On a chilly evening 18 years ago, after spending nearly every waking minute with Angel for eight straight days, I knew I had to tell her just one thing. So late at night, just before she fell asleep, I whispered it in her ear. She smiled … the kind of smile that makes me smile back. And she said, “When I’m 75, and I think about my life and what it was like to be young, I hope I can remember this very moment.”
A few seconds later she closed her eyes and fell asleep. The room was peaceful … almost silent. All I could hear was the soft purr of her breathing. I stayed awake thinking about the time we’d spent together and all the choices in our lives that made this moment possible. And at some point, I realized it didn’t matter what we’d done or where we’d gone. Nor did the future hold any significance.
All that mattered was the serenity of the moment.
Just being with her, and breathing with her.
. . .
Why did I just share that story with you?
Because doing so helps remind me.
And, I know you need a reminder sometimes too.
Sometimes we all need to be reminded of the beauty and sweetness of truly absorbing ourselves into the present moment—into the people, the dialogs, and the priceless little gifts that exist there.
We need to be reminded of what it’s like to be truly present, and accepting, and at peace.
Because too often, amidst the drama and chaos of life, we forget.
We forget to simply be and breathe with those around us.
We forget to appreciate the beauty they possess, despite their flaws.
So, I wrote about a priceless moment from my distant past that helps me find my inner calm, no matter where I am or who I’m with. And yes, I do realize that not every moment is a love story. But not every moment has to be, to be good enough for us …
The Human Superpower of Calmness
The most fundamental aggression to ourselves and others—the most fundamental harm we can do to human nature as a whole on a daily basis—is to remain ignorant by not having the awareness or courage to look at ourselves and others honestly and gently.
All day, every day, many of us get annoyed with people and their situations when they fail to live up to our expectations, as if their reality isn’t enough for us and never will be. We reject these people and their “problems” because they somehow seem different than our own. We feel like we need something better, something more from them—and we scream inside!
We let our emotions and anxieties get the best of us. And we blind ourselves to the truth …
The truth is, when someone upsets us, this is often because they aren’t behaving according to our fantasy of how they “should” behave. The frustration, then, stems not from their behavior but from how their behavior differs from our fantasy. Let this sink in. And let’s not get carried away going forward.
Calmness is a human superpower!
Regardless of the situation, the ultimate measure of our wisdom and strength is how calm we are when facing the situation. The ability to not overreact or take things personally keeps our mind clear and our heart at peace, which instantly gives us the upper hand.
Being Calm Under Pressure
Over the past decade, there’s a way of being Angel and I have gradually been cultivating in ourselves—we’ve been taming our tendencies to get angry and irritated with people when their behavior doesn’t match our expectations.
As human beings, again, we all have an idea in our heads about how things are supposed to be, and sadly this is what often messes us up the most. We all get frustrated when things don’t play out the way we expect them to, and people don’t behave like they’re “supposed” to. We expect our spouses and children to act a certain way, our friends to be kind and agreeable, strangers to be less difficult, life to be easier, and so on and so forth.
And when reality hits us, and everyone and everything seems to be doing the opposite of what we want, we feel pressure inside and then we overreact—anger, frustration, stress, tears, etc.
So what can we do about this?
Breathe … and think better.
You can’t control how other people behave. You can’t control everything that happens to you. What you can control is how you respond to it all. In your response is your greatest opportunity.
When you feel like your lid is about to blow, take a long deep breath. Deep breathing releases tension, calms down our fight or flight reactions, and allows us to quiet our anxious nerves so we choose more considerate and constructive responses, no matter the situation.
So, for example, do your best to inhale and exhale next time another driver cuts you off in traffic. In a recent poll we conducted with our most recent Think Better, Live Better event attendees, overreacting while fighting traffic was the most commonly cited reason for overreacting on a daily basis. Just imagine if all the drivers on the road took deep breaths before making nasty hand gestures or screaming obscenities at others.
There’s no doubt that it can drive us crazy when we don’t get what we expect from people, especially when they are being rude and difficult. But trying to change the unchangeable, wanting others to be exactly the way we want them to be, just doesn’t work. The alternative, though, is unthinkable to most of us: to breathe, to let go, to lead by example, and to accept people even when they irritate us.
Here’s the way of being that Angel and I have been cultivating and advocating:
- To be truly present.
- To breathe deeply, and often.
- To remind ourselves that we can’t control other people.
