Calm In Troubled Waters

In navigating our lives, it is our fears and envies, our rages and depressions, our worries and anxieties that steer us day to day. Even the most academically brilliant among us are vulnerable to being undone by unruly emotions.

When the going gets tough, the tough get going. This may be a hackneyed phrase, but it is not to be taken lightly, particularly in the chaotic times we are facing in Pakistan today. The word ‘tough’ sounds like an understatement these days. What we are confronting is nothing less than an economic, social, and political tsunami, on a scale never known before. 

Dealing with a crisis is not new to our corporate leaders. Stories, albeit, few and far between, of their resilience are laudable. However, this time around our country is particularly vulnerable. It is in the throes of a convoluted war waging within and on its borders, inflation is skyrocketing and the energy crisis is worsening with each passing day. And all this just gets magnified when you add poor governance in the mix. 

How do companies survive, let alone prosper, in these hostile conditions? What are our organizational leaders doing in such circumstances? Some are wasting time sharing half-baked opinions on the unfolding geopolitical scenario; while others are steering their ships safely through these stormy waters with an uncanny calmness and eyes focused on the goal. Of course, should we, God forbid, witness a complete breakdown in law and order, our survival instinct will be triggered. The ones with means will try to seek refuge in another country abroad if they are lucky to find seats on commercial flights that are still running; others will hunker down in some safe corner in their homes with a basic ration of food and water, praying for safe times to return. But this is the worst-case scenario. 

In conditions of high risk and uncertainty that are likely to remain with us for many more years, business and government leaders with cool heads are wanted more than ever before. Such leaders are very intuitive and emotionally intelligent. It is in such horrific and testing times, that true leaders emerge. They have the temperament to prepare for the worst while expecting the best. They manage to stay calm and alert to opportunities. Those less prepared are paralyzed by fear in the face of threats to their lives and business. 

Leaders with a healthy sense of perspective have a predisposition to the coexistence of opposites. They believe that our desire for peace and stability, while natural, needs to be balanced by the acceptance of disturbances of all kinds in our environment. What we need is clear thinking, which can only come from a mind that is serene amidst surrounding chaos, in short, stress-free. How is this possible? I hear you ask. You may also be saying that it is only human for a person to lose his nerves in ambiguous and dangerous conditions. Stress, when left unattended causes blurry vision and fog in thinking. We get unduly stressed when our ‘present’ is crowded out by our fear of what might happen in the future, and by the guilt or remorse, we harbor from our past. This includes what we did, and how we now feel about what we shouldn’t have done or should have done, but did not do. 

To allow our fear of the future and guilt of the past to hijack our present is a grave mistake. We need to recognize the value of the present moment and create the space for it in our minds. A calm disposition helps us make quality decisions in the present that positively impact our future outcomes. While I can see you agree with this train of thought, please ask yourselves, how many times you, your friends and associates, end up suffering from tensions, wasting precious time blaming and complaining about the ambient conditions. 

Stress, when left unattended causes blurry vision and fog in thinking. We get unduly stressed when our ‘present’ is crowded out by our fear of what might happen in the future, and by the guilt or remorse, we harbor from our past. This includes what we did, and how we now feel about what we shouldn’t have done or should have done, but did not do.