In honor of International Peace Month, I thought it appropriate to write about what constitutes peace. Internationally, most people think of peace as the absence of war. Nationally, it may look like bi-partisan solutions to issues with an active, participating citizenship. On an interpersonal level, peace is seen as respect. On an intrapersonal level, peace is defined as the absence of stress.

It’s not “Intrapersonal or Interpersonal Peace Month,” so talk about it? I’m reminded of a song I learned many decades ago at summer camp titled, “Let There Be Peace on Earth.” The last line of the song is, “Let there be peace on Earth and let it begin with me.”

In every situation where there is unrest in the world, you will find leaders who do not have internal peace. Without internal peace, there can be no interpersonal peace when navigating disagreements. Without interpersonal peace, how can there be regional or national peace? And without national peace, how can there ever be international peace?

While it may sound like an oversimplification and a long-term solution, if every single person on the planet made their own inner peace a priority, then there would be no reason for conflict anywhere else.

I don’t like defining the concept of peace as an absence of anything. An absence of conflict and drama are the symptoms of peace, not its genesis. So how does one develop an attitude and inner feeling of peace? From a Choice Theory perspective, inner peace comes from being aware of when your basic needs are not being met and realizing what you need to do to satisfy them, relatively quickly, in a responsible way.

This sounds like an easy task, and it truly is easy to understand. Read or listen to self-growth information and many are saying similar things. We all know we can’t control anyone but ourselves, but where is the recipe for living that knowledge day-by-day? How can we develop an attitude of accepting others and making our first reaction to adjust our own behavior in a way that doesn’t stop people from getting their needs met?

Choice Theory espouses that we all have five basic needs: survival, connection, significance, freedom and joy. They are the same for everyone but we each experience them to varying degrees. For example, connection and freedom are my highest, strongest needs—they shape the choices I make. Someone else could have significance and survival as their highest, or any combination of the other needs. Again, your job is to find ways to get your needs met without preventing others from meeting theirs. Many of us develop effective behavior, meaning it works to meet our needs, but using responsible behaviors requires that you aren’t stopping other people from meeting theirs.

Our emotions are an early signal that our needs are frustrated or satisfied. When your needs are met, you feel happy. When they aren’t, you will feel angry, annoyed, jealous or depressed. When you receive a negative signal, it’s your chance to realize that something isn’t going your way. You have a sense of what you want based on things that are pleasurable and meet one or more of your needs. When you aren’t getting what you want, your system will urge you to do something about it.

Understanding this is easy; the difficult part is to make the choices that will help you meet your needs without preventing other people from meeting theirs. Working to accomplish this moment-to-moment is the practice of applying Choice Theory to your life. One of the challenges is that, as humans, we have learned that it works when we use external control to get others to do what we want. What we often fail to realize is that these attempts may get us what we want, but there will be damage to the relationship, which will cause frustration in other need areas, mainly connection.

The extent to which you can meet your needs without preventing others from meeting theirs will provide you peace. There won’t be stress or drama. You’ll recognize what is missing from your life and quickly decide how to fix things. Sometimes you can ask for a person to do what you want and they will. Other times, you will ask and they either can’t or won’t comply. During these times, to achieve inner peace and strengthened relationships, rather than trying to get the other person to do things your way, you will want to figure out something you can do to help the situation while allowing the other person the freedom to behave as he or she wants.

This is much easier than it sounds. We need to consider all the ways our behavior might be used to get a person to do what we want: complaints, blame, criticism, nagging, threats, punishment and bribes are all external-control behaviors. Sometimes it as subtle as praising someone for doing things your way or holding onto negative emotions to influence the other person to change based on all the pain it is “causing” you.

When you are in relationship with people, you may need to negotiate differences, because you won’t always agree. When this happens, both people need to relinquish their desire to strictly get what they want. When you both place the needs of the relationship above each of your own needs, you can work toward a solution that meets the needs of both parties. For this to be successful, it is essential to develop a mindset of: Yes, I want to win, but I also want this other person to win too.

This task will be easier when you can find a common ground. Consider what both of you want and see if you can agree to a common outcome, e.g. you both want to preserve the relationship, do what’s best for the company or provide the best outcome for a third party. You won’t agree on the “how” but try to define the “what,” or the sweet spot of agreement.

You keep working on a solution until both of you are satisfied with the outcome. This is not considered compromise; in a compromise, both people give up something. In negotiating differences, you do not stop until both parties are pleased and the relationship grows stronger because of going through the process, creating the win/win/win.

We will never have international peace until our nations’ leaders develop this win/win/win mindset. While they most certainly have their thoughts about what is best for their country, they must also be concerned about what is best for the other country they are in conflict with. A win for them means a loss for the other, and where there is loss, there is anger, frustration and resentment which creates everything but peace. The world is too small for there to be disenfranchised individuals, groups and countries. The only workable solutions for peace have the betterment of the whole humankind, not special-interest or high-influence groups, at their center. We must have the global perspective about finding what is good for the collective. It is the only path to international peace.

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