There once was a king who offered a prize to the artist who would paint the best picture of peace. Many artists tried. The king looked at all the pictures. There were only two he really liked.
One picture was of a calm lake. The lake was a perfect mirror for peaceful towering mountains all around it. Overhead was a blue sky with fluffy white clouds. All who saw this picture thought that it was a perfect picture of peace.
The other picture had mountains, too. But these were rugged and bare. Above was an angry sky, from which rain fell and in which lightning flashed. Down the side of the mountain tumbled a foaming waterfall. At first glance, this did not look peaceful at all.
But when the king looked closely, he saw behind the waterfall a tiny bush growing in a crack in the rock. In the bush a mother bird had built her nest. There, in the midst of the rush of angry water, sat the mother bird on her nest.
The king chose the second picture.
“Because,” explained the king, “peace does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble, or hard work. Peace means to be in the midst of all those things and still be calm in your heart. That is the real meaning of peace.”
[Author unknown, but greatly appreciated! If you or anyone you know has a proprietary interest in this story please authenticate and I will be happy to credit, or remove, as appropriate.]
Do you agree with this king’s perspective?
I suspect there would be widespread agreement with the notion that it is easier to be at peace when in peaceful surroundings. But to be at peace while in inhospitable — unpeaceful — environments; quite another thing!
I go on vacation to get some peace. I leave work early to go home to get some peace. I take a walk to get some peace. I would go, in a heartbeat, to that place that first artist depicts: that calm lake mirroring the surrounding mountains with the overhead blue sky with fluffy white clouds… to get some peace.
And while I am in those places, I get peace.
But am I at peace?
That seems to be another thing entirely, and not one, I’m thinking, that is determined by the environment we find ourselves in.
So, while it can hardly be denied that external forces have considerable influence over how we feel, there are (apparently) formidable internal forces that we can summon, to be calm and peaceful when all around us it is not…
Oh!, the implications!
- Can we be at peace anywhere?
- Perhaps we should manage our own expectations regarding how much peace we actually should get when we seek to get peace in other places?
- Perhaps we should seek to learn more about how to develop our capability to stay composed and calm instead of railing against that which we have little control over?
- Perhaps we should also re-gauge how much responsibility we place on others for our own well being… and look inside to see what we’re doing to ourselves that is working against us feeling at peace?
- Perhaps, when leaders disrupt our peace when making organizational changes, they should orchestrate efforts to enable us to adapt and change?
So, a bit more on that last bullet point — here’s how I think you and I can really make a difference —
Other people might see us as being composed while in the midst of the turbulence created by some organizational change, and come to us to ask what’s up? and see how we cope… I share my story with the person that comes to me, but that might not resonate with him; but when he sees you and comes to you and listens to you, what you share might hit home… and vice-versa… and so on…
So; no matter where they are, they are at peace.
Eric Pfeiffer said:
During our company’s annual performance review process, we gauge each employee on several competencies. Several of these competencies are traits or skills that can be learned (like “presentation skills” or “effective communications”). The competency that I like to intentionally reflect on (for myself and for my team members) is “Dealing with Ambiguity”. I think that this is another way of assessing peacefulness in times of uncertainty.
I have seen many people leave the organization over the years because the ambiguity is too much for them. We have lots of ambiguity around here. Ambiguity presents itself in many ways. It can be initiatives that lack focus, timeline, or funding. It can be seen as slow decision making. Or it can be change (change in people, process, or technology). But the initiatives, and the change, are important. I support them. I would like to be able to lay out clearer timelines with better defined milestones and objectives for my team. But sometimes the future isn’t that clear. We must move forward without always knowing where the road is leading.
Our company is successful. It values high performers. It works to build management skills and it seeks to identify and develop those who have leadership potential.
But “Dealing with Ambiguity”, being at peace in times of uncertainty, can be hard. Is it teachable? Is it learnable? Or is it innate?
John M. Greco said:
What I am really, really loving about my blogging are the conversations that I am subsequently having with friends and family and the connections and thoughts that they are provoking… Erik, yours is a classic example. I would not have connected the peace from this post with dealing with ambiguity, but I absolutely am with you here … and I am personally finding it hard. The questions you pose at the end of your comments require thought, deserve research, and are definitely worth exploring. I hope dealing with ambiguity is teachable; but I suspect it is more “learned” through life lessons and experiences (or not…) and innate? Yes and no? Who knows? Would love to get more perspectives on these points your raise…
Michael Antonelli said:
Peace is about how we process the world around us. Most of our society tends to dwell on projecting what is going to happen in the future or analyzing the past. So much so that what is presently taking place is ignored or not fully experienced. We complain we don’t have enough time and spend the day worrying about things that never happen anyway. This process is escalated when change is introduced into our life. “Oh no I have to change, now my life is going to really suck.” There is always going to be obstacles to over come, but the only time you could actually take action is in the present. The bird in this picture is not projecting what is going to happen or what it could have done. The bird is experiencing life as it comes, both good and bad and not dwelling on either.
John M. Greco said:
Good gosh, Mike, you are full of surprises! This is really thought provoking stuff; I’ve been pondering just on your thoughts here! Love your interpretation of the bird in the picture. I think you are right on, and I think that bird and you are onto something … “experiencing life as it comes, both good and bad and not dwelling on either” … outstanding!
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I just read a variation of this same story in “Streams in the Desert” this morning. I found your site while googling for images to put in my own blog post on it. 🙂 Hope you don’t mind me borrowing yours. I did link them to this page. Thanks for sharing that story!
John M. Greco said:
Borrow away, Nancy! That’s what us bloggers do … best to you!
Thanks! Appreciate it. 🙂
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