If I let you peek inside my many journals you would see that my number one desire for most of my adult life has been for peace and contentedness. I have always wanted a graceful, beautiful life filled with laugher and love. But there’s always been one huge problem in getting it – me.

For the longest time, I thought I had to force life to happen. I had to stay on top of it, out in front of all the problems, preventing any little mishap from derailing me. And, so I held on to the reins with a white knuckled grip. I tried my best to manage myself (and if I’m being really honest, those around me) so that life would look exactly like I wanted it to so I could feel be peaceful and calm. But it never worked.

You can’t force peace and you can’t demand grace. Tweet that!

If you were able to pop open my head when I was in one of my “have to make it happen” moods what you would have seen would have been a lot of thoughts like:

Nothing is going right.

I’m not nearly as good as everyone thinks. What if they find out?

Why can’t people just do what I want them to?

It’s all so very hard.

Not exactly peaceful, huh?

I believe that many women find themselves in the same place. We draw up an idea of what a happy, peaceful, meaningful life is, and then we manage to that goal. Perhaps this is even more true for ambitious women – those of us who have spent our careers pushing for great grades, advanced degrees, and increasing professional responsibility. Set the goal – manage to the goal. Repeat until happy.

But peace and contentedness can’t survive in an atmosphere of criticism and micromanagement. They must be nurtured, tended, and allowed to grow.

One of the very best tools for nurturing a peaceful life is grace. Tweet that!

I’m not talking about black-and-white movie start, red carpet grace here (although if you have that gift, I’ll admit to being a little jealous). I’m talking about the kind of grace that looks at a mistake, an imperfection, or a variation in a plan and allows it to be okay. The kind of grace that doesn’t let life’s little hiccups make you inflexible.

Do you freely give that kind of grace in your life? Are you able to handle spilled milk at the breakfast table, grumpy bosses, and rude coworkers with ease? If so, you have a head start. Many women are masters at this, and I truly admire them for it. But if you’re like me and find this more of a challenge, take a breath. The next time life throws you a curve ball, ask yourself what is the worst that could happen from this one small event. Will you even remember it in a month? A year? If not, consider letting it pass without comment or upset. It may even help to acknowledge to yourself that you are choosing to give the other person grace – whether it’s your child, your husband, or the guy who cut you off in traffic.

Perhaps more important than giving grace to those around you, however, is giving the same gift to yourself. Are you able to forgive those areas of your life where you feel like you’re falling short? The burned breakfasts. The unreturned voicemail. The stacks of unread books. The snappy response to a loved one. If not, give it a try. The next time you don’t measure up to your own standards, relax. Remind yourself that life isn’t perfect, and neither are you. But you can still be full of grace.