Peace is something that we all say we want, but few of us actually possess. What makes peace so elusive? Perhaps peace eludes us because we do not understand what it is or we do not chase it with the same fervor as our other goals. In this article, I’ve invited four female winners of the Nobel Peace Prize to teach us what they know about peace. From closely observing their lives, we learn how we too can become women of peace.
There are nine women who have won the Nobel Peace Prize. For the sake of brevity, I’ve only presented four of these award winning women here. They come from various nationalities, religious traditions, and socio-economic statuses. Yet, each of these women distinguished themselves by living a life dedicated to peace. There example encourages others to do the same.
Mother Theresa received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979. Born into an Albanian Roman Catholic family in Yugoslavia, she felt called as a teenager to a life of service to the poor and disenfranchised. At the age of 18 Mother Theresa left her family and country to live a life of service in Calcutta, India. She worked with people who were not of her race, religion or nationality. Mother Theresa committed herself to working with the poorest of the poor. She established a new order, Missionaries of Charity, to do precisely that. Missionaries of Charity soon spread to many other countries. This order mobilizes thousands of people around the world to join Mother Theresa in her mission of peace.
Jane Addams was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1931. Jane Addams was born in the suburbs of Chicago to an affluent and privileged family. Addams is known as one of the founding mothers of sociology and social work. Although she considered herself a sociologist, Addams chided the profession of sociology for its elitism and sexism. She advocated a vision of academic knowledge used in the service of society. She wanted sociology to solve some of our world’s most pressing problems, such as poverty and war. Addams was a lead advocate on both these issues.
Addams founded the country’s first settlement house: Hull House. Hull House provided comprehensive community based services to low-income and immigrant families in Chicago. Hull house became the model for social service delivery across the country and around the world. Addams also regularly lectured on peace and the need to end war in this world. She served as the president of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom for a decade. Through her teaching, writing, and organizations, Addams embodied the virtue of peace and encouraged others to do the same.
Aung San Suu Kyi was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991; but she could not be present to accept it because she was imprisoned by the military dictatorship of what is now Burma. Aung San Suu Kyi was imprisoned for her leadership role in a peaceful, non-violent, social movement for the liberation of her nation of Burma. She modeled her life of peace based on the tactics of Gandhi and her father Aung San who was also a leader in the liberation struggle. Aung San Suu Kyi continued their legacy of peace, holding tight to the principles of democracy, respect for human rights, reconciliation between groups, non-violence, and personal and collective discipline.
In 1992, The Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Rigoberta Menchu Tum “in recognition of her work for social justice and ethnocultural reconciliation based on respect for the rights of indigenous peoples.” Tum is a Mayan Indian born in Guatemala. Military soldier murdered her mother and brother and burned down the building where her father and his compatriots were gathered in peaceful protest. This pervasive regime of state sanctioned violence led Tum’s remaining sisters to join the guerrilla resistance force. Yet, Tum remained steadfast in her commitment to nonviolent resistance.
Even when personally confronted with such brutal violence, Rigoberta Tum refused to perpetuate that cycle. The chairman of the Nobel Peace Prize Committee describes Tum as “the shining individual examples of people who manage to preserve their humanity in brutal and violent surroundings, of persons who for that very reason compel our special respect and admiration. Such people give us a hope that there are ways out of the vicious circle.”
So what do these women of peace have in common? What do these patterns tell us about the necessary components of peace?
These women shared a unshakable believe that the world should and could be better than it was in the present. They believed in the intrinsic value of human life and worked diligently to preserve that life. It did not matter if the life represented a gender, racial, ethnic, religious, political group different than their own. Their commitment to peace required these women to challenge the social, economic, and political systems threatening the well being and security of others. This shared faith in the value and dignity of humanity comes from a variety of different religious traditions as well as secular humanism. The virtue of peace itself models the common brotherhood and sisterhood of all humanity. It is only once we realize this that we can ever posses peace.
These women did not have easy lives. Their commitment to peace cost them dearly. Sometimes it costs them their freedom and security. For others it costs them their personal and professional relationships and social standing. Many of the women who won the Nobel Prize were unable to make it to the presentation ceremony because of exile, imprisonment, or deteriorating health. These women had given their all in the service of others and we continue today to reap the benefits of their labor.
