10 Practical Steps to Inner Peace


That is such a wonderfully descriptive word.

I have known some truly unflappable people. They exude an inner calm even in the most trying circumstances. They are fully present with everyone — gentle and accepting of themselves and others. They are slow to anger.

I often think about Atticus Finch in my favorite book, To Kill a Mockingbird. He is a role model of inner peace for me. There's a scene in which Atticus, the small town attorney defending a falsely accused black man, encounters Bob Ewell, the low-life white farmer who is the accuser. A drunk Ewell calls Atticus a stream of filthy names and then spits in his face.

In the movie, this scene is played beautifully by Gregory Peck. With spittle covering his glasses, he doesn't say a word, but reaches for something in his pocket while staring at Bob Ewell. Ewell flinches thinking Atticus is going to hit him, but instead Atticus pulls out a handkerchief and calmly wipes his face and glasses, then walks away.

Not many people could maintain that state of equanimity in such a situation. (He is a book character after all.) What I love about Atticus Finch is that he knows who he is and has peace with that. He doesn't have to prove himself by indulging in anger or retribution.

So many of us exist in a cloud of internal and external chaos.

Our lives are so over-scheduled that we go about our days frantic and preoccupied. It's hard to relax or fully enjoy life with all of the distractions and upsets.

In fact, you've probably known people who are prone to creating problems and crises. They even get off on the drama in a weird, unhealthy way. But inside they feel anxious, unsettled, and rarely content. Small disruptions morph into major issues. Someone spitting in their face would cause a tsunami.

Others are born with a disposition that is calm and not prone to agitation. That's a lucky head-start, but lasting inner peace and the desire to make it a priority in life is a learned trait. In a culture that venerates busyness and constant stimulation, you have to make peace a priority if you want to reap the benefits.

Inner peace is more about being than doing. It's about leaning toward rather than struggling against. It's about being fully present and focused on the task at hand. The rewards of inner peace are numerous. They include mental and physical health and well-being, self-confidence, better relationships, and a more intense and joyful experience of life.

Most of us want these things, but sometimes we must shift our perceptions of ourselves and how we live in order to create an environment to foster inner peace. Once we make the shift, we must practice the actions that lead to inner peace in order to sustain it.

Here are ten practical actions on how to find inner peace.

1. Have nothing unresolved.

As opposed to just having things finished, completely clear up the larger unresolved issues personally and professionally that sap your energy and create other problems in your life. You will feel a weight come off your shoulders.

2. Surrender and accept what is.

Rather than resisting and fighting, just stop struggling. Resistance blocks energy and creativity. How can you find a solution when you are flailing about and tensed up? Unhook yourself from the situation or person and view it from a detached perspective.

3. Take full responsibility for how you react to others.

Other people don't make you behave in a certain way. You choose your behavior. Decide who you want to be in all circumstances. Mentally prepare yourself and plan for a calm, unflappable response even during trying times.

4. Become aware of and sensitive to feelings rather than ignoring them.

This means your own feelings as well as others. Don't shove away feelings because they are uncomfortable. They are sending you a message. Take time to poke around those feelings to discover what is behind them. If you don't, the feelings will come back in more unpleasant ways and really disrupt your peace.

5. Tell the entire truth.

Resist editing, lying, or translating. Be real. Lay it on the table in a gentle and authentic way to yourself and others. Hiding the truth doesn't serve you in the long run. Staying true to your integrity brings peace of mind.

6. Know your higher self.

Distinguish between your self versus your mind, ego, needs or past experience. Take the time to understand who you really are. What are your values, your goals, your joys and passions, your integrity? Those are what define you and make you authentic.

7. Unhinge from adrenaline.

Adrenaline is the drug of choice in a stressed out society. It gives us a jolt of superhuman energy when faced with a threat. But mostly we use it to get that rush to blast through the day. An adrenaline lifestyle can do soul-damaging things: overworking, being greedy, insistence on getting ahead or winning even at the expense of relationships. Kick the adrenaline dependency. Slow down and let go — or risk losing your health, your relationships, and your peace of mind.

8. Know what rattles your cage.

What makes you bristle or pushes your buttons? There's a reason you react, and understanding the truth behind these feelings is the first step in addressing the problem or letting it go. Keep asking yourself, “Why do I feel this way?” until you know the real answer. Then deal with the answer directly.

9. Step over nothing, even the small stuff.

Don't ignore even the smallest tolerations or imbalance in your life. You may not be able to change everything, but awareness and the ability to manage tolerations in a healthy way can bring you peace.

