I Just Want Peace

Note: Today I’m sharing an excerpt from a book I’m writing titled Dancing the Tightrope.

My first time to have a coach happened through the back door. The company did not offer it; in this case, I had found her through a series of serendipitous events. Since I was hiring her, my interests and hers were completely aligned. Her job was to make me truly better, not to help me become a better cog in the corporate wheel.

In our first meeting, I filled her in all my challenges, the many ways that the world “out there” was causing me problems, all the ways I was feeling screwed by the system and how little control I really had.

After hearing my whole sob story, she asked, “What do you want to have happen?”

The question stopped me in my tracks. I stumbled over my words as many thoughts ricocheted around my head. “What do you mean what do I want? You are supposed to help me figure out how to deal with these bastards!” “I want you to tell me what they want me to do.” “If you could help me figure out how to get them what they want so I can get promoted, that would be great.” “What do I have to do to fit in here?”

So many questions.

But no answer to the simple query “What do you want to have happen?”

Thirty years later, I’ve asked that same question of hundreds of clients and participants in my programs. Most have exactly the same frantic internal response, with their own personal set of “What do you mean?” questions.

With me holding up a metaphorical mirror along with some gentle probing and occasional calling of bullshit, they begin to untangle the confusion. We review the operating rules of their life and the biography of those rules.

They begin to see the moments they gave away their hearts desire in order to be “responsible”. 

Jack quit playing music as soon as he got married. He knew that the life of a musician would probably not support his wife and kids.

Jenna put down the paintbrush and took a job in marketing, hoping it would fill her creative well. She soon learned that marketing is a game of numbers more than it is of colors.

Richard became a doctor so he didn’t have to go into the family business. He hated medicine as much as the family business, but had a wife and two kids by the time he graduated and it was time to start his practice.

Kerry became an engineer at the encouragement of both parents, and landed a coveted job at a global technology firm. She was proud of her skills and yet in her late twenties, was already counting the days to retirement when she would be able to enjoy her life rather than having her every decision revolve around her job.

In every case, we dove deeper, the big balancing acts emerged.

After responsibility came the shackles. With more responsibility came more money, status and power. With more money, status and power came more responsibility.

Instead of being internally fueled by a higher purpose, the external world starts calling the shots. Before we know it, we are a slave to the system.

It happened to me as it happens for so many others.

Instead of using the newfound freedom that goes with having earning power to get more of what I really wanted, I loaded up my life with more responsibility.

Gaining more money became more important than empowering my purpose.

Money is such a concrete measure, it quickly gained precedence over more meaningful, yet intangible marks of living a good life.

I traded peace of mind for the chase for more – more money, more accolades, more approval, more prestige, and that bigger bonus that would allow me finally to have enough money in the bank to have peace of mind.

Except the chase for enough money and all the trappings feeds an insatiable beast. It’s a bottomless pit, where no amount of money is enough. At every new level of salary, bonus, and options, I could now see the next level. Once I achieved a new mark, I would be truly happy. If only I could get there. Then it would be enough for me to settle back and have a good life.

I was completely off the mark.

If you are chasing peace of mind through gaining more money and approval and responsibility and status, you might very well get more of all of that. You just won’t get peace of mind.

Peace of mind happens when you break through all the rules you have made for yourself and those that were imposed on you.