These women worked diligently for peace in the face of strong opposition. They did this because they believed that their goal would eventually be realized. Their faith in evident in their clear resolution to struggle against odds, to withstand various disappointments and defeats, and to never to give up. In the Bible, the Apostle Paul writes about this type of faith when he encourages his fellow believes to do all that they can and then to stand. Stand in the confidence that God is standing with you and is working to bring about the peace you seek. Although the women of peace presented here come from various religious traditions, they each demonstrated great, unshakable faith.
It is precisely that unshakable faith that gave these women the courage to act in such dangerous times. It took great courage for Aung San Suu Kyi and Rigoberta Menchú Tum to stand up to the soldiers who threatened them. It took courage Mother Theresa to commit to living the rest of her life in a foreign land with people who did not share her culture, religion, ethnicity, or social standing. Jane Addams demonstrated great courage in her decision to commit all her talents and resources in solving a problem that most people thought of as “the natural way of things.”
We honor these women of peace because they symbolize the best in us. They are ordinary women who have done extraordinary things. They show us the beautiful and powerful pieces of ourselves that may have been forgotten or overlooked. So how can we use their legacy to help us practice lives of peace?
It does not matter if others agree with or can see your vision. Women of peace have learned how to focus in on their vision of the beauty and dignity of life, in spite of the brutality that surrounds them. They know that even if others may be living according to such base motivations, there is an underlying reality that is more beautiful and more true. This vision fuels their actions and empowers them to create the world they already see within.
You too possess this creative power. Whatever you focus on will direct your behavior and magnify its presence in your life and in our world. It requires effort to see beauty in the midst of brutality. The fact that others do reminds us that this too is our choice. The lives and legacy of these women of peace show us that this is also the most effective choice. As Dr. Martin Luther King said: “Hate can never drive out hate; only love can do that.”
You have the power to choose your vision. What do you see?
You do not create the life you seek by merely wishing it. It requires consistent and sustained action. We learn from the lives of these women that peace is not a passive attribute. Peace requires action. We create peace for ourselves and others based on the choices that we make each day.
Many times the choice for peace is the more difficult choice. It is easier to go with the flow and model what everyone else is doing. But everyone else does not have peace. They do not see your vision of life as it can be. Thus, they need you to show what is possible. Our world needs for you to “bring peace” with you so that we can see a better vision of life as it can be.
The fact that others don’t already see your vision means that you will need faith to carry it through to reality. Your faith in your vision, yourself, and the righteousness of your cause empowers you to stand in the face of opposition. Whether that faith is grounded in a specific religious tradition, a more general spirituality, or a secular humanism, your faith ensures your victory.
Most people do not believe that peace is possible. I see this in the political discussions of nations eager to go to war. I see our eye for an eye thinking in the street code of violence or public discussions about the death penalty. I see the lack of faith in peace in our tolerance of poverty and injustice. While we might say that we want peace, most of us think of it more like a children’s fairytale or Santa Claus.
But there are some of us who believe in the practical reality of peace. Like these Nobel Peace Prize winners, we know that peace is not just a way, but the only way to ensure our individual and collective well-being and survival. If you share this faith, guard it dearly. Protect it against the cynicism, fear, and apathy that would try to undermine your vision. Faith is the bullet proof vest that you can use to protect your vision for peace.
Courage does not mean fearless. Courage is the ability to act in the face of your fears. Courage empowers you to follow your internal compass when it leads you on a path different from those around you.
These women of peace were also women of courage . There vision of what should be inspired them to act courageously in the face of the world as it was. Their courageous action inspired others to do the same. Your individual actions posses that same power to enact change and to inspire others to do the same.
There’s no need to wait for someone to say or do something about this situation. You are here. Stop waiting, step into your vision, and act courageously. Others will be blessed by your example.
I’d love collecting stories of inspirational women; some famous and some unknown. Please share believe your personal role models of peace. You might also like to post quotes or resources that help you to live a life of peace. Thank you for demonstrating the faith, hard work, and courage that it takes to make your vision a reality!
