When it comes down to it, most of us are looking for emotional peace and happiness. But life has a tendency to disrupt this goal. Lost jobs, broken marriages, scary diagnoses, and pandemics all have the potential to rob us of our peace and happiness, sending us into a fog of depression, anxiety, and internal turmoil.
4 Steps to Emotional Peace
One of my favorite authors is Byron Katie, and from her writings I’ve developed a 4-step process to work toward emotional peace. I’ve been trying to keep these 4 steps in mind as I go through my daily life, and they have been absolute game-changers in my personal life and relationships. Here’s the prescription:
- Radical responsibility. The first step to emotional peace involves taking total and complete responsibility for your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. It doesn’t mean that other people’s actions don’t impact you (or even hurt you deeply). But it acknowledges that you are ultimately responsible for your own life and how you respond to whatever happens to you. Katie talks about 3 kinds of business—my business, other people’s business, and God’s business. To gain emotional peace, we need to stay in our own business as much as possible.
- Love what is. The second step involves accepting and loving reality as it is, without needing to change it. It doesn’t mean that you are passive. (We’ll talk more about our actions in Step 4.) But it does mean that we explore our thoughts and judgments about other people and our life circumstances. We try to see if we can better align our perspective with the reality of our lives and the world. The key technique here is inquiry—examining the consequences of believing thoughts that things should be different from the way they are.
- Tell the truth. The third step involves radical honesty with yourself and others. Most people aren’t honest about their true needs and wants. Maybe we haven’t done the hard work to clearly identify what we need and want. Or, maybe we feel uncomfortable with voicing our needs and wants because it might lead to conflict. But to gain emotional peace, we have to be crystal clear about our needs and wants, and be okay voicing those needs and wants to others.
- Do the dishes. The phrase “doing the dishes” is Byron Katie’s way of describing clear action. When we do the first three steps (i.e., radical responsibility, love what is, and tell the truth), it is often clear to us what we should do. What is the next thing on your list to do? Get moving! Do the next right thing. Then do the next right thing again.
Emotional peace can sometimes feel elusive in our culture and society. There are so many forces pushing us toward anxiety, depression, and internal turmoil. But emotional peace is possible. What do you think of the 4 steps? Which step is most difficult for you?