- To remind ourselves that other people can handle their lives however they choose.
- To not take their behavior personally.
- To see the good in them (even when it’s hard).
- To let go of the ideals and expectations we have about others, and life in general, that causes unnecessary frustration, drama, and bouts of anger.
- To remember that when others are being difficult, they are often going through a difficult time we know nothing about. And to give them empathy, love, and space.
“Being” this way—THINKING BETTER—takes practice, but it’s worth it. It makes us less frustrated, it helps us be more mindful, it improves our relationships, it lowers our stress, and it allows us to make the world a slightly more peaceful place to be.
And along these lines, watch this short video clip Angel and I created for you:
It’s your turn now …
Yes, it’s your turn.
To instill a little more love into this world, even when there’s no great “love story” to tell.
To love the people you are with, as much as feasibly possible, until you can be with the people who truly deserve your love.
More deep breaths, presence, and love.
Ultimately, this is the way we find calmness, peace, and new opportunities in life.
Let’s practice today, together. 🙂
. . .
Please share this post with others who you think may benefit from it, and also share your thoughts with us in the comments area below. Angel and I would both love to know what you think of this essay.
Finally, if you haven’t done so already, be sure to sign-up for our free newsletter to receive new essays like this one in your inbox each week.
Marc, I can definitely relate to this essay and the attached video! In recent times, when I felt like striking back against someone being rude and obnoxious, I remained calm and at peace anyway. With the guidance I’ve received from you and Angel at your conference in San Diego last year, I’ve been able to avoid larger problems by choosing step away from other people’s drama, instead of stepping into it.
Anyway, I just wanted to say thanks.
David Deng says
this was so inspiring and I am glad to be one of the audiences. Thank you so much MARC and ANGEL. this will help me in controlling my emotion of hitting back,and going mad at people who fail to leave by expectation. After going through your writing on “Being calm under pressure and the human superpower of calmness,” I have learned that we cannot change people why of living but only we can try to cope with them.
Thank you so much and keep changing people’s lives.
Thanks for this email/essay! It speaks to me today.
This morning, at a senior card playing group, a woman, for no good reason said to me, “No one wants you here slowing the rest of us down.” I was in the middle of play.
I am now 72. I remained composed and ignored her rudeness, and I amazed myself with that as someone else at the table said ”that’s not true!”
My point is that just a short year ago, I likely would have been very rude back to this woman. I have a temper, but was happy I didn’t respond to such a childish attack on me.
I’ve been reading your newest book and and working through your teachings for the past year or so and I’m much getting better at keeping myself composed and focused when something like this happens. And it’s made me feel a lot better on the average day too.
Lara Loewl says
Thank you, 72-year-old card player! I’m hitting mid-life and have been feeling overwhelmed with where I’m NOT in my life at this point. Your comment here, gave me perspective that there is ALWAYS time to learn and grow. Well done! Enjoy the ride!
This essay was linked in the first email I received from you and it’s excellent! So glad I signed up and I’m looking forward to more. Until then, cheers to being calm and putting ourselves in a position to make better and clearer decisions..
Shirlee K Sodini says
I have to say that even though I have practiced similar life goals since the 60s, I continue to need coaching. I forget so easily that my husband, struggling with alcoholism and anxiety is not able to find his way out to this peace. I continue with my workout, friends and community support activities. I don’t do these to “be busy” but instead to have space & others in my life to be able to give peace. I appreciate you!! Thank you
Tanja Cosentino says
There are no words to express how this article spoke to me, on so many levels. A week ago today, my long term boyfriend held me at gunpoint for four hours. I spent those hours talking him down and consequently saving many lives. Unfortunately, the most terrifying night of my life ended with a single gunshot to the head, ending years of suffering for him, but leaving so much collateral damage for those of us left behind.
I would love to share my story and use it as a way to help others. Please let me know how I can do so.
WOW. I’m so sorry this happened to you.
Thank you for the story that opened my heart.
Thank you-this came at the right moment for me.
I had an abusive mother who abused me, lied, manipulated and made me feel worthless as a child and I couldn’t please her no matter how hard I tried. Now in my 50’s I get easily angry with people, have difficulty committing to friendships and basically find myself on guard against people all the time. Have read so many books and watched healing videos yet, still find myself struggling to accept “me” and others “as is”. Any thoughts, anyone?
Symone B says
You could try reading “will I ever be good enough?” it’s a book on healing children of parents with NPD. Very helpful and will help you heal.