Is perfectionism robbing you of your dreams? Do you have a dream of doing something that you you have yet to begin? Are you waiting for the perfect opportunity to pursue your dream? Are you waiting for your skills, ability, and confidence to be at 100% before you begin?
Waiting on perfection gives you 100% certainty that you will never achieve your goal. Here, I share some helpful techniques to free you and your dreams from the trap of perfectionism.
You can’t wait for change to happen. You must get involved in continuous intentional action if you want to produce the change you seek. Stop waiting on your ship to come. Stop waiting to hit the lottery. Stop waiting for the approval of others. Stop waiting to be a certain age or a certain size before you go after your dreams. Stop waiting.
These dreams were invested in you because you have the ability to bring them into fruition. You don’t need the approval of others. You don’t have to wait for them to see or catch your vision. It is not their vision and they might never see it until you bring it into reality.
It is your responsibility to act on your dreams, no one else’s. You can use the support of others, but you do not need their permission. This is your life and it will produce what you believe about yourself and your world.
You are a vessel for a dream. It lives in you. It shines through your eyes. You are responsible for letting it out.
There are so many people waiting for the “right time” to make a change. Basically, they are waiting for a time when they think they can make the change comfortably. When my kids are older…when I have more money….when I retire.
Tomorrow is not promised to any of us. All we have is today. Today is your opportunity to begin investing in your dreams. Today is your chance to use your gifts to operate in your life purpose.
You can not change the past and you do not know your future. Yet, if you fully use the opportunities you have available to you in the present, you will experience happiness and meaning today.
You can create a series of meaningful and happy days which build a life of meaning, purpose, and joy. But you do not start building that life tomorrow, you begin now. The present is the greatest gift you will ever receive, accept it with gratitude and use it wisely.
Perfection demands that we see and know all the details of how we will accomplish our goals before we are willing to begin. Faith means being clear on our purpose and trusting that we will receive all we need as we embark on the journey.
All stories of epic journeys show the hero beginning the journey without the necessary ingredients to complete the quest. Yet the hero is clear on the mission and determined to fulfill it. Through the adventure, the hero meets people, gains the tools and knowledge needed to accomplish the goal. These resources are acquired in the process of the adventure, not before.
You are the hero of your own story. There is a quest that is specifically charged to you. Your quest is the substance of your dreams. You do not have all the resources you need now to complete the quest, but you will gain them through the journey. That is what makes it an epic story.
You will be so much stronger, wiser, better as a result of your journey. But you can not wait until you are stronger, wiser, better, to begin. You must start now.
Now is the perfect time to begin the journey. You are the perfect person to complete the journey. No matter how messed up your life looks like now, you are the perfect hero.
Heroes are not without flaws or challenges. In fact, it’s their flaws and challenges that make for a compelling story. These are the elements of tension in the story that make it exciting to read. These are the qualities that endear us to our heroes. It allows us to rejoice so enthusiastically when our hero wins.
Own your hero story. Do not allow the challenges of your current situation to convince you that you are not the person or that this is not the time. These current challenges will make the story of your journey exciting and inspirational to others when they hear it. We will all rejoice together as you complete your epic quest.
There is always something that can be done to move you closer to your dreams. Instead of waiting, commit to starting now. What can you do today that is a tangible investment in accomplishing your dream?
If your dream is starting your own business, that one step could be buying a book on entrepreneurship. Or it could be committing to saving 20% of your income to fund your business. It could also be downloading sample business plans for your industry. You get the point. Write it down and then do it.
As you put your dreams into motion, ask yourself how you can expand on the activity you’ve already done. Continually ask yourself, “what’s next?”
You do not have to have the entire plan laid out before you begin. As you start acting on your dreams, your needs and your opportunities will become more clear. Develop a regular habit of staying engaged in daily action toward your dreams.
Each day is an opportunity to steer yourself in the direction of your goal. To come closer and closer to the desires of your heart.
Think of your activity as small, masterful bootstrapping. You are in continual movement toward your goal. As you get closer, the next steps will become clearer.
I want you to build such momentum for your dream that when opportunity comes, you are already running to meet it.
