Thoughts on Excellence Free E-Newsletter Series
Volume 22, Issue No. 4a
December 1, 2023
By Dan Coughlin
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In MWD (Merriam-Webster Dictionary) peace is defined as freedom from disquieting or oppressive thoughts or emotions.
I’ve found that to be an enormously helpful definition. When I think about disquieting or oppressive thoughts or emotions that get in the way of a healthy essence, I’m not thinking about things that happen in the moment. If a car is coming right at you or someone is screaming in your face, then I think it’s natural and understandable to have disquieting and oppressive thoughts and emotions.
However, the disquieting and oppressive thoughts and emotions that you carry inside of yourself when you remember something that happened in the past or consider something that could happen in the future are the ones I want to focus on.
If you are holding on to a thought of something that happened or could happen that makes you feel angry, resentful, anxious, jealous, or pessimistic, then you are holding on to a disquieting or oppressive thought. By holding onto those thoughts and emotions, your essence is not free to grow.
Your essence, as I’ve defined it in this series of articles, consists of your thoughts, emotions, and will. Virtues are the thoughts, emotions, and will you want guiding your words and actions. Egotism is the thoughts, emotions, and will that are controlled by your need for immediate gratification and instant pleasure.
Even though it sounds like a contradiction, people will hold onto their anger, jealousy, resentment, and anxiety as a form of immediate gratification or instant pleasure. It just feels good, in an odd way, to experience intense emotions, even when those intense emotions are keeping you trapped in egotism.
When that happens, it becomes very, very difficult to bring forth the thoughts, emotions, and energy that you want guiding your words and actions in your personal and professional life. And that is why it is so important to go on Essential Walks that focus on maintaining peace in your life.
Freedom Implies Choice
The reason I love this definition of peace is because it states that peace is about freedom. Freedom implies that we have a choice. We can choose to hold on to these disquieting and oppressive thoughts and emotions, or we can choose to let go of them. As soon as we let go of the disquieting memories and imagined future events, we can be at peace.
Peace isn’t something you buy. It isn’t something you are given. It is something you choose. And you choose it by deciding what you give your attention to and by deciding what you don’t give your attention to. Of course, letting go of disquieting thoughts and emotions is easier said than done. This can require a tremendous amount of mental and emotional effort, possibly involving working with another person. However, in this article I’m just trying to increase your awareness that peace is important and possible in your life.
I can make myself angry or resentful very quickly. All I have to do is think about and become emotionally invested in situations where I felt attacked by people from my past or situations that could happen in the future, and boom, I’m angry or resentful. However, I can also stay at peace and be free from disquieting thoughts and emotions by simply choosing not to think about or get emotional about those situations or those people.
The same is true with your will. If you send your will in the direction of being angry or jealous, then throughout the day you will find things to be angry about or jealous of. However, you can also choose to direct your will toward happiness or gratitude, and then throughout the day you will find things to be happy about or grateful for.
Your essence is not a static, fixed entity. You can guide your thoughts, emotions, and will in the direction you want them to go by deciding what you think about and become emotional about.
One caveat. There is one particular disquieting thought and emotion that I encourage you not to free yourself from. This is when you are doing something in the moment that is causing you to feel guilt and shame. I will write about this in more depth in a later Essential Walk. I will just say that guilt and shame, if you accept them, can be enormously useful in helping you to change your thoughts, emotions, and will.
Peace is Not a Nice-to-Have
As I’m writing about peace, about having freedom from disquieting or oppressive thoughts or emotions about events or people in your past or potential situations in the future, I’m realizing peace is not just simply a nice-to-have in your life. It’s an essential-to-have. Without peace, your egotism and desire for immediate gratification can quickly shift your thoughts, emotions, and will to a state of disquiet and keep you from being as effective as you would like in getting done what you want to get done.
Freedom to Free Up the Best Version of Yourself
My favorite definition of personal freedom is from Jacques Philipp who wrote, “Freedom does not mean giving free rein to whim, but rather enabling what is best in ourselves freely to emerge.”
In other words, freedom is not hedonism. I like this definition very much because it implies that freedom comes with responsibility, the responsibility of letting go of egotism in order to allow the best version of yourself to pursue the virtues you believe in.
Inner freedom is essential to free up the best within you to emerge into your life and your work. Within the context of this article, I’m specifically focusing on the freedom you have from disquieting and oppressive thoughts and emotions. They don’t control you. You control them. You can choose to not engage in disquieting thoughts and emotions, and instead you can choose to allow the best version of yourself to emerge. This means allowing the thoughts, emotions, and energy that you want in your life to manifest into your words and your actions.
Peace and freedom are not just about countries and societies. Just as importantly, they are about your essence, which consists of your thoughts, emotions, and will. Inner peace and freedom allow you to free yourself up from the egotism that disquiets and oppresses your thoughts, emotions, and will, and allow you to choose the virtues you want.
Freedom from disquieting and oppressive thoughts and emotions, which is peace, allows you to free up your best essence to emerge and make a positive difference.
Essential Walk Questions to Consider
- What disquieting or oppressive thoughts and emotions do you experience on a regular basis about something from your past or something concerning your potential future?
- What memories, images, or imagined future situations are causing you to have those disquieting or oppressive thoughts or emotions?
- Through discernment, what memories, images, and imagined future situations do you want to hold onto and what do you want to let go of?
- How can you allow the best version of yourself to emerge?
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