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Use This Philosopher’s Advice to Transform Your Company


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In today’s fast-paced business world, and particularly within its leadership circles, the quest for growth, profitability and success often eclipses the importance of the present moment. Trouble is, a relentless focus on future outcomes has the capacity to actually hinder personal and professional growth and diminish the opportunity to appreciate the journey itself.

Alan Watts, the esteemed British philosopher, writer and speaker — who popularized Asian and Eastern philosophy with Western audiences — might not be the first name who comes to mind when thinking of business wisdom. However, his teachings actually offer profound insights into the realm of commerce.

Watts wrote more than 25 books and numerous articles on subjects such as personal identity, the nature of reality and the pursuit of happiness. Central to his philosophy is the idea of being fully present, embracing life’s impermanence and interconnectedness and acknowledging the illusion of the ego.

These core tenets strike me as especially pertinent in today’s economic landscape, in part because they demonstrate that not constantly looking to the horizon and the next moment can foster a more fulfilling and meaningful work experience.

The power of now

Watts once advised an audience that, “Life is like music for its own sake. We are living in an eternal now, and when we listen to music we are not listening to the past, we are not listening to the future, we are listening to an expanded present.” As a corollary, in business, success should not be defined exclusively by achieving a desired outcome or reaching a specific end state. Instead, the journey itself should be valued. Doing so can produce numerous benefits, such as heightened creativity, improved decision-making, increased employee engagement and reduced stress levels.

Related: How Learning to Stay in the Present Moment Will Make You (and Your Business) Better

Applying Watts’s philosophy

Adapting these philosophical principles in a professional context might seem unconventional, but they have the capacity to provide fresh perspectives on leadership, employee engagement and organizational culture. Here are some practical ways to integrate them into your company culture:

1. Emphasize the process

Prioritizing process over outcome encourages learning, experimentation and innovation. Watts’ symphony analogy suggests that true beauty and growth reside within the work itself. By fully immersing ourselves in the present moment and cherishing the journey, we can foster a workspace that nurtures both creativity and continuous improvement.

2. Promote mindfulness and awareness

Mindfulness essentially means being fully aware of thoughts, emotions and actions in the present moment. Incorporating that practice in the workplace can enhance focus, attentiveness and resilience while alleviating stress and anxiety. Encouraging mindfulness can also promote authentic and compassionate communication, contributing to a more positive and collaborative work environment.

3. Accept the transience of goals

Although goal-setting is fundamental to business strategy, it’s essential to not become overly attached to specific targets. Focusing too much on the future can lead to neglecting present opportunities and learning experiences. Adopting a flexible approach allows for adaptation and growth as new information and circumstances arise, enabling organizations to remain agile and responsive.

Related: What 5,000-Year-Old Chinese Tradition Can Teach Us About Success

4. Cultivate a culture of presence and interconnectedness

Fostering a culture of presence encourages employees to be fully engaged, leading to increased productivity and job satisfaction — team members develop a deeper connection to their tasks and projects, resulting in more thoughtful and creative solutions. Furthermore, recognizing the interconnectedness of all aspects of an organization can lead to more effective collaboration and a sense of shared purpose. To cultivate this culture, consider offering workshops, training sessions or even dedicated spaces for meditation and reflection — all are ways of investing in the well-being of employees for the benefit of the whole.

5. Navigate uncertainty with equanimity

The business world is inherently uncertain, and constantly evolving. Watts points out that life is a continuous flow of experiences, and that clinging to the illusion of certainty only hinders the ability to grow and learn. By embracing the inherent unpredictability of life, organizations can learn to adapt and thrive amidst change — to develop the resilience and adaptability necessary to navigate complexities.

Related: Free On-Demand Webinar: How to Lead a Company Through Multiple Times of Uncertainty

6. Encourage work/life harmony

In the pursuit of success, professionals too often sacrifice personal well-being and relationships, resulting in increased stress and burnout. Happiness and fulfillment can only be found in the harmony between work and personal life. By promoting such harmony — encouraging team members to fully engage in both professional and personal lives — enterprises will create a more sustainable and positive environment, leading to increased employee satisfaction and retention.



This story originally appeared on Entrepreneur

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