Life is stressful for a variety of reasons: time pressure, financial challenges, health issues, professional needs, relational strife, and more. One thing that seems to be perpetually in short supply is peace. When I think of peace, I conjure words like tranquility, serenity, and freedom. Peace represents a hush in the storm, a pause of the worry, a break from the stress. In theory, most people love the idea of having more peace in their lives. At the same time, in practice, I see many people resist taking actions that would lead to more peace. Which leads me to the question, “How much is your peace worth?”
I recently started to wonder about this question one day as I was heading to work. One client I work with lives in an apartment building in an urban location. To see her, I need to park on the street where there is metered parking. The meter charges me in 15-minute increments. As I typically work in three-hour blocks, this translates into twelve increments. However, I have learned over the years that it takes me awhile when I’m finishing with a client to gather my things, ride the elevator, and walk to my parking spot. Additionally, it is not uncommon for a client to enjoy chatting for a couple of minutes when our session is finished (we usually both like to “enjoy the glow” of the work we have done). As a result, I often arrive at my parking spot a few minutes after the twelfth increment has passed. Therefore, because I don’t want to be rushed – because I want to experience peace at the end of my session – I have gotten into the habit of paying for a thirteenth increment of parking. Fortunately, this represents a small amount of money, a sum which has been more than worthwhile in allowing me to take my time and be at peace.
This notion of doing things to increase our peace – particularly our peace at a future point in time – is worth considering. One might initially think this requires taking large, painful, expensive action. But often this is not the case. Instead, it is frequently small actions and choices that have the greatest impact. The question, then, is what are you willing to do to make life a bit easier for yourself down the road? How much is your future peace worth?
Here are a few examples of questions you might ask yourself:
- Is it worth spending a few extra minutes to put an item away, instead of placing it down in a convenient location, to make it easier to find the next time it is wanted?
- Is it worth the energy tonight to set out everything that will be needed tomorrow morning to make the start of the day more peaceful?
- Is it worth the loss of sleep to get up early enough to avoid the need to rush?
- Is it worth the effort to call a weekly family meeting to look at calendars so as to avoid unexpected (and stressful) conflicts?
- Is it worth the money to hire a babysitter in order to tackle a task with focused attention and hence complete it more efficiently?
- Is it worth calling/videoconferencing someone, rather than sending a series of texts/emails, to talk through a complicated situation and avoid confusion?
- Is it worth the sacrifice of time/attention one day a week to plan meals and grocery shop in order to minimize nightly decision-fatigue and time crunch?
- Is it worth leaving early for an appointment to ensure a timely arrival, even if it means you might show up early?
- Is it worth resetting your space on a daily/weekly basis to keep things from getting out of control and feeling overwhelming later?
- Is it worth the investment to hire a professional to manage or handle a situation for which you lack skill or confidence?
- Is it worth bringing up a “touchy” subject to avoid an indiscriminate time of silence, awkwardness, and relational distance?
Admittedly, the list of possible questions is endless. The challenge is to consider which situations in your life tend to cause you the most stress (i.e., are most likely to steal your peace), and then mindfully decide whether or not you are willing to “pay the price” that might be necessary to avert them. In some cases, this may require a change in behavior pattern. In others, plugging into external resources may be the wisest option. Either way, if you truly want to increase your peace, clarifying what is needed is the first step. Serially remaining in a posture of complaining will only perpetuate your stressful situation.
Importantly, I want to acknowledge that there may be seasons in life when we lack the power to enact the change we desire. For example, we may have limited funds to hire help, or we share a home with others who don’t share our priorities. However, this doesn’t mean that peace is unattainable. In many respects, peace is a mindset. There may be times when the price of peace is to simply do what we can, and then choose to be joyful “in the midst” of a tough situation.
Particularly when circumstances prevent the pursuit of a preferred course of action, the “price” for peace may come down to taking steps to lift your own spirits. This can involve anything from listening to the music you like, to talking with a friend, to sitting in the sun, to playing a round of golf, to establishing a spot in your home that is “off limits” to everyone else. Whatever reliably brings you peace is worth considering.
Peace rarely arrives without effort or cost. At the end of the day, since we are responsible for our own peace, each person must decide for himself/herself how much peace is worth.
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In what do you invest to enhance your peace?