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Inner peace is really annoying me.

It’s more the absence of it. And the radiance of those who appear to have it. OK, you found peace, fantastic for you, but must you gloat by glowing?

Yes, yes, I know I am not supposed to “mind read” people and compare my happiness and theirs side-by-side. I realize what I think they are experiencing is my projection of inadequacy and dissatisfaction.

See? I really need this inner peace thing.

I’ve been reading about meditation, watching videos describing how to do it and listening to podcasts outlining its virtues. I have even tried it.

I use a meditation app narrated by a guy who guides with a soothing, charming British accent. So, the first thing I have to do is put aside my envy of his diction. At least I am learning not to push aside that thought like the shower curtain when the hot water runs out. I let it go, like a balloon, and watch it float away.

And that actually works. The more often I exercise this gentle guidance of my thoughts, the tighter control I have on my mind.  

I am reminded of this endeavor because of an interview we did with Tracey Jones, daughter of insurance sales legend Charlie “Tremendous” Jones. She is featured in our Life Insurance Awareness Month pullout inserted in this month’s magazine. The discussion was so intriguing we decided to run a far longer version online. I urge you to read it. Tracey has much wisdom to pass along.

In that longer version, we delved into the seven characteristics of leadership, but another part of our discussion got me thinking. She mentioned the three defining traits that separate youth from adulthood: self-awareness, self-discipline and self-restraint. Tracey listed them because she is noticing a decided lack of these traits in many adults today. I think I am about halfway on one of those.

And I don’t think I am alone in that. Everywhere we look, we’re seeing a lack of these three virtues. Certainly, the political climate has been missing them for some time now. It’s like we’re electing people to go to Washington for a long run of Kabuki theater. It’s not doing that counts, but the illusion that they are doing. (Editors John Hilton and Susan Rupe very ably cover the latest on health care reform, or anti-reform, or something like that, in the InFront column.) 

CEOs behaving badly is a whole genre unto itself now. Recently, we witnessed the downfall of Travis Kalanick, who ran Uber as if it were a rogue fraternity. (And we can’t unsee the video of him shimmying between two women in the back seat of a car before he scolds the Uber driver for being a whiny loser. If you haven’t seen it, don’t.) Then we had the fraud trial of Martin “Pharma Bro” Shkreli, who had raised the price of an AIDS drug from $13.50 to $750 overnight. But we will always remember him for the most detestable smirk known to man.

Wilhelm Hofmann, a University of Chicago researcher, discovered the seemingly contradictory finding that controlling oneself leads to happiness. He has made a lifetime’s work out of studying impulses and control. He has consistently found that giving into impulse and not developing self-control leads to a dissatisfying life, even as a person satisfies all impulses. 

It’s a wisdom as old as humankind that helping others helps ourselves on every level. We strengthen the community and our personal health. 

But we can’t give ourselves when we have no contact with who we are. If we don’t know our gifts, how do we know what we offer others?

Obviously, this is where the self-awareness part steps in. The simple act of sitting quietly, letting go of your thoughts and waiting for silence is refreshingly clarifying. In that clarity, we see what’s actually important to us.

At least, I think that’s what happens. I’m not one of those beaming with the light of the universe. I’m still trying to sit for 10 minutes without feeling self-conscious and itchy. But, I’ve seen a glimmer of this and enjoyed brief passages of an untangled mind. 

You don’t have to meditate to get some sense of this. Practice observing your emotions as a thing upon you, like a shirt, rather than in you. You are not angry — you feel angry. After a while, you might see it doesn’t have to grip you if you don’t want it.

Once we’re comfortable in our own presence, we can be present for someone else. That’s the ultimate goal. Tracey put it best when she said, “None of us is strong enough to do it on our own. Not even my father, not me, not you, not Jesus, not Gandhi, not Martin Luther, not anybody.”

Now just grant me the strength to get out of bed when the alarm goes off.

Steven A. Morelli is editor-in-chief for InsuranceNewsNet. He has more than 25 years of experience as a reporter and editor for newspapers, magazines and insurance periodicals. Steve may be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @INNSteveM. [email protected].

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