So, I'm a nerd, and every year at this time I take inventory of the past 360-some-odd days and do some reflecting. I craft something that's not really new years' resolutions - more of a strategic plan (okay, same thing, but I feel better if I call it a strategic plan).
I try to respect the process and let it speak for itself, so sometimes it results in some action items, and sometimes it's more of a philosophical theme for the year. Often it's both.
This year a word kind of shot out of the ether and hit me in the chest. I haven't thought much of it prior to a week ago, but it kind of instantly organized they way I experienced so many things in 2013.
I don't mean that I will stop genocide or prevent people from getting trampled on Black Friday. Noble causes, both, but perhaps a little lofty for a one-year-goal. I'd be happy with the ability to sleep without grinding my teeth down to the nubs.
What does it mean? It's a pretty broad term - bordering on impossible to define. So I'll just give you my take on it.
I would've never guessed when I was in college 12 years ago that I would actually remember things from the courses I took, but there was a psyc course that spoke about causes of stress, and attributed much of it to a disconnect we have between our perceived self and our actual self.
Your perceived self is the person you like to think of yourself as. Are you honest? Hard working? A straight talker? Do you see yourself as frugal? Loyal? Logical? When we think of ourselves in certain situations, we tend to think of the best version of ourselves, acting according to our values and principles in every situation. The perceived self is the sum total of your thoughts about yourself.
The actual self isn't quite as glorious. While I may perceive myself as frugal, my actual self buys a coffee and eats out for lunch almost every day. Maybe you perceive yourself as loyal, but you overlook those times that you passed along a piece of information that was given to you in confidence. The actual self is the sum total of your actual behaviours.
When the perceived self and the actual self are in sync, stress is low. Everything's jiving. When there is a big differential between who you think you are and what you actually behave like, you have to do a lot more mental acrobatics to feel happy in your own skin.
There's value in telling the truth about yourself to yourself. Regardless of what you call it, faking it till you make it or pretending you're something you're not is hard on your stress levels. You are not living up to your expectations for yourself.
So, what's my goal? Be honest about where I am. Don't fight so hard against the fact that I'm JUST where I am. Spend more time making good choices that put me in the right direction - where I want to be. But stop acting as my own judge, jury, and executioner because I wish I was at this income or that capability of self control. When your actual self is distant from your perceived self, there's a tendency to be in denial about it. And denial - knowing the truth but pretending something else is true - is inherently stressful.
Getting to a goal by pretending to be something you're not is like letting your skin heal over an infected wound. Yes, it looks healed, but it creates an abscess underneath the surface that eventually surfaces worse than it ever was before.
So, for my purposes at this point in time, peace means acting in accordance with your values, being honest about where you fall short, and then being unapologetic for the way that you are. Having a clean conscience about who you are and why.
Here's hoping you find peace and perspective on your circumstances as well.