As Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius once remarked:
“Men seek retreats for themselves, houses in the country, seashores, and mountains; and thou too art wont to desire such things very much. But this is altogether a mark of the most common sort of men, for it is in thy power whenever thou shalt choose to retire into thyself. For nowhere either with more quiet or more freedom from trouble does a man retire than into his own soul, particularly when he has within him such thoughts that by looking into them he is immediately in perfect tranquility; and I affirm that tranquility is nothing else than the good ordering of the mind.
In other words, what is often a source of great worry — people’s minds — can also be the source of great peace. The difference is a matter of habit and ability. It isn’t simply money, nice houses, or even quiet places.
Below are three steps you can take for lasting peace of mind:
First, do not add more than the situation gives you. Your skewed interpretation of life’s events will cause you much grief if you have the habit of affixing your assumptions to them. Sun Tzu said the truth cannot be obtained from analyses of past circumstances but from current firsthand information. So unless you have clear evidence, don’t put too much faith in hearsay or extrapolations.
Second, whenever you are feeling overwhelmed emotionally, form the habit of going deep into your mind to calm yourself down. This prevents you from making a rash decision that solves your short-term problem but that affects you negatively long-term. As Sun Tzu said, those who are angry will be cheerful again but the dead cannot be brought back to life.
Third, focus on what you can control only. Epictetus advises us to ask ourselves constantly throughout the day: “Does this belong to me?” For example, the actions of others you cannot control. So they don’t belong to you. Conversely, how you react and your behavior belong to you. In essence, anything that doesn’t come from your mind or actions doesn’t belong to you. You cannot control other people. Trying to take ownership for matters that belong to others will cause you much sorrow and disappointment.
Of course you can try your best to act in a way that would influence others to do the right thing. But that’s the extent of your control. You’re not the first who have failed in convincing people to do the right thing and you won’t be the last. Let go. Let others find peace for themselves as you do for yourself.