Facing turbulence with tranquility
We recently witnessed a natural disaster and a man-made disaster.
Both made many lives miserable. When the outer world is turbulent, how
can we maintain inner tranquility? This might be the answer sought by
millions of managers worldwide. What benefits would it offer? What
answers would it contain? Let us discuss it.
Tranquility is simply the state of being calm. It involves stillness.
Stillness is your essential nature, says Eckhart Toll, the Canadian
author of spirituality fame, reinforcing what many great eastern
spiritual sages said.
The equivalent of external noise is the inner noise of thinking. The
equivalent of external silence is inner stillness. Whenever there is
some silence around you - listen to it. That means notice it.
See to it that when noticing the silence around you, you are not
thinking. You are aware, but not thinking. Eckhart Toll invites us to
experience silence in a deeper sense. When you become aware of silence,
there is immediately that state of inner alertness. You are present. You
have stepped out of thousands of years of collective human conditioning.
The above should shape our thoughts on tranquility. That means its
need and the deed of attaining it. In fact, what needs to be done can be
recognized as a the recipe of the seven Rs, relaxing, reflecting,
revamping, reconnecting, recognizing, revitalizing and reinforcing.
Let's explore those further.
Stillness offers us relaxation in abundance. When our inner world
becomes silent, it is an invitation to relax. It simply allows us to be
aware of what's going on. The key aspect is awareness.
One needs to be aware of the importance of the present moment of
living. Focus is a force for managers to achieve results. Slowly, but
surely, modern managers are realizing that the complex situations they
face cannot be approached in a routine stressful manner. Indeed, the
quest towards higher awareness through deep relaxation is evident.
"If a man insisted on being serious always, and never allowed himself
a little fun and relaxation, he would go mad or become unstable without
knowing it," so said Herodotus, an ancient Greek historian. This is
relevant even today, especially for managers.
In a mind of stillness, the past can be viewed as series of mental
pictures. It invites us to recall the past and to reflect on positive
and pleasant moments. This is all about challenging the assumptions. One
needs to avoid the 'quick fix' trap.
Most organizations will acknowledge the need to be more creative, and
many will be tempted to pursue the 'quick fix' option. Some will, no
doubt, claim that they're satisfied with the degree of success found in
the status quo, while failing to realize the long-term benefits of
developing a strategy that will ensure an ongoing focus on creativity
and innovation to sustain their competitive edge and their very
existence. Will your organization fall into such a trap? When more
attention is paid to the untested and untried and less attention on
routine and the status quo, this situation can develop. When such
creativity is embraced, the key questions become 'What's new? What's
next? What's better?'
Tranquility shares with us a golden opportunity to generate
refreshing thoughts. In an era where creativity is the cutting-edge, we
need to refresh our ideas a great deal to become innovative. Freshness
of ideas is the key that gets a competitive organization going. It
applies to managers and leaders alike.
Consider a pond with a calm surface. When you look down, you can see
the bottom with clarity. When you throw a stone and disturb the surface,
your vision gets blurred. That's when the freshness is gone.
Tranquility invites us to reconnect with nature. Haiku poetry from
Japan is a treasure that brings in this reality. In essence, it is
sharing of one's experience for the betterment of humanity.
In his bestselling book, 'Stillness speaks', Eckhart Toll says, "Look
at a tree, a flower, a plant. Let your awareness rest upon it. How still
they are, how deeply rooted in being. Allow nature to teach you
stillness." It is simply reconnecting with our roots. Managers need such
a refreshing departure to balance work stress with natural bliss.
"It is not what happens to you, but how you react to it, that
matters," said Epictetus (55-135), a Greek philosopher. Inner stillness
is essential to look at things in a focused, unbiased manner.
Tranquility provides us an opportunity to recognize our feelings and
Emotions are feelings and their associated thoughts. Thus,
tranquility is a state where we can recognize our emotions clearly. This
is one of the fundamentals of emotional intelligence. Self-awareness
leads to self-regulation, as Daniel Goleman advocates. Eastern spiritual
masters have shown that to us through their own experience, a long time
Managers can use the experience of tranquility to recognize their
constructive and destructive emotions. Constructive emotions such as
happiness, cheerfulness, enthusiasm help us to progress.
Destructive emotions such as anger, frustration, and jealousy, on the
other hand, retard our growth. Recognizing the presence of both types of
emotions is useful to ensure self-regulation.
Tranquility offers a great deal of freshness. You become renewed and
revitalized. It is like adding vitality to life. "There is a vitality, a
life force, an energy, a quickening, that is translated through you into
action, and because there is only one of you in all time, this
expression is unique," so said Martha Graham, an iconic American dancer.
The more you experience tranquility, the more vibrancy you will have
in your actions. This is vital for managers who need to maintain their
energy to face multiple challenges.
Tranquility invites you to strengthen your values. It reinforces
deeply held convictions that enable you to form your character. "A
person who values its privileges above its principles soon loses both,"
so said Dwight D. Eisenhower.
Values are associated with behaviour.
The Oxford dictionary defines them as standards of behaviour. Stephen
Robins, a scholar in organizational behaviour, describes them, as "the
basic convictions that a specific mode of conduct or end-state of
existence is personally or socially preferable to an opposite or
converse mode of conduct or end-state of existence". In brief, it is a
preferred way of thinking, feeling and doing.
Experiencing a deep inner silence will reinforce your values. This is
crucial when the trend is to move away from values in search of quick
"If a man speaks or acts with an evil thought, pain follows him. If a
man speaks or acts with a pure thought, happiness follows him, like a
shadow that never leaves him." This is what the Buddha preached. In
making it happen, one needs the inner stillness.
Sri Lankan managers need to acknowledge the fact that they need to be
still in order to be sharp and focused. Focus brings results, as global
and local success stories reveal. It should not be an accident but a
concentrated effort in committing time to be with oneself. The inward
journey begins there.
May the managers richly experience the tranquility of stillness, in
making inspired people, interactive teams and innovative institutions.