By: M. Lisa Shasteen, Contributor to CEO Effectiveness
Dr. Anton’s post this week makes a remarkable connection between the personal peace we can achieve through self-knowledge and a peaceful existence within our communities. So true and lasting peace comes from relationships built between people or even leaders of countries who can interact with others without relying on bravado, facades or any other artifice we so carefully craft and develop to preserve our early mental models that are no longer serving us well. Extrapolation of this concept has far-reaching consequences. However, looking deeper, peace at any level takes effort. Let’s look at the mechanics of peace for a moment.
In my early 20’s, I was having trouble with relationships. It was bad. I was beginning to believe that I would never find anyone to build a lasting bond with. Then, driving to work one morning, a song came on the radio. It was a song I didn’t like. It reminded me of a very painful relationship. I tried to turn it off, but the radio malfunctioned, and I was forced to endure it. What happened next was transformational.
I suddenly realized that the constant in all of my failed relationships was me. I was thwarting them – but why? I had to take an unvarnished look at my past, how I grew up, the barriers I had built, and why I had built them in the first place. There! I admitted it. It was only a beginning but set me on a path to looking into my whole mental structure with great curiosity. Why was I so bad at relationships, and why were others so good at them? Simply asking the question made me more aware of what I was doing and how my words, actions, and choices affected others. My relationships started to improve. I felt more relaxed, more like “me.” Others seemed to respond better to me as a result, and all of these elements, working together, had a potentiating effect. Life was much more harmonious – even happy.
Peace at Work
I now saw why the self-knowledge of leaders was critical to creating a peaceful business environment. There is always “that person” with a negative vibe, but I determined to look for the leaders in my organization who seemed more in touch with themselves. Those leaders tended to encourage growth in others, because they felt no threat. It was OK to have ideas that were new or different from theirs. They welcomed my input, and I felt hugely energized to throw myself into my work. I could make a difference, and I could safely try new things within the framework they set without fear of repercussion. I was truly engaged, and work was much more satisfying.
Peace of Nations
On the broadest scale, peace is the result of determination to cling to things we all know about ourselves as human beings. Those fundamental principles unite humanity. This is sometimes more difficult, but by knowing ourselves, we truly know others at a basic human level. Nobody said it better than Anita, a young woman in her 20’s from Rwanda. Anita was visiting the United States, and we were at lunch. I had read much about the Genocide of 1996 and was fascinated that she had survived such a horrific event as a young child. She brought up that difficult time and noted calmly that people who had killed her family members still lived down the road in her village. Amazed, I asked how she felt about that. Wasn’t that difficult? Her response was, “Yes, Lisa, but if we hate, that will only bring more hate, and where will it end? There are no more Hutus and Tutsis. We are Rwandans.” Overwhelmed with emotion, I understood what she said. We are all humans, and, in order to achieve true and lasting peace, we must commit ourselves daily, no matter how hard, to uniting – and remaining united – at the very core of our true selves.