4 steps CEOs can take to find peace amid chaos
I was eight years old the first time I visited my peaceful place, a beautiful green meadow with a babbling brook running through. The sound of flowing water fills the atmosphere as three deer drink from the brook. I sigh with relief each time I visit, knowing that I’m safe.
I’ve been visiting this green meadow for more than 60 years, yet it exists only in my mind. It’s my peaceful place, a place I can consciously daydream. I visit my peaceful place every day, which reduces my stress and helps me focus on what I love, such as learning, reading and enjoying time with my wife on our tropical fruit farm in Maui.
Getting to your own peaceful place is the foundation of what I teach Vistage members in my Mind Matters program. In Mind Matters, I teach people how to be better, faster, smarter and live happier with less stress and more passion.
Overcoming chaos of the mind
People—especially executives—are usually so busy that they have a hard time accessing true focus and passion. They’re pulled from place to place, and event to event, emotionally aroused the whole time. The switching and arousal drain their focus and energy. I teach them to tame this chaos of the mind by visiting their peaceful place, which brings them into the alpha brainwave state.
The alpha brainwave state allows you to use your mental and emotional power to focus on a single task, one moment at a time. In a peaceful place, you focus by visualizing the setting, the sound, the smell, while feeling what’s happening in your body. Focusing on your peaceful place carries into work and life, allowing you to be more creative, become a better problem solver, and perform at a peak level, all without stress.
Only recently has a term become popular that I believe describes this state well: mindfulness. Visiting your peaceful place throughout the day allows you to be mindful, more in the moment. Through this mindful alpha brainwave state, I’ve trained myself and others to speed read, change bad habits into good habits, and gotten myself and others off of mental autopilot, truly able to focus on the moment.
The focus you gain from visiting your peaceful place carries into your life. One great example is conversations. How often do you find yourself in conversation, building a case in your head as the other person is talking, waiting to respond? By staying in the moment, you can give people the attention they deserve, focusing on what they say and not the chattering of your mind.
Discover your own peaceful place in 4 steps
As an experiment, try visiting your peaceful place.
- Close your eyes—most sensory input is visual, so closing your eyes will allow you to better focus.
- Slowly take a deep, conscious breath in and out—this breath signals to your brain that you’re safe.
- Focus your mind by visiting your own peaceful place. Picture somewhere you feel safe and comfortable. Your peaceful place can be a real place or a creation of your mind, but be sure that it’s soothing, comfortable and relaxing.
- Once you’ve arrived in your peaceful place, take time to enjoy—even a minute or two is enough to bring you into an alpha brainwave state. After practice, it will take even less time to reach this state.
Practice visiting your peaceful place often and your visits will become intuitive; you can visit and reduce stress whenever you need. This allows you to easily bring yourself into the alpha brainwave state even amid the most stressful day and focus on life’s most important tasks.
Understanding why this works
I know that some people are reading this and feeling excited and open, but I’m sure others are feeling resistant or scared. I understand—change feels dangerous. But in our modern lives, especially for most Americans, little immediate danger exists. Most of our fear is of the unknown, as the mind feels fear and resistance.
I believe that the antidote to fear and resistance is understanding. The more you know, the less you’re afraid. That’s why staying calm, listening and learning are so important in life.
Think about firefighters marching toward a roaring fire. This would be a frightening task for most of us, yet firefighters don’t hesitate when they see a building engulfed in flame. They’ve taken the time to understand the fire—they’ve been trained. They understand.
The best way to understand the power of focus and the peaceful place is to know the harm of multitasking. A classic study found that switching from task to task has great costs—even a switch from one task to another that only takes tenths of a second can cause mental blocks. These mental blocks cut your productivity by as much as 40 percent, the study finds. Our minds try to reorient to the goals and rules of a new task, causing what researchers call “attention residue.”
By focusing on a single task, a single conversation, a single moment, you gain back this glaring hole in your productivity and clean the attention residue from your life.
Over the years, I’ve taught thousands of people to visit their peaceful place. I’ve seen some incredible transformations.
I’ve seen people grow in their ability to handle stress and change, becoming calmer and more introspective. I’ve seen business leaders become brilliant decision makers, unable to be swayed by a tense moment or emotional turmoil. I’ve seen people become emotionally mature, more interested in the joy that comes from within themselves rather than fleeting bits of pleasure.
Through visiting their peaceful place and learning to focus on the moment, people become more emotionally intelligent. They become present. They become themselves.
Some of my favorite examples are the many executives I’ve taught have gone from fearing public speaking to being hugely confident speakers. Public speaking is a terribly common fear, but their focus and peaceful place practice allowed them to mentally rehearse the experience of standing up, speaking and walking off stage to roaring applause.
These transformations are beautiful and shockingly common. In your own life, transformation is possible by visiting your peaceful place often. You’ll be able to access full presence, engaged listening and understanding. By being engaged in the moment, you’ll lead by example. You may be surprised how others will pick up on your new approach to life and change in kind. The positive change your own peaceful place can spark across your professional and personal life is the most wonderful feeling in the world.