How to Cultivate Equanimity In Your Life
By Jim Madrid
Been a little stressed out lately? Overwhelmed? Does your life feel like it’s out of control? Do you feel like your theme song should be I feel overwhelmed and out of control? Welcome to Life in 2009!
A question I’m frequently asked is “How can I live a more balanced life?” This is usually preceded or followed by statements like: “I feel overwhelmed and stressed out most of the time. My kids are growing up and I have so little time with them. It’s as if I’m sacrificing my personal life on the altar of my career.” Sound familiar?
Ever heard of the word equanimity? I love this word. It means evenness of mind especially under stress; right disposition; balance. Synonyms are composure (controlling emotional or mental agitation by an effort of will or as a matter of habit), and sangfroid (great coolness and steadiness under strain). When you cultivate equanimity in your life and work, clarity follows, and out of clarity comes drive, energy and creativity. Clarity can make you approach life more passionately. Clarity will move you in the direction of your dreams!
It’s human nature to be drawn toward habit and familiar routines (comfort zones are familiar places where habit rules). But when you deliberately choose to resist habit and the familiar—choose to break out of your comfort zone and grow—life becomes exhilarating. Stepping away from habitual behavior brings energy back into your life!
What are you doing in your personal life or at work to create equanimity? What are your habits, your routines? What do you do without much consciousness, because, well, who knows why? Where are your habits of attitude and behavior creating an imbalance, a disconnect between you and what you value most? When you’re out of balance, the result is negative stress and the feeling of being overwhelmed
The reason most of us feel out of control and stressed out is, I believe, lack of a clear, compelling vision. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? But without this clarity of vision, there can be no equanimity. During her journey in Wonderland, Alice came to a fork in the road. She questioned the Cheshire Cat about which path to take, but the cat wanted to know where she was going. Alice said, “I don’t know,” whereupon the cat replied, “Then it doesn’t matter what road you take, does it?”
Business has slowed down, at least for the moment. Some of you don’t know what to do with your time. The new slowness concerns you; you worry about it, and the worry takes a toll. But stop for a minute. What about the outstanding performers in your business or community? What are they doing? And why are they doing it?
When I asked a high performing executive the motivation behind her continued success, she said, “When we have children, my husband, and I will be in a position to spend plenty of quality time with our child. We will be able to have a more balanced lifestyle and provide a comfortable, high-quality life for our family.”
Another top performer,responded to my question like this: “I have a strong need to provide financially for my family.” This person is a single mom who not only supports her daughter, but also, because of her success, is able to employ her brother as her assistant. When I asked her to define the word provide, she said, “To make it possible for my daughter to attend any school she chooses; to make sure she has many opportunities open to her; to help my brother create a secure and comfortable life for his family.”
Why haven’t these high performers stopped being high performers? Why has their business slowed only slightly during these changing times? They have a clear, compelling, highly-motivating vision! With vision comes equanimity, with equanimity comes clarity, and with clarity come drive, energy, and creativity. Oh, and don’t forget passion.
Success starts with a vision. Unfortunately, most of us are vision impaired. You can’t depend on your eyes if your imagination is out of focus. Here are a few questions to stimulate your thinking and help you see more clearly:
- Do I have a clear, compelling vision of where, what, and who I want to be over the next five to ten years?
- What is the purpose behind my vision? (In other words, why do I want these things?)
- Have I written down my vision and goals?
- If so, how often do I review and/or affirm it?
- Do the important people in my life and work know about my vision?
- Were they involved in the creation of it?
If you want to get down in the weeds and create that compelling vision ask yourself the following questions and then answer them:
What difference will it make?
Not long ago, a Harvard Business School study revealed that, of people with similar backgrounds and educational standards:
- 3% are successful,
- 30% are moderately successful, and
- 67% just exist
Now, get this: The 3 percent who are successful have clear, detailed written goals. The 30 percent who are moderately successful have a general idea of where they’re going, but have no formalized written goals. The rest are happy (well, maybe not) to watch the rest of the world go by.
Something else that fascinated me about this study was that the people in the 30 percent category only needed to exert a small effort to jump into the next group. The secret behind that effort was “the development of habits and strategies that support the achievement of clear goals.”
Experience has shown me that most people haven’t written their goals/vision out in a specific, clear way. Their complaints are loud and clear, though: “Help! I don’t know what to do! My life is spinning out of control! I have too much stress! My career is out of control!”
Get clear about your vision and your goals. Write them down. Get clear about the purpose behind those goals. Why would you want to accomplish those things? What matters to you most of all? Create a business plan for your career and a plan for your personal life, too. Set goals that work to align the various aspects of your life, enhancing each other rather than conflicting, and you will bring equanimity into your life!