As we enter the season between Thanksgiving and Christmas, our culture places a special emphasis on seeking peace. This is ironic for many of us because this season can seem anything but peaceful, as we rush to holiday parties, musical performances, religious services and family gatherings! Each of these special events should bring us peace, fulfillment and comfort, and, individually, they all represent good things. However, when taken together, we may find ourselves overwhelmed and missing the beauty of the season.
A former colleague of mine had a favorite saying: “The secret of happiness is having low expectations.” So, there’s one strategy — just don’t expect much from this holiday season and you won’t be disappointed! But is that really the answer? What if, instead, we expected the best that humanity can offer? What if we demanded the very best — not from others, but from ourselves?
Instead of waiting for the rest of the world to jump up to meet our ridiculously high expectations, maybe we should expect and deliver the very best from ourselves. We can show our neighbors, co-workers, service-providers and family members that we care so much about them and their peace that we are willing to give of ourselves to help their dreams come true.
It has been said that there is no love without sacrifice, that sacrifice is the truest measure of love. So, during this season, how about we sacrifice our pride, our dissatisfaction, our right to complain and our frustration with all the ways the world has let us down? Why don’t we instead make our neighbors’ happiness our goal?
Many decades ago, the musician James Taylor wrote: “The secret of life is enjoying the passing of time.” This simple, but profound, sentiment is much easier to say (or sing) than do. In today’s vernacular, we might practice “mindfulness,” an exercise that is similar to what we used to call “counting our blessings.”
Whatever you call it, having a focus on the remarkable beauty around us while forgoing a focus on ourselves can help relieve the anxiety of reliving all our daily concerns. Where your mind focuses, there your heart will be. If you focus on all the negative aspects of a situation, you’ll most certainly feel anxious. But if you focus instead on the positive, your mood will be brightened. The decision of focus is a choice that is solely within your control. Choose to find peace — your secret peace.
See if your family gathering changes when you arrive with a decision to focus on others, to notice the beauty in every moment and to enjoy the passing of time together. When you treat the drive-through attendant with overwhelming kindness, it will warm your heart and help you feel better about the world. Try it, I promise it works.
In our work at the electric cooperatives, we get to serve our neighbors each and every day with reliable, affordable energy and services. That continual focus on helping you, helps us. It provides us with deep satisfaction, a sense of purpose and a mission that is beyond ourselves. May peace abide with you all.
Duane Highley is president and CEO of Arkansas Electric Cooperatives, Inc., (AECI) and Arkansas Electric Cooperative Corporation (AECC). AECI, a statewide service co-op, and AECC, a wholesale power supply co-op, are owned by Arkansas’ 17 local distribution co-ops, which provide retail electric service to more than 1 million members.