"Study the five factors of warfare: Way, Heaven, Ground, General, and Law. Calculate your strength in each and compare them to your enemy's strengths. The 'Way' is the strong bond your people have with you. Whether they face certain death or hope to come out alive, they never worry about danger or betrayal." Sun Tzu
The big secret to world peace is achieving peace at home.
The definition for home would depend on where the leader (you!) is. That is to say, if he or she doesn't have peace in his or her nation, he or she must focus a level down, which is to achieve peace in the region. If not, then narrow it down to the city. If not the city, then look into the neighborhood. If still not the neighborhood, then the business and household. If there is not peace there, then the starting point is the self.
In other words, if there is peace in the nation, then there must be peace in the region, city, neighborhood, business, household, and self. Now we see why peace in the world is so difficult to achieve throughout history. It all starts by focusing and educating the many selves on how to instill peace within themselves. We teach everyone reading and arithmetic, but gaining the skill of how to handle life's everyday emotions is also important if not more so.
A common problem that causes a person to lose peace is trying to control things that don't belong to him or her. It might belong to other people, who are also doing what they think is beneficial to them. The only thing that truly belongs to an individual is his or her own actions. If one tries to control the actions of others, and when others don't go along, then that is the cause of much grief and unhappiness.
That is not to say that one cannot educate and convince others on why they might want to change direction to better accomplish their aim. People will do what they think is right to them. If they fail to accomplish their aim, and if someone shows them a better way, then they might very well change their mind. As a result, the leader has instilled the Way, where everyone is more learned and is of one mind and direction, much like the agreement that 2+2=4.
The Way (the Tao) is the right way -- the divine, most spiritual way -- because it aligns with the universe. And because it aligns and thus works with the universe, people can gain strength and can fulfill grand goals such as peace on earth.
That is why Sun Tzu lists the Way first in his five factors of winning in warfare. To Sun Tzu, the best win in war is not defeating the enemy 100 times in battle, but defeating the enemy 100 times without ever fighting at all. Some people believe war is inevitable, as if war is part of human nature. Is war truly inevitable when peace is extended indefinitely each and every time conflict flares up, even if it flares up 100 times? Sun Tzu teaches us that extending peace is possible, making war obsolete and foolish in practice.
Going back to the idea of peace at home. Can a world leader be a peaceful leader if he or she is not peaceful at home? It is not possible. So if one wants to win without fighting, he or she must first aim at the heart of the problem, not at its peripheral symptoms.
Too many leaders mindlessly refer to the actions of the past to only solve the symptom and not the cause, and so wars rage on -- as if this was good standard practice. In short, if there is no benefit, stop. Sun Tzu advises us to do just that.
Sun Tzu said people see how victories were won but cannot duplicate the result by copying past actions because they don't understand the underlying wisdom. That's because every situation is different and thus a leader cannot be effective by following in other people's same footsteps. He or she must study and understand the principles and wisdom first and foremost, and then critically think for him or herself in each new situation.
For example, instead of the same old threats and coercion tactics, why not also consider offering an olive branch. This plants a seed of peace in the opposition's mind. It is a surprise that he or she is completely unprepared for. Therefore, this seed can go through walls where battering rams cannot. If it fails to sprout and is rejected, one would not lose anything but a show of strength and sincere kindness. And don't be afraid to accept that olive branch if it is returned. Peace is then extended. Don't automatically fight harder; think harder. Try something new, different, innovative, enlightened.
Anybody can achieve peace at home if he or she puts his or her mind to it. For yourself, at any time, you can simply decide to be kind and pleasant. Unlike other valuable skills, there is no training involved in this decision, only a shift in continual focus. It can be accomplished immediately but it takes effort to maintain. Do not underestimate the challenge here, lest it defeats you and makes you fall back to what's more familiar. Unlearn old knowledge and gift yourself new habits this Christmas.
If there is conflict with other individuals around you, and they are entrenched in their positions, Sun Tzu advises that to make people move, attack what they value most. What is it that would make them more open and peaceful with you? Influence their behaviors by changing your own behavior. If it doesn't work the first time, don't give up -- timing is also critical according to Sun Tzu. In due time, they too will develop healthier habits and see the benefits of them. This is leadership and you are acting the part of the leader.
Like a ripple in a pond, your own actions would have an effect on the actions of others. They in turn will create their own ripples. With much luck, wisdom, and hard work, it will eventually turn into whole waves like in all the oceans of the world.
World peace might start with a leader but it is not the job of the leader, no matter how powerful and magnanimous; it can only be achieved if everyone can begin to see the Way and decide to walk along its path, too. It involves plenty of education and resources. If this sounds too costly in time, toil, and treasure, then we can continue to spend the same amount engaged in fighting wars with even less to show for it in the end.
What a Christmas it would be in the year when we can say "Peace on Earth" and truly mean it. We would mean it when it is not merely a wish but something that we have worked so hard to earn. We must not make the same mistakes of yesterday hoping that things will work out. We must show leadership and make a deliberate decision today for the sake of tomorrow.