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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.