Letting go of control. Impermanence in business and life.

Most of us believe that in order to be successful and happy we need to have things under control. This is not just the case for us as individuals. Our society in general is obsessed with control and planning.

Whether directly or through synonyms, the use of this word is clearly omnipresent: self-control, control over something, establish control, lose control, and many other declinations.

In business we specifically express it every time we talk about managing, leading, ruling, handling, dominating, steering.

The idea that we must always have things under control is actually the opposite of generating value, and it often becomes a source of great stress and frustration in our daily business activities.

A similar attitude and approach also applies to our personal life, where we believe we can plan and really have full control of every single aspect of it.

All this results in a great suffering, which we never seem able to get away from.

What is the root cause of this unhealthy situation? How can we transform our approach to live and perform better in our personal and business life?

Several years of business experience in managing different situations at a global level, along with my Tibetan Mahayana Buddhist practice, have helped me understand the origins of this cause of suffering and how to handle it better.

The concept from which I want to start is called impermanence. The Buddhist texts define impermanence as the continuous change of conditions of all material and mental things.

As a consequence of this, everything, including our human life is subject to change and decline. Nothing really lasts and everything decays.

If we mindfully look around, we can easily understand the simple nature of the idea. The human body is in constant evolution and the result is aging and eventually death, and this is the same for pretty much every biological ecosystem.

Without going in depth into the religious aspects of the Buddhist thinking with respect to the nature of life, let's see how this specific part of its philosophy can help us.

According to the doctrine, all forms of existence, with no exception are subject to an ongoing evolution and change, with limited and in most cases no possibility for us to control and influence this natural process at all.

This is the first key takeaway: everything is subject to an unceasing mutation and we have little influence on this natural process.

We need to make this become the foundation of the transformation of our mindset when approaching our daily activities.

Instead of pretending that you have everything under absolute control, and that your to do list will be executed seamlessly as per a definite agenda, you need to mindfully approach the day understanding that things may change, and when that happens, acceptance is the best answer. All you can do is analyze the elements of every emerging unexpected situation, and deal with it the best way you can.

There is another important teaching we can extract from the concept of impermanence that even if more related to the spiritual practice, can be easily brought into our daily lives in a practical way.

As for all beings, our lives are not eternal.

We live everyday under so much stress, mostly generated by a mind that is all over the place, making a great deal even of those things that are not relevant at all, and postponing the most relevant projects to the future. Thinking as if we were going to live forever.

The Buddhist view of this aspect of impermanence is absolutely not nihilistic, rather it focuses on the fact that because we don't know for how long we will be living the present life, we should not lose time and but rather should concentrate our energy on acting positively in the present moment.

This is the second important takeaway, which is the understanding that due to the impermanence of our human existence, instead of fearing every single emerging negative situation, we are better off if we focus on acting positively in the present moment. The unnecessary negative thinking causes us to lose energy.

How can we put this into practice?

Start the day by sitting down quietly for five to ten minutes. Remind yourself that it is not in your power to have full control of all the unexpected daily events, and that no matter what happens you will act with a calm mind and acceptance of things as they come.

The next step is to remember that every moment is new, and that we have limited time to create value in this life. Because of this, fear is never the answer, and our focus should be on making sure everything we do has a positive purpose: helping others and creating value for our family, the business environment we work in, and our community.

A consistent practice of this approach will create a release of the tension we accumulated overtime, a change of the way we see and approach things. The fear of failing and losing will soon be gone, and we will act with a more creative and productive mind.

Federico Foli ©