It is completely possible for one small spark of action done on one completely ordinary day to totally alter the shape of everything that follows. Take advantage of this possibility for your life. Commit to daily action combined with the intention of achieving your dream. If you commit to building this daily momentum, your dream can become your life!
I wish you great success in your hero’s journey. I know that you are able to complete your task if you are willing to begin and to maintain your daily action.
You have the ability to make your tomorrow happy; start today!
People who are successful in life and their careers have mastered the skill of saying no. They don’t say no to everything. Instead, they say no to people, projects, and activities that are in not line with their core values and life purpose. In this article I share how this simple word can help you create balance in your life and work. I also share two easy techniques to help you develop the habit of saying no to everything that is not in line with your core values and purpose.
Early in my career as a college professor, I was overwhelmed with service obligations. I was new on campus and everyone wanted to take advantage of my new energy and areas of expertise. They frequently invited me to participate in their projects, classes, and committees. Additionally, the fact that I was also one of a handful of black faculty on campus meant that I was the first person to come to mind for any request related to diversity.
Service is my way of life. I am always looking for ways that I can add value to others through my unique gifts and talents. I was also eager to get to know and work collaboratively with my new students, colleagues, and administrators. But the expansiveness of my service and teaching obligations made it difficult for me to find time for my research, my family, and my other life priorities.
I quickly learned that I needed to perfect the art of saying no if I was going to be able to thrive in this career and in all the other areas of my life.
Developing the habit of saying no to most request was difficult for me and is challenging for many of the women I work with. Many of us pride ourselves on being helpful to others. We are also very concerned about hurting others feelings or disappointing them. However, once you fully understand the value of saying no, it becomes clear that this is a loving and compassionate act for you and others.
By saying no to most request, we protect our time and energy. This enables us to say “yes” to things in line with our core values and life purpose.
We all have a finite amount of time and energy. Spending time on a non-priority project provides less time for our high priority projects. Many of us are overwhelmed because we are doing too many activities. When something that we really want to do comes along, we add it to the list because it’s too great to pass up. But adding to a crammed schedule means that we will not have the focus and energy to do our best in this activity. We may not even enjoy it as much because we’re exhausted from all the other activities jammed into the day.
Often times we don’t want to say no because we don’t want to disappoint the person making the request. Just imagine how disappointed they will be when you don’t complete the job. What about when you don’t do your best work because it’s not high on your internal priorities?
People make requests of us because they value our talents and competencies. They expect us to bring our best game to the requested project. That’s difficult to do when it’s not something that we value. This is what often leads to “forgetting” to do an activity or missing a deadline on a project. It may seem as if we are disorganized or too busy. But in fact, we are unwilling to prioritize that activity given our limited resources. If we communicated this to the person at the time of the request, they could have found someone else who could focus on the activity. But, now they are doubly angry. First, because their activity didn’t go off as envisioned. Second, because they believe that you are the reason that it didn’t.
It is disingenuous to accept a project that is not in line with our purpose and values because we can not do our best work. It’s better to say “no” upfront. We will experience a smaller level of disappointment compared to the disappointment later in the process when we haven’t performed our best.
Resentment occurs when we feel out of control. Saying no helps us to regain control of our life choices. This prevents our growing resentment of others for the choices we make.
Accepting projects based on other people’s values and priorities creates resentment. We act as if they “made” us do something. This resentment is compounded if we think that they are not grateful for our “sacrifice”.
When you do things because they are in line with your purpose and values, you’re not disturbed by the outcome.
If the outcome is different than you expected, or if others don’t appreciate it, you still believe it’s valuable. It’s always nice to have your work valued and appreciated. But when you work on things that you value, it is already valued and appreciated!
We do our best work when we are focusing on projects and activities in line with our core values and life purpose. This is how we get in the flow. In flow, we are fully engrossed in a activity that we find intrinsically meaningful. As such, we are willing to go the extra mile to achieve optimal results.
Also, we gain energy when we work on activities in line with our purpose. This energy enables us to remain engaged in action. It also provides us with creative insight that isn’t available to people with more peripheral interest.
