Stephen Covey hopes to produce “third alternative solutions” and empower youth at the Vancouver Peace Summit.

Binaries beware: Dr. Stephen Covey is coming to the Vancouver Peace Summit and bringing with him what he calls “third alternative solutions”.

The author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, which has sold over 15 million copies worldwide, believes we all too often break life down into “either/or” scenarios and fail to realize there is usually a third alternative. Covey believes compromise is one of the most basic third alternatives, which he says also happens to be a necessary component to peace-building.

“A lot of people…think in terms of win or lose, my way or your way,” he says. “I try to teach the idea of how to produce a third alternative solution to problems. Rather than my way or your way, it’ll be our way.

“That’s the key to peace. Not just in the world, but at home and in organizations.” 

Covey is inspired by the actions of Gandhi, who had his own third alternative solution. He broke the binary of fight or flight and promoted non-violent resistance as a solution to the problems in South Africa and India.

Gandhi provided another source of inspiration for Covey – the Indian lawyer held no formal authority in South Africa yet was able to produce great change. Covey is working with schools across North America to encourage children to recognize their own innate ability to lead and to develop third alternative solutions.

“The concept is to get all little children to see themselves as a leader,” he says. “Not in the formal authority sense, but in more of a moral authority sense in that they live by principles and have responsibilities to influence other people.“

Covey sees the great potential of children in the peace-building process and is excited that his leadership education is being taught in over 140 schools today. For Covey, education has a direct correlation to peace. He says the connection lies in, “people really trying to understand each other. We have two ears and one mouth. We should use them accordingly.

“We should learn to listen within the frame of reference of the other person. When we literally do that, defences lower, people get creative and can produce third alternative solutions.”

Dr. Covey will be speaking at Educating the Heart as a part of the 2009 Vancouver Peace Summit.

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