Appreciation of impermanence creates the opportunity for personal and business growth
Every aspect of our lives is in a state of transition; it always was and always will be. Our macro and micro-environments are in a state of constant change. Nothing is ever the same or ever will be as it is always changing. This is the essence of the ancient Buddhist teaching Annica or impermanence.
Annica or impermanence is one third of the three marks of existence in Buddhism. Impermanence is a Buddhist doctrine that states, all of existence is “transient, evanescent and inconstant.” Further exploration of Annica teaches us that not getting attached to things is a powerful and relieving way to live your life. Hoping things would stay the same is not beneficial to you as they are always changing. Therefore, understanding and truly appreciating impermanence will make it easier for you to approach change. Doing this makes it easier to enjoy the moment more and let things go.
The concept of impermanence describes how everything that can be experienced is in a state of flux. When we truly appreciate this concept, then we can truly appreciate our experiences. An example of this would be, enjoying the bloom of a cherry tree because it lasts for one week of the year and not being disappointed when it’s over. The cherry tree bloom is not just visually beautiful but inherently beautiful because it only lasts for one week of the year. The scarcity of the bloom and being able to appreciate it while it lasts is the essence of impermanence.
This can be relevant in a business sense as leaders are constantly faced with hard decisions, such as; lay-offs, cutting off unprofessional clients and expansion. Even a slight understanding of impermanence can make these hard personal or business decisions easier, as through the appreciation of impermanence you now have a greater ability to enjoy life in the moment more and be happier when those good moments are gone.
Can life be compared to a river?
The Buddha compares the concept of impermanence to seeing life as a river, a series of moments merged together, giving us the impression of one continuous flow. “The river of this moment is not going to be the same as the river of the next moment.” Like life, it’s changing constantly and is always moving from one moment to the next.
When we step back from the immediacy of modern life and look at our own river and see the direction of our own current we can plan accordingly. This gives us greater foresight which is essential for strategic planning and even just gaining greater clarity of what you want to do.
We can compare the analogy of the river and ourselves as part of it in a business sense. In business it is very easy to get caught up in the day to day operations and what is going on in the now. We therefore forget to step back and look at the bigger picture as a result and miss out on the upcoming opportunities. Making informed strategic choices will enable you to plan accordingly. In business and your personal life this can be highly beneficial as it enables you to approach upcoming change more effectively. The benefit of making informed strategic choices is immense and in terms of your business, constantly reviewing your strategy will open new opportunities which you may not have originally identified.
The relevance of impermanence
Looking back, I could have benefited from a greater appreciation of impermanence when I left school to work in Africa. I had one role lined up working in a dry-cleaning business, however this role wasn’t permanent and nor did I want it to be as you can imagine, so whilst I was there I needed to find another job. This caused me a certain level of anxiety at the beginning as I wasn’t sure what I’d be doing for most of my time abroad. I didn’t even know what I could do or what was available for me to do. After a few hectic weeks of searching I found a job on a safari reserve which turned out to be an almost life changing experience. From this I learned so much in terms of personal and professional development.
Looking back if I had understood impermanence better I could have appreciated my first job more and been more open minded and focused on the benefits of what it had to offer and what I could have learnt rather than unnecessarily stress about what I was going to do next. I would also have embraced the transition from one job to another with greater ease.
Annica teaches us that; humans, their actions, thoughts and experiences are part of this universally constant flux. Humans cannot escape this process of change and must, therefore embrace it. Understanding impermanence allows greater room for gratitude. Appreciating every moment and understanding that everything you experience is not going to last forever is fulfilling.
This enables you to be truly grateful for any temporary experience. We don’t attach our happiness onto something staying the same. Instead, we learn to appreciate what we have, while we have it, because we know it won’t last forever. We savour things more when we know they’re temporary. This will make you happier and has the potential to really improve your life. Ultimately by being ever mindful of impermanence, we will value things more.