. Create a list of types of activities that you need to account for; things like:
- Parenting duties
- Work projects
- Family/relationship time
- Peace activities
Put all of these tasks, to-dos, and activities (including those peace activities) for that week into your calendar so you can be sure it all fits.
By putting your peace activities into your calendar just like your other commitments, you protect your moments of regeneration and you prioritize them appropriately. By making this effort visual in your calendar, it also becomes apparent when you’re getting enough time for yourself and when you’re not so that you can more easily shift things around to foster peace in your life.
It’ll also allow you to see that everything else can get done in due time and doesn’t have to get done during the time you’ve reserved for those peace activities – allowing you to actually enjoy those recharging moments and bask in the quiet.
Incorporating this planning process into your life can revolutionize everything.
Life with peace
While my life looks different from those early attorney days in Boston, it remains fast-paced in many ways with running a business, chasing after a toddler and dog, and enjoying friendships both near and far.
But I now ferociously protect my quiet time. I take my dog on podcast-free walks. I protect time when my husband is in charge of our daughter to read books I’m excited about. I delete Instagram on the weekends. Even during the pandemic, in the midst of parenting burnout, I took a solo-vacation to an Airbnb in a nearby town for a weekend of silence (and, let’s be honest, binge-watching Modern Love). Intentionally protecting these moments of quiet and peace help me feel grounded, which helps me feel more solid and like myself even in my life’s fast-paced moments. It pays off for my own mental health and in my relationships with those around me.
So, as you look ahead at your next few months, I encourage you to plan out both the work and personal obligations, as well as the peace activities so that you can feel more like yourself – and a more peaceful, solid version of yourself at that.