Teresa Kaczmarczyk says
I can understand, as I had an abusive, narcissistic and borderline Mother.
I would find small ways in which you can love yourself.
I always keep a photo of a happy childhood moment of me as a little girl on my desk, and when I start treating myself like my Mother would, I look at that beautiful and innocent girl and apologize to her. I also send her love.
Start treating yourself with love and kindness. I know it’s hard, but it can be done. If you have a pet or a friend that you love, start treating yourself like you would treat them. Imagine you are them and love yourself that way.
Our Mothers were difficult, and the upbringing left a lot of scars. They will always be there. But you are an adult now, and have a choice to feel love, and compassion for yourself.
I came a long way once I realized I was treating myself like my Mother would, and loved myself conditionally. It is up to you to consciously talk to your little girl and mother her yourself.
That is the love she needed back then, and now you can give it to her.
I find that any book or tape by Louise Hay goes a long way as she also came up from a very abusive childhood and mastered self love.
She also has great courses on forgiveness, there are free podcasts on IPhone if you google Hayhouse meditations.
Ultimately you need to forgive your Mother and learn ways to nurture and love yourself and become your own parent.
I could feel my blood pressure lowering as I read this. My jaw unclenched. I was able to breathe deeply. My shoulders relaxed. It’s just what I needed to read in the midst of many changes and worries and during a period of time where I have been surrounded by a lot of suffocating negativity. Thank you.
I love every article that I receive in my email box from you two! I also bought your book “Getting Back to Happy!” Thank you for writing it!
Perla milner says
Love , patience and calmness is a super power…this will make a difference in our daily lives like Marc and Angel have made in so many of us when we are learning to Think differently so we can live differently! Thank u both ?May G d bless u always?
It’s a beautiful post on remaining present and being calm. Thanks for the reminder we need so much on a daily basis.
Tematoro Uabong says
Good morning Marc and Angel
I really want to thank you with my heart about all the messages you two been sending to me, it play a huge difference in my inner journey of how I look at life and live on a present moment. I always keen to open my email to get more guidance and wisdom from the both of you. What you both share were real fact. I am so fortunate to be one of your audience and as I said earlier, I value each and every email I received from the both of you. I wish you the blessing for your tremendous support n sharing about your precious treasure with me and the rest of the people.God Bless you both.
Coralee Kulman says
Yes, you never know the tapestry of how our life is woven together with others. Like the man who was in a hurry, we often have moments we have judged as frustrating or difficult. Yet, approached with love and patience, we can find the true meaning of what may be a beautiful, inspiring moment.
I love the video portion of this. I liked this a lot. I have been concentrating on less drama, more presence to the now moment. Thank you for sharing this.
This is the second article in about 3 weeks that has really been helpful to me. I’m in a relationship with a wonderful man for almost 11 months and he is the type of man I’ve wanted and needed and thought I’d never find (after a 20 yr marriage and an almost 10 yr relationship). I really believe we were meant to be together.
We have had some difficult times though which seems almost crazy in such a short relationship. He is a giving person and does have expectations that sometimes made me feel inadequate. He didn’t really want to hear that my previous relationships were the polar opposite of this and I had no real experience in being in a true love relationship. However I am more than willing to work on myself and become the person I should have been by now and though he sometimes is not patient with that, he hasn’t given up.
I plan to save this article to show him the next time the subject comes up. Thanks so much for the thought provoking articles.
I’m really pleased to find your blog. I just wanted to say thank you very much for your emails. Your stories always touch my heart.
Bethany @ Happily Loco says
Yes, yes, yes! I have found that yoga has helped me to stay calm and centered, more than anything else.
George Robert D says
Really a cool post about calmness. It is absolutely true that we can can’t control everything but we always tend to control everything and our respond is in our hands.
Thanks for the post…
Not a new concept to me but one I have definitely been struggling with. Lately I have been struggling with feelings of frustration and anger towards the world, got really intense after my birthday a couple of months back. Am grateful to be in a position to realize that it is my fantasy of how things should be that are the cause of it all and working on being present in the moment and let go of my expectations and accept things as they are and work on myself first before trying to fix the world. Thanks for the reminder am n the right path.
Patricia Shark says
This helps me, I would get anxiety whenever someone would be showing anger or argue, I learned to just listen before I react. I am calmer and have my patience back. thanks.