10. Prioritize peace ahead of performance.

Make an estimated guess on the days you have left to live. Do you want to look back at your life and celebrate the rushing around, the completed “to do” lists, and the stuff, or do you want to reflect on days of calm, connectedness, great relationships, wonderful experiences, and peace of mind?

The most profound impact of inner peace is the peace it spreads to the world outside of us. Peace between families, communities, and countries begins with each individual. Inner peace is contagious. As you find inner peace for yourself, you become a model for others and spread the seeds of peace everywhere you go.

Inner peace is more about being than doing. It's about leaning toward rather than struggling against. It's about being fully present and focused on the task at hand. The rewards of inner peace are numerous. They include mental and physical health and well-being, self-confidence, better relationships, and a more intense and joyful experience of life.

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  1. Gosh, Barrie. I love that word too! “Unflappable.”

    Your points really do paint a picture of how to reach the peace we all crave. It’s easy to be calm when “nothing” is happening, quite different in times of stress or struggle.

    You mentioned our “higher self” … what a great place to hang out. I like to also think of it as our deeper self/inner being. Like the depths of the ocean underneath the surface. The surface waters can be buffeted by boats and winds but this has no effect on the deep currents that peacefully flow along their way.

    It’s a choice we make, isn’t it? We can identify with the “flappable” surface or we can simply be the deep, peaceful current. Thanks for this awesome reminder!


    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Carmelo, I love that analogy about the depths of the ocean. That sums it up perfectly. Except for the fact that you can’t breathe, floating underwater is an extremely peaceful experience. You don’t have to flap under water, only on the surface. ­čÖé

  2. What a great list!

    Not sweating the small stuff, and being able to “step over” the things that just can’t get us down in the grand scheme of things is a big one for me. A recent (in the last year) tragedy in our family brought into focus how precious the littlest most mundane life gifts really are. It made me appreciate simple pleasures, quiet moments, and yes helped me to manage the stress out of sheer priority, because everything around us was so intense for an entire year.

    I learned all about #2 Surrender..accepting what is, because of this life event, a loved one with cancer, and how to help as best I could in my own way, as well as support my family through it. I learned all about #4 and being sensitive to others for sure! If ever there was a time to see all the emotions of your loved ones and how to support them, it’s in a time of tragedy and crisis.

    Finally #10…My husband became a medical advocate for this family member and her care became all consuming at one point, for many months. His peace became a concern to me, which took priority over work, and all the other matters of life. It’s funny, we went into a survival mode of taking care of the patient, and day to day basic needs for her. Our inner peace was knowing we were caring for each other and our son and daughter in law. Sometimes love and life gets down to the bare bones basics and we learn the biggest lessons at those times as well. We came out of it with a greater appreciation for life, each other, our family, and the simplicity of caring for another human being.

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Wow Laura — what a compelling example. Life teaches us the greatest lessons whether or not we expect or want them. These are the events that clarify everything, aren’t they? I’m so glad your family was there to support one another.

  3. Thanks for such an inspiring article, Barrie.

    There are two things that helps me to mantain inner peace. First, I┬┤ve written down my own values and have decided to live according to them – not according to anyone elses expectations. Second, everytime when there is something that makes me upset or when I┬┤m disapointed about something (and if there is nothing I can do about that), I always repeat to myself that there is a certain reason for it, which will leads me to something much more better. In most cases it 100% true!


    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Petra, you have done something so important by defining and living by your values. Once you know what those are, then making choices and taking actions is so much easier. And yes, it is funny how often it happens that something we think we don’t want leads us to something better.

  4. sophia Fernandes says:

    Hi Barrie,
    Thanks so much for sharing your beautiful reflection, your insights are truly refreshing..i have realised that before going to bed if i focus on the important aspect of life, that Have nothing unresolved…thats the greates achievement to attain that deep peace, its true if the present problem is not resolved, it keeps piling up and draining more of our time and energy, resulting in loosing peace of mind. i thank you for your inspiring contribution to nourish our soul

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Hi Sophia,
      How are you? So nice to hear from you again. ­čÖé You are so right — unresolved issues are so draining. The short-term discomfort is far less difficult than the long-term pain of losing peace of mind.

  5. You always calm me.

    This may not be having the desired affect because I have an all encompassing urge to grow my hair shoulder length, slip on a moomoo, some love beads and become a permanent fixture in the local park.

    Good Post, Barrie!