Posts Tagged ‘end of an era’

What we still control in these uncertain times

Last night I offered the opening thoughts for a discussion group around sustainability. I took my inspiration from Al Gore, whom I heard speak last week at a political fundraiser in Portland. Gore asked the rhetorical question: This feels like the end of an era and the beginning of a new one, doesn’t it? The audience collectively nodded and murmured yes, yes, it does. It does feel like we’re in the midst of a very dramatic shift right now and are entering unchartered territory. Gore said what we were all thinking.

This helps explains why I’ve been feeling so much uncertainty lately, something I’m sure I share with many millions of others across our country and globe. Endings and beginnings are inevitably messy and halting. And this historic period we’re living through now is bound to be all of that and more. I told my fellow discussion group members that on a walk this weekend, I asked a therapist (my wife) what she would say to a client who’s struggling with uncertainty. She replied, without hesitating, “I would ask them what it is in their life they think they can control.”

Great question. I decided to answer it for myself. The exercise was eye-opening. Even as the economy threatens to collapse and news on climate change grows more ominous by the day, I found within a few minutes of pondering this therapist’s question there was much that remains within my control. Here’s what I jotted down:

my responses

my beliefs

my vision for the future

my stories

my awareness

my actions and behaviors

my intentions

my goals

my hopes

my creativity

my determination

my purchases

I could have kept adding to the list, but the point was made. Yes, we live in a time of great uncertainty and there’s so much outside of our control. More importantly, there’s still so much within our control. This is as true for businesses as it is for individuals. Now is an important moment for those who own, lead or manage businesses to ask what they still control and can accomplish even as customer spending slows and markets and economies contract. It’s easy to move into reaction mode, letting uncontrollable external forces dictate your every action and keep you working in fear of what lies ahead: loss of business income, potential layoffs, maybe even business closure.

Operating from a commitment to sustainability, I believe, provides the anchor in this perfect storm. It keeps our minds, decisions and actions rooted in care for what really matters: the health and welfare of the planet, our employees, customers, communities and other stakeholders. Sustainability is not a line item to be cut when times are tough. It’s a belief in how to conduct business. It’s also a response, vision, awareness, intention, goal, hope and set of actions. All of these things are within our control as businesses. And that’s something we can all hold onto as our world heaves and sighs into a new era.