Skip to main content

Verified by Psychology Today


Finding Peace of Mind

A case study followed by its embedded principles and practices.

Key points

  • Peace of mind may come less from the celestial and more from the non-materialistic terrestrial.
  • You're more likely to gain peace of mind from your efforts within your local sphere of influence than with grandiose ideas.
  • Peace of mind is likely to derive from some balance of looking backward, looking ahead, and being present in the moment.
Source: PublicDomainArchive/Pixabay

This is the third installment in a series, The Quests: The first was on finding a good job. The second was on finding and deepening a relationship.

Here we turn to the quest for peace of mind. As in the previous installments, this begins with a first-person report from "Jeremy," a composite of my clients' experiences. After "Jeremy's" report, I call out three embedded takeaways.

It’s me again, Jeremy.

Is that all there is? Sarah and I have decent jobs, enough money to save a little, donate a little—as long as we live in our just-OK condo in our just-OK neighborhood and drive our used, quite used Toyotas.

Actually, I’m not sure there’s more:

I mean, I doubt we’d end up that much happier in a fancier neighborhood, fancier car, fancier, clothes, fancier vacations.

What about spirituality? It's hard to understand how an omnipotent loving God would allow earthquakes, COVID, and countless babies to be born with horrific diseases, living a few weeks in agony, dying, and leaving parents in misery?

Do-gooding? Yeah, I guess so. No, I’m sure so. Remember the starfish story? A passerby saw a teen tossing a beached starfish back into the water. The passerby said, "Don't you realize that there are thousands of starfish on this beach alone and thousands of beaches. What possible difference could you make?” The teen replied, looking at the starfish, “To him, a very big difference.” Right. Random acts of kindness, even if they don't change much, probably at least contribute to peace of mind.

My friends go to Europe or Nepal to find "the answer" but come back maybe meditating, becoming vegan, or volunteering for some cause, but with no career or even much of a job. Nor do they seem to have much more peace of mind.

Is that all there is?

Here’s the one thing I’ve concluded at least for now: That the most likely path toward peace of mind is to aim for some semblance of balance: work with play, looking back with looking forward with living in the now. Looking back with nostalgia and for lessons learned. Looking ahead to some goals that feel worthwhile but being open to change. And being grateful for the present: the little problems and solutions at work, the simple pleasures of nature, music, sports, reading, eating, talking, and loving.

Embedded takeaways

"Jeremy's" story embeds practical directions toward peace of mind:

Focus on the attainable. Many people seek peace through the grandiose; trying to change the world or at least start some amazing program, becoming materially rich, or aspiring to nirvana. Peace of mind is more likely to come from appreciating smaller, easier-to-come-by pleasures such as pride in even ordinary work, random acts of kindness, creative expression, and love.

Balance drive with acceptance. Life puts us on an endless conveyor belt of problems. People with peace of mind make reasonable efforts to solve problems but accept what is beyond their control.

Balance past, present, and future. It's au courant to urge us to be in the moment, to "be here now." But enduring peace of mind more likely derives from nostalgic pleasure and lessons from the past, reasonable and pleasant plans for the future, and yes, fully experiencing the present.

I read this aloud on YouTube.

The other installments in the series are Finding a Good Job, Succeeding in Your First Professional Job, Finding and Deepening a Relationship, Finding a Good Place to Live, Finding and Growing Money, and Finding and Maintaining Diet Discipline.

More from Marty Nemko Ph.D.
More from Psychology Today