How to Live with Peace and Power

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I have had the honor and opportunity to bring the Tiara leadership principles and concepts to young people. What started as an experiment while my own daughter was in high school has grown to be a repeated, trusted, effective program at her high school — and not just because I bring fresh baked goods to my sessions, although that does help!

I realized early on that teenagers are longing for the same thing we all are: peace and power. We want to feel calm, harmonious, in the flow, and connected. At the same time, we want to know that we have influence, that our voice, our experience, and our opinions matter.

Through my ongoing work with these wise teens, I have seen some principles emerge that I know will benefit our entire community and anyone on his or her leadership path.

What is peace?

At its most fundamental level, peace is being authentically, respectfully, kindly connected to yourself. When you have clarity about who you are in this moment, where you are in this moment, what you are choosing in this moment, you are calm, grounded, and centered. You may be alert. You may be in an uncomfortable situation. You may be handling a crisis. Yet when we are acutely tuned into ourselves, our surroundings, and our ability to choose, we experience peace of mind in that moment and afterward.

What is power?

During the program, we set aside conventional and past-based definitions of power, which are typically competitive models that result someone winning and someone losing. We practice “power with” which comes from within, is based on being present, connecting with the reality of the given moment, and co-creating solutions that are workable and create positive outcomes. When people are peacefully connected to true power, an interesting thing happens. They actually have greater influence in any realm that matters to them. They are proud of how they cause results while building relationships along the way.

Peace + Power 4-Legged Platform

I know personally, being the mother of an 18-year-old young woman, that it’s not always easy being — or being around — teenagers. I know that they exercise power in ways contrary to what’s described above, and they often seem to be in the middle of chaos. Yet this is not who they truly are and when given a roadmap to navigate their teenage and young adult years with a greater sense of peace and an inclusive leadership style, they shine. They are relieved, inspired, courageous, generous, creative, and brave.

To give them the tools to experience peace and power, I have created this Peace + Power Platform, supported equally by four stable “legs”.

Leg 1: Receiving

Think back to when you were a teenager. What is your first posture in almost every situation? Defensive. Protective. Suspicious. This is for good reason. We are vulnerable at that age, growing and changing ourselves, developing different sorts of friendships and relationships, maturing in our relationship with our parents and authority, individuating as expected. Yet this tightened, resistant, defensive stance causes separation, stress, misunderstandings, and miscues. What we do to defend ourselves often is the very thing that harms us and others.

The first work I do with the young people is to teach them how to safely release their resistance, become present, and receive. When you set down your sword and shield, breathe deeply, and become present, you can be more in touch with what’s happening around you. You are able to receive:

  • Help

  • Ideas

  • Friendship

  • Support

  • Information and wisdom from the present moment

  • And more

Leg 2: Caring

As your child approaches teenager-hood, be prepared to hear “I don’t care” over and over again. This is a defense mechanism that protects young people from having to explain themselves, from being disappointed, from admitting that they don’t know, or for having to do something they don’t want to do. Not caring is a way of detaching. Yet how many times do we remember saying we didn’t care, when there was a part of us that really did? Or we thought we didn’t care, but then couldn’t explain our mixed emotions later when we missed an opportunity?

Teaching young people that it’s OK to care, to have an opinion, to want to help others, to be upset opens up a force to be reckoned with. When a young person realizes they do care, and that they care deeply, they are unstoppable. There are more and more stories of teenagers who make a huge difference in their families, their schools, their communities, and across the globe when they realize they care. What they care about is less important. Caring is the portal.

We also practice caring for ourselves with self-acceptance and self-compassion. These practices build a critical foundation for self awareness, growth, and confidence, so you can access peace and power.

Leg 3: Asking

During our work with our professional clients, we often need to develop their capability of asking and making requests. It is clear that ineffective habits are developed quite early, including avoiding asking for help, making unclear requests, thinking you have to do everything yourself, and making passive observations instead of requests.

It’s a real gift to support young people’s ability to ask and make effective requests. We begin with developing their ability to make requests of themselves.

For example, we inquire into:

  • What do you ask of yourself?

  • What do you stand for in the world and in your community?

  • Are you acting in alignment with that?

We then expand the inquiry, practicing asking others:

  • What do you wish you could ask of others?

  • How do you make clear requests that are thoughtful and solution-oriented?

  • How do you practice making requests and promises from a clean, clear place? When you make a requests, promises, and agreements from a clean, centered place you are clearing the air (instead of polluting it).

It has been a big shift for the young people in the program to realize that complaints and grievances are unmet expectations, assumptions, or requests. Understanding what they heart of the matter is and how to make a solution-oriented request restores a feeling of pride and empowerment.

Leg 4: Giving

Finally, after practicing Receiving, Caring, and Asking, we are ready for giving. When people are fundamentally well, it’s natural self expression to desire to contribute. This contribution can be anything that comes from the heart and a sense of inspiration. It may be a cause you want to support, art you want to create, a project you want to lead. The questions we ask the young people in the program are:

  • What do you want to give in the world?

  • What’s your offer?

  • What can you contribute?

It’s a beautiful thing to see young people realize that their lives are gifts, and that to live with peace and power leads to a life of giving and receiving from the heart.


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Dr. Alison Miller