Have you found that when others tire and shut down, you can sustain your engagement? Are you able to see possibilities and opportunities more clearly than others? This resilience and problem solving ability comes from your sincere passion and curiosity. It is easy to do your best at things in line with your purpose. Your passion gives you the curiosity, insight, and motivation needed to excel.
Reflecting upon how you feel after an activity is an indicator of its relationship to your purpose and values. If you feel physically tired but emotionally energized, you are likely doing something in line with your purpose. If you feel drained and depleted, you’re probably not working within your purpose.
While the work may not be easy; it is easy to excel at activities in line with your purpose.
You owe it to yourself, and others, to only accept projects that bring out your best. This is where you can make your greatest contribution.
You understand why it’s critical to say no on a regular basis. Now let’s consider how you are going to build that habit into your life. Having “yes” as our default position has become a habit for many of us. That bad habit is not going to change without intentional intervention.
I’ve listed two proven strategies to help you address your habitual yes. These techniques will shift your default response from “yes ” to “no to anything that is not in line with my purpose and core values”.
Fasting means to refrain from food or activities for a specific period of time. The purpose of the fast is break existing habits. It is also intended to promote reflection and introspection.
Taking a yes fast means that you will say “no” to all requests of you for a specific period of time. That period may be a month or a year. I suggest at least a month so that you can say “no” long enough for it to become your new default. It will also give you enough time to observe the consequences of saying no. This will help you become more comfortable with the new habit.
At first saying no may feel very uncomfortable and others may exert even more pressure on you. This is especially true if you’ve developed a habit for saying yes. But, staying the course will allow you to observe that others’ can adjust and the world will go on. Although you may believe (or people may suggest to you) that you are the only one who can do this activity.
Saying no allows you to see that other people really can step up and do the activity. Or if the activity doesn’t occur, perhaps that’s fine as well. Perhaps that was not the best way to meet the need/goal anyway.
This will be a scary experience in the beginning.
Developing a habit of saying no requires both faith and courage.
Faith to believe that you really are meant to do those things in line with your life purpose and core values. Courage to protect the space to do that. Your faith and courage will reward you with increased time and energy. This reclaimed time and energy can be invested developing yourself and your purpose.
If the thought of saying no to absolutely everything is too scary for you, set a narrow parameter. Your parameter should require you to say no to 90% of new requests but allows a small fraction to still get a yes.
After my early years of teaching, I realized I needed to change from my default yes. But, I felt unprepared to go 100% cold turkey no. After discussing this with my trusted friends and mentors, I decided to say no for an entire year to any request that would take more than two hours of my time. The two-hour time limit included the time to prepare and participate in the activity. This was a very difficult thing for me to do. I called my closest friends on a weekly basis with all the reasons why I should make exceptions to my rule. Thankfully, I have great friends who continued to remind me of my commitment and why it was important.
With the help of my support team, I was able to stay the course. By the end of the year, my default was no longer “yes”. I was able to experience the value added to my life of saying no to the many “good, but not purpose-driven” requests made of my time.
Another option to help you move from a default of yes is to establish a No Committee. The No Committee takes the stress away from you of deciding whether to say no.
You select close friends and family members that know you, your work, and your life well. You then explain to them your intention of saying no to non-purpose driven activities. Clearly articulate to the No Committee your life purpose and core values. This will become their guide for all their decisions. Inform them that you commit to abiding by the decisions of the committee.
Because the committee is made up of people who love you (but are not you) they can evaluate the request with emotional distance and clarity. They agree to compare the request to your established priorities and core values. Then make their decision based whether the request is line with your purpose.
The No Committee must have an odd number so that there is never a tie. The committee must agree to respond with a quick turn-around to any request that you pass along to them. I’ve served on a No Committee for years. I have found it a useful and effective way to support my loved ones in achieving more balance in life and work.
Your balanced life can begin today! It requires you to prioritize activities related to your purpose and core values. Say no to everything else! You’ll be amazed at how you can increase your impact on the world and your own happiness. If you’d like other resources to help you better manage your time and balance your energy, check out my YouTube videos on time management and emotion management.
Share you thoughts on effective strategies to create balance in your life. Let’s keep the wisdom flowing! Comment below.
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