In business, where every decision carries weight and consequences can be far-reaching, one thing remains constant: change. As a 67-year-old CEO who has weathered many storms and witnessed countless shifts in the corporate landscape, I’ve come to understand that there are aspects of life and leadership that are beyond our control. Embracing this fact and being awake to the things we can change is a crucial lesson I’ve learned along the way.
When we believe we must control every outcome, the pressure can be crushing. Every setback or unexpected twist becomes a personal failure. This can lead to chronic stress, anxiety, and burnout. However, when we accept that certain things are beyond our control, we allow ourselves the freedom to focus on what we can influence and let go of the rest.
The Serenity Prayer, often cited in recovery communities, encapsulates this wisdom beautifully: “Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.” As a CEO and the adult child of an alcoholic, this prayer has helped guide me through many challenges and decisions, reminding me of the delicate balance between control and acceptance.
Economic downturns, industry disruptions, price inflation, rising interest rates, unexpected global events like pandemics, even foreign wars beyond our shores can send shockwaves through our lives and our businesses. It is vital to acknowledge that some circumstances are simply uncontrollable. Dwelling on these factors only leads to tension, worry, and wasted energy. We cannot control these events, but we can control how we react to them. Acceptance does not signify weakness, but rather a deep understanding of reality.
Acknowledging life’s unpredictability keeps us open to new possibilities and allows us the freedom to explore different paths – Serendipity – I have written about this before. We free ourselves to dance to life’s music and learn from our challenges.
We build more resilience and are better equipped to overcome adversity if we choose to take action to drive innovation and fresh thinking from ourselves and others, listen to and learn from each other, embrace new ideas and technologies, and always be learning.
In conclusion, while society often equates success with control, there’s a profound strength in recognizing and accepting what’s beyond our reach. This acceptance is not an admission of defeat but a brave acknowledgment of reality. It’s the first step in focusing our energies on areas we can influence, building resilience, and truly living in the moment. Letting go of the burden of the need to control allows space for a more connected way of experiencing our lives.