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    How to Stay Calm

    It is important to have reflections at the ready for daily rumination. Internalize them. Make them personal. Find solace in words of wisdom passed down for generations.

    Posted on November 18, 2020
    Nothing is perfect.
    Nothing is permanent.
    Nothing is personal.

    This concise wisdom was offered on a recent podcast episode of Ten Percent Happier with Bonnie Duran, a professor of public health at the University of Washington. It sums up in one reflection the thoughts expressed by generations of wise people. They make up a set of principles to remind ourselves that our expectations are often misaligned to reality.

    As a strategist and consultant, I live at the intersection of decision-making and relationship management. This is complicated territory. Strategy is the act of making decisions with the best available data and information. In the consulting services industry, this happens on behalf of or as recommendations to clients.

    Stress runs interference on living and working effectively. The stress of a strategist (or at least for me) comes down to my lack of complete control over situations. There is never enough data available to be certain. When money is on the line, every decision can feel irreversible. And, every decision on record becomes your reputation.

    I’m certain this stress is not unique to me. Whoever you are and whatever you’re doing, you probably want more certainty, more confidence, more control. You want your expectations to be fulfilled. But, this is not the way life works. We do not always get these things. And rather than let that lead to stress, we can remind ourselves of Bonnie Duran’s reflection:

    Nothing is perfect.
    Nothing is permanent.
    Nothing is personal.

    I keep a journal with notes from books and articles I read, as well as quotes that are meaningful to me. After reflecting on the statements from Duran, I scanned the quotes to find parallels. The ideas she represents aren’t new. They are, however, an aggregation of words of wisdom that have been written in many ways over the years. A few that I anchored back to include:

    Perfect is the enemy of good. — Voltaire

    This too shall pass. — Persian adage

    Care about people’s approval and you will be their prisoner. — Tao Te Ching

    It is important to have reflections like these at the ready for daily rumination. In a moment of stress or anxiety, take a deep breath and repeat the reflection to yourself. Internalize it. Make it personal. Find solace in words of wisdom passed down from one generation to the next.

    Imagine the ocean’s waves throwing themselves against a rocky cliff. They whip up and swirl with storms and lay nearly flat in calm. Yet, the rocks hold steady, firmly fixed to earth below. Year after year, this scene repeats. The waves keep coming. The earth may change slightly, but it maintains its anchor.

    Reflections, or meditations, like these keep us grounded when life’s waves come at us. Daily practice strengthens that footing. And then, when the storms come and the waves foment, we are ready.

    Nothing is perfect.
    Nothing is permanent.
    Nothing is personal.