I have been working with leaders for more than 30 years. As any passionate executive coach knows, the coach must be willing to grow themselves, to inspire growth in clients. Each year, at this time, my wish for myself, my family, my clients, my friends, my country, and my world, is in perfect alignment. I wish for peace. It has the potential of sounding cliché this time of year but I believe it is anything but. The challenge is asking ourselves how we contribute to an atmosphere of peace each day? By simply reading this article and moving through the exercises, the world around you will settle into a more peaceful experience. If you don’t believe me, try to prove me wrong. . .
Set a timer for ten minutes and write your answer to the following questions. Remember this exercise is for you and no one is reading your answers unless you decide to share them. Please be true to yourself regarding your reality now, not your reality as you wish it to be (that comes later):
Think about your schedule on a typical workday. What actions do you engage in from the time you wake up each day to the time you go to sleep? For example, I rush out the door to get to work before traffic or I rise in time to meditate each day.
- What percentage (give a number) of those actions would you say contribute to feeling like you are busy and perhaps like you don’t have enough time? For example, think of whether or not you rush a child or a spouse, check the time when talking to a colleague, end a phone call abruptly because you have to run to the next thing?
- What percentage (give a number) of those actions communicate a feeling of peace and tranquility to first yourself, and then the various environments you find yourself in? For example, think of how many times you breath intentionally, exercise, meditate, make time for yourself and loved ones to eat together or go for a walk?
- What beliefs and messages do those actions send to your brain? What words come out of your mouth because of it, and therefore to all those you come into contact with each day, about your contribution to peace? (For example: “of course I have time for yoga” or “that would be great but I am swamped today”)
Here are three things you can do today if you want to do more to contribute to a feeling of peace within you, around you, and, if you choose, to a global consciousness:
Peace begins with a smile. -Mother Teresa
Did you know that smiling is scientifically proven to lift your mood, reduce stress, and boost your immune system? No matter how you feel in any given moment, a smile can trick your brain into releasing dopamine and serotonin. Before your next interaction with someone at work you may not be looking forward to, try smiling for 60 seconds somewhere privately, and see how your interaction is transformed.
Smiling is also a universal ice breaker, not just because it is physically contagious (mirror neurons actually enable us to copy what we see in others leading to enhanced empathy) , but because of the intention behind most smiles.
Try walking down the street, through the office, or in a restaurant smiling and observe this powerful tool for spreading peace that is available to you 24/7.
I don’t mind if I have to sit on the floor at school. All I want is an education. And I am afraid of no one. -Malala Yousufzia
You can spread peace through obtaining clarity around your core values. What matters so much to you that your clarity erases any fear? Write down the first thing that comes to mind right now and keep writing until you have 3-5 core values that provide the foundation for your decision making.
Take a minute now to reflect on a time you made a decision that was out of alignment with your core values. How did that feel? What happened to your motivation?
What is one thing you can do today to live in accordance with what you value most? If you number one value is freedom, what one thing can you do for yourself today to feel free? Once you feel it yourself, others will have access to your many gifts, and then you are building peaceful bridges through your courage to align your actions with what matters most to you.
As we look to the next century, leaders will be those who empower others. -Bill Gates
Alongside some 170 billionaires, Bill Gates joined Warren Buffet in “The Giving Pledge,” a pledge to give half of their income to charity. While most of us don’t have billions to give away, it is important to remember the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation tenet that all lives have equal value. Have you ever heard of the “helper’s high?” Many studies, including one done at Harvard School of Business and another at the National Institute of Health, found that giving activates the pleasure, social connection and trust endorphins in our brain creating a “warm glow” effect. If there were a “peace” filter, I would put money on it casting a “warm glow” effect.
What is something you can do today that matters to someone else? This should be something that is exciting to you in just thinking about it. Start small. It is important your charity does not create a feeling of financial, emotional, or physical burden. Do something today to empower someone else and watch how many other peaceful interactions you have because of one simple act.
My wish for you is peace this season. If we all smile more, clarify our values even further, and give of ourselves, then our capacity for creating peaceful interactions will continue to multiply.
As the song goes, “Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.”