The hallmarks of the successful businessperson in our society have become action, deals, money, self-centeredness, excitement, distraction, overcoming, doing, and never resting. “I’m late, I’m late, for a very important date.” “Surely I am important. I received 120 e-mails yesterday.” “My two cell phones never stop ringing.” “I need an assistant for my assistant.” “My work is very serious. The family will just have to wait. After all, I am doing this for them, am I not?”

The intensity, the action, and the worry all gather to give the perception of a successful person; self-importance flows from their pores. And once I became CEO of my own company, I thought just like them for some time, despite all my cautions to the contrary. I remember walking up the fourth fairway of a golf course, telling a friend about my plans to leave that evening for a vacation in London. I realized only later that half the reason I chose to go to a place I had been so many times before was to proclaim to him and to others that I was off to London again.

If you are as entangled as I was in the delusion that what you do is very important, you do not yet perceive that anything that is passing cannot be particularly significant. If it is not that significant, it cannot be that serious. If it is not all that serious, it is not really a big deal. If it is not any of these things, how can worrying about it help you to become Mr. Serious? Or Mr. Big Deal?

Another debilitating outcome of an unwitting investment in self-importance is a desperate need to be in control of events. This usually leads to forming preconceptions about outcomes. The greater the investment in such, the more exacting the toll if things turn out unexpectedly.

When something or someone fails you, and you get upset about it, it is you, not it or they, who are missing the mark. Disappointment is caused by an error in perception on your part, not by the person or event that seems to be its cause. Without the confusion engendered by preconceptions, you would recognize only the positive side of disappointment. This is the side that suggests you free yourself from the real problem: your insistence that things or people be different. Without opposition, events and others are allowed to be what they are, no longer disappointing, just what they are.

Let’s say you have just returned to your office after a long road trip and are hoping for a day or two of relative calm. Just as you begin to settle back in, the boss comes in and says, “Sorry, but we have an emergency at the main plant, and I need you in Pittsburgh first thing in the morning. You can catch the seven o’clock flight tonight. See you when you get back.”

Now, while this is reasonably polite, it is also, like much of business, plainly inconsiderate. In such a circumstance, it is likely that at least part of your mind will leap up in resentment and begin something like this lament: “Here I am, exhausted after a long trip, having worked hard and done my very best. And no one can go to Pittsburgh except me? What kind of a one-sided, lousy deal is this, anyway? I feel just about used and abused enough to pack it in. And on and on such “poor me” thinking goes.

Where does this kind of angry response come from? Obviously, despite the inconvenience, this assignment in itself is not a big deal. You have done things like this numerous times before. Yet you find yourself resisting, making it difficult to release yourself from your negative interpretations of what is being asked of you. Why? Because you drifted into unawareness and left your mind unguarded, allowing that thief of tranquility called preconception to enter, plant itself, and take root. Because you unknowingly formed a picture of your day at work on your terms, and the boss came in and took your picture away.

Where is the real problem in this situation? Is it in the directive you received or in the way you are choosing to look at the scenario? If the problem is what showed up without your permission, you are in big trouble, not only in this event, but in everything unexpected that you deem unjust. On the other hand, by being aware that the problem was caused by your own preconception, you can remember your power to change your mind and decide to let go of the issue. Doing so might even lead you to realize that you can make such a choice anytime you want.

This step of awareness allows you to realize that you have a new frontier to conquer (i.e., your mind), which in turn empowers you to decide to meet this goal in the business setting. Now, instead of using instances of disappointment to complain about what seems unfair, you can use them to watch your thinking, becoming a more honest witness to what you may actually be up to. You can develop the ability to watch the storms of upset within your mind rise and fade away, and all the while, you can function efficiently. It takes willingness and practice, but it can be accomplished.

Everything, business included, is neither good nor bad, but up to your interpretation. Learning that this is so will help you enormously. It will help you begin to relax. Then what happens, happens, and you deal with it, after which you wait quietly for the next matter, and nothing more—or less.

As soon as you recognize that nothing is overly important until you make it so, your power to deal impersonally with whatever comes will transform threatening situations into energy for your transformation, changing all that seemed negative in the big, bad world into something positive for you.

Author's Bio: 

Robert E. Draper, went from growing up in a tough, impoverished Bronx neighborhood to the position of CEO of an NYSE company by the age of 35. His new book, The Other Side of Success … And All its Empty Promises, provides essential advice for businesspeople and anyone else looking to find true contentment in the face of life’s many ups and downs.

The Other Side of Success is available online at Amazon and Barnes and Noble, or by order from your local book retailer.

© 2009 Robert E. Draper. This article may be reproduced only in its entirety.