Calm and (sort of) collected

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There’s a great saying that I’m sure you’ve heard: “Keep calm and carry on.”

It dates back to 1939 on the eve of World War II when the British government tried to raise public morale during threats of mass air attacks. The government designed a poster with the saying on it, topped with King George VI’s royal crown.*

(My imaginary self in 1939: You know, I was really worried about those air strikes, but now that I’ve seen that poster, I feel much better.)

Since then, we’ve seen all variations of the saying, but I still like the original. Which brings us to this post.

Every January, I pick a word to focus on for the year. In 2014, I chose humility. 2015 was all about simplifying. This year, my word is calm.

Merriam-Webster defines calm this way:

A quiet and peaceful state or condition; a peaceful mental or emotional state.

I went back and forth about which word to choose, also considering “balance” and “patience,” but I think calm encompasses both of those. Here’s an example:

I was out of town for work earlier this week, so today when I got back to the office, I had a lot to do. So much that it barely all fit in the rectangular space that my planner reserved for today.

I ended up leaving work a little late, which wasn’t a big deal, but on the way home, my typical hour-long commute turned to an hour and 45 minutes after taking a couple of detours. (It flurried for 5 minutes, so the city went haywire.)

Once I walked in the door, I made a mental note of all the things I needed to accomplish this evening. Then I made an actual note of things I need to accomplish before the weekend. And then I got word that I have a meeting tomorrow night, which means none of it will happen tomorrow.

And that’s where my word comes in.

Calm goes beyond simplifying—which tends to be about efficiency or doing less. It goes beyond balance and patience because, while those two words are part of it, calm also implies holding it together, being at peace with whatever comes your way and not getting ruffled at the first hint of stress. To me, it’s not only an inward thing but the way you carry yourself outwardly, too.

So how do you keep calm?

For one, practice. Sitting in traffic earlier, moving about an inch every two minutes, I wanted to bang on the steering wheel and yell “Whyyyyyyyy?!” … OK, maybe I did that. But afterwards, I almost laughed, knowing that I would later sit down to write this blog about staying calm.

Another trick I’m working on is thinking of people I consider to have a calm presence about them and asking myself how they would respond in a certain situation. (So-and-so is cool-headed. What would he do?)

I’m also continuing a tradition of posting the word next to my bathroom mirror, a visual reminder that has proved helpful the past two years.

Oh, and prayer. Can’t forget prayer. Trying to make life changes on our own can be hard, but God can help. That whole “with God, nothing is impossible” thing is legit.

How about you? Do you have a word to focus on for the year?

*The poster was supposed to be posted upon Germany’s invasion of Britain, but since that didn’t happen, the public never saw it … until 2000 when a bookseller found it among some books bought at an auction.



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