It was an ordinary day at work. When arriving at my office, I thought it would be like every day: saying hello to my colleagues, working on my preferred project, and having a blast drinking a coffee during the break.
But when I saw the face of my supervisor, I knew something was wrong. “David, your Ph.D. supervisor decided to retreat from his contractual obligations,” he said.
I had just begun my industrial Ph.D. project at a global company and would have never expected such a scenario.
It was the worst-case scenario.
“How in the world am I going to find a solution?”
Losing your professor is one of the worst things that can happen to you. It questions the very nature of your project.
Nonetheless, I remained calm. Despite this uncertainty, I knew deep inside my heart that it would end up well.
I had no guarantee, no external signs, no “David-we-have-already-a-plan-B-worked-out” safety net. And yet, I knew that we would find a solution no matter how big the problem may seem.
Long story short, we found a new professor who agreed to take over the defined project. And three years later, he gave me the notion “Magna cum laude.”
Reflecting on the Resaons I Stayed Calm…
I reflected on the reasons I remained calm. We do live in a world of extreme uncertainty. As the worldwide pandemic hit us and we don’t know how long lockdowns, social distancing, job cuts, travel bans, and COVID-19 tests will stay around, you and I may freak out.
Guess what? It’s normal to react that way.
But you can stay calm on a boat in the middle of the storm. When the waves are crashing over us, we tend to adopt a tunnel view, focusing on the worst possible scenario. Does it sound familiar?
Here’s How You Can Find Inner Peace
1. Change Your Focus
In ancient wisdom, we find a story of a guy who stayed calm. To the surprise of his companions, he fell asleep while they were fighting against the storm, trying to stop the water from entering the boat.
How can you adopt such an opposite reaction?
To quote the self-help guru and author Dale Carnegie: “Two men looked out from prison bars, one saw the mud, the other saw stars.”
In other words, you can’t change your circumstances. You only can change how you view them.
If you knew that you would survive the storm, would you be that afraid? Would you worry about losing your job if you had the certainty of finding another source of income?
The guy in the boat knew he would survive. That’s why he stayed calm while his companions panicked.
2. Find a Solid Foundation
Isn’t that wonderful when you are on a bigger boat, that the waves stop to be frightening? Even better, you may videotape the waves with your smartphone when you are standing at the shore. The storm has not changed. The waves are still there. But they lost their power. Why? Because I’m standing on solid ground.
That’s what I experienced when I lost my professor. I was holding on to a deep faith that everything would turn out well. It built up confidence, and despite the ongoing storm, I could rejoice again.
I have identified these sources helping me find confidence.
- A simple word of encouragement from my Dad gave me peace again.
- A good friend who tapped me on my shoulder helped me believe that the future was still bright.
- And an unexpected promise I found in ancient wisdom during my morning routine injected a new dose of hope.
3. Embrace Uncertainty
Do you remember the movie Point Break? While everyone retreated because of the arriving hurricane, one of the surfers rejoiced, “The 50-Year Storm is coming!”
Have we become too accustomed to our comfort? The slightest sign of an approaching storm already lets people become afraid.
Uncertainty is part of our lives, whether we like it or not. It was amidst the uncertainty that I discovered new aspects of myself. My challenge stretched me. I learned that I could live without all the securities we hold on to. And it gave me more courage to leave my comfort zone.
It’s in the uncharted water where we grow. Years after completing my Ph.D., my courage led me to renounce my corporate career.
Storms may be the best things that happen to us.
They may force us to try new things and meet people we would have never met. I had to enroll in another university located in the town my grandmother grew up in my case. Due to the crisis, I got to know that beautiful city many hours away, which I probably would have never visited otherwise.
4. Understand That a Crisis Bears an Opportunity
At first glance, my crisis seemed like the end of the world. Nevertheless, I ended up better off in the end.
John F. Kennedy said: “When written in Chinese, the word ‘crisis’ is composed of two characters — one represents danger, and one represents opportunity.”
My initial crisis helped me to own my project. I gave everything to show my peers the importance of the research, which they recognized.
I feel honored for the opportunity to publish four first-author peer-reviewed articles and to present at prestigious scientific conferences.
In a crisis, we question the status quo and sail far from the shore into uncharted waters. Entrepreneur wrote: “the SARS pandemic of 2002–2004 catalyzed the meteoric growth of a then-small e-commerce company called Ali Baba and helped establish it at the forefront of retail in Asia.“
Each crisis is an opportunity to come out stronger from it.
You can find inner peace in any situation. Does it change your circumstances? Not at all. All it gives you is a new, potentially unfamiliar perspective.
You stay calm, changing your focus, standing on a solid foundation, learning to embrace uncertainty, and seeing your crisis as an opportunity.
The One who holds your future in His hands extends this peace to you. He wants to give this solid foundation.
“Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” — Jesus, in the Bible.
That’s the wisdom we find in ancient literature. God helps us changing our focus and gives us supernatural peace.
It’s as the Swiss light artist Gerry Hofstetter reminded us of this wisdom, projecting “#hope” over the red and white of the Swiss flag on the iconic 4,478-meter high Matterhorn mountain.
The best is yet to come. No virus, no economic downturn, no breaking news can change this ancient truth.