Would You Rather Be Right or Be At Peace?

by Stephen Mills on June 1, 2010


That’s actually a difficult question and one that I struggled with for years and still do to some extent.  In my youth, I would rather have been right.  Now, I would rather be at peace, even though I fall back into my old habits sometimes.

The other day I was reading Andrew Bernstein’s fabulous book The Myth of Stress: Where Stress Really Comes From and How to Live a Happier and Healthier Life and I was reminded of this question.  I highly recommend this book.  It is very practical and I think unique.

Here is the relevant passage:

Do you prefer stress or happiness?  That may sound like a no-brainer, so let me ask it another way.  Do you prefer being right or being at peace?  So many of us are determined to be right, and we defend our positions with the skill of a lawyer and the stubbornness of a mule.  If you’re good at this you may get to continue to be right for years and everyone will know it, but the cost is your peace of mind.

Looking over your life today, can you see areas in which you fight to be right, even though it causes you stress?  There’s a way out of this, but it requires making a choice first.  So, do you prefer being right or being at peace?  I know, you want to be right and be at peace but that is not an option.  You can choose only one.  Which will it be?  Most people who experience stress remain at the bottom of the SPIRAL because of their determination to be right.

One thing to clarify here is that you may substitute “win” for “right”.  Sometimes you can be right and be at peace if you don’t insist on winning.

When I was in my twenties I was a passionate political Libertarian.  I was right damn it, and I wanted people to know it.  I didn’t hesitate to debate politics.  Every time the DemoPublicans in Washington passed a new law I stressed out ; I was convinced that the country was going straight to hell.

Finally, I decided to be at peace instead of being right.  I very seldom debate politics and if my opinion is required it is usually just a simple statement of that opinion.  I mostly ignore Washington.  I don’t want to waste my life on that nonsense.  I’ve learned to let it go.  I decided that I would rather be at peace.  In case you are curious, I haven’t changed my political opinions much in the last 25 years.  I’m at peace with the fact other people think differently.  They are entitled to their opinions and they have reasons for them.  I have made that same decision many times over on a variety of topics.

Some people consider letting it go a betrayal of their integrity.  I used to think that way too.  But it’s not.  It’s a matter of choosing your priorities.  There is value in your peace of mind.

Whichever way you answer, it is an important question.  I recommend that most of the time you choose peace.  I’m fairly sure that when you are lying on your deathbed, having alienated people around you, you are not going to be grateful over all the arguments you won with your superior logic or the time you spent “winning”.  It’s something to think about.

What do YOU think?  Leave a comment and join the conversation.


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{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

aDeeb June 2, 2010 at 12:01 am

Being right doesn’t always feel right.
Being at peace, that is a feeling above all else.
.-= aDeeb´s last blog ..Highly Recommended: Kick-Ass. =-.


Stephen Mills June 8, 2010 at 6:40 am

Thank you for commenting aDeeb. I agree completely.


Positively Present June 2, 2010 at 6:46 am

Great question — and post! Overall, I’d much rather be at peace, but I’m not entirely sure you have to have one without the other. Can’t you be right AND be at peace?


Stephen Mills June 8, 2010 at 6:42 am

Hi Dani. Maybe sometimes you can be both but then that misses the point. The point is that you have to let go of winning. If you have to let others know you are right, you aren’t going to be at peace. Thank you for commenting!


fatima da June 3, 2010 at 3:07 pm

Nothing is more precious than peace. Peace is the most basic starting point for the advancement of humankind ~ Daisaku Ikeda
.-= fatima da´s last blog ..Brainstorming Techniques and Tips =-.


Stephen Mills June 8, 2010 at 6:44 am

Hello Fatima da, and thank you for leaving that thought 🙂


Rishi June 6, 2010 at 10:01 am

You hit it right. I stumbled upon this thought/answer sometime ago but did not know what it answers. Thanks a lot!


Stephen Mills June 8, 2010 at 6:45 am

Hello Rishi, you are welcome and thanks for stopping in to comment.


Walter June 7, 2010 at 7:49 pm

Being right is the negative habit of our ego. In our effort to satisfy our pride we blindly defend a cause that does not actually give us benefit in the end. It’s good that you have realized what truly matters. 🙂


Stephen Mills June 8, 2010 at 6:56 am

Hello Walter, that’s an excellent thought. Thanks for sharing it with us!


Dennis June 9, 2010 at 10:34 pm

Excellent, excellent post Stephen!

Reminded me of this rather good quote from an Argentinian writer, Jacobo Timerman, that I read in the Dream Catcher book, the Salinger memoir:

“”It is a very hard thing to find happiness. Hundreds and thousands of examples exist of how to be miserable, and they are everywhere you look for you to copy. It is easy to be miserable, millions can show you the way. It requires no thought or creativity of your own, just following. To be happy is hard, because no one can show you, it is something you have to work out, create for yourself. No one can give you a model to copy, though many will volunteer, because happiness is not off the rack, one size fits all, it is something each of us has to tailor-make for himself or herself.”


Arlan Berglas June 5, 2011 at 7:54 pm

I love that! Would you rather be right or be at peace? I think I’ll send out your article to everyone I know!


Bkp August 3, 2011 at 11:43 am

Peace is said to pass all understanding… That being said, is being right really that important if you understand all that is involved in the situation. Successful people seek win-win in all situations…. It leads to a longer, more productive quality of life.


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