Articles abound regarding the habits of highly successful businesspeople. It seems for every person who starts his or her own business, there’s an accompanying theory behind why it was successful. While you might not subscribe to the idea that you should exercise first thing in the morning or the superstition to avoid checking your email before 10 a.m., you should consider adopting meditation as a means to success.
But why? What makes meditation a viable tool for entrepreneurs and professionals looking to find even more success in their ventures? Here are a few reasons why meditation might work for you and how it can positively impact your life and career:
1. It encourages focus.
There are many theories on how to meditate, but there is one universal requirement that is consistent with them all: it forces you to empty your mind of all conscious thought, thereby helping you gain and maintain focus. As any businessperson will tell you, being able to clear your head and channel your focus on a singular goal is the key to achieving success.
2. It encourages balance.
Emptying our minds of thought is a great way to mitigate some of the more detrimental aspects of daily life, such as stress, anxiety and discontent. In most instances, these are what cause us to feel off-balance. By giving yourself permission to take a break from these worries, you’ll find it easier to shed your anxiety and negative emotions quicker throughout the course of your day.
3. It encourages mindfulness.
If you’re not familiar with the term “mindfulness,” it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with it. Mindfulness allows you to observe your thoughts and feelings from a distance without passing judgment on them. By employing a sense of objectivity, you can more accurately assess things as they happen and make decisions based on rationality instead of emotion. This is essential for any successful leader or businessperson; you will face a lot of irrational emotions throughout your workday due to stress and other factors, and the best professionals are able to acknowledge these feelings without allowing them to dictate their actions.
If you still have doubts, consider how meditation helped Monsanto in the late 1990s. According to an interview conducted at the Wharton School of Business, practicing mindfulness and meditation helped Monsanto’s employees achieve a “shift” in attitudes “from cynicism to hope.” It also helps dealing with work-related stress, according to professor William W. George at Harvard Business School, who said, "Leaders who are mindful tend to be more effective in understanding and relating to others, and motivating them towards shared goals. Hence, they become more effective in leadership roles."
How to Meditate
There are many different ways to practice meditation, and there are many different theories on what aspects of meditation are the most helpful or beneficial. Despite the number of choices, there are a few techniques that appear to be universal:
1. Find a quiet place.
This is imperative. If you’re going to quiet your mind and free yourself from all distractions, then you have to be in a quiet environment to do so.
2. Get comfortable.
The stereotypical image of meditation that many of us have is someone sitting in the lotus pose on the floor with his or her hands resting, palms up to the sky. While this might work for some people, it may not work for you. That’s okay, because it’s more important to find a position that works for you than it is to simply strike a pose. Some people meditate while lying down, others while sitting in a comfortable chair. The most important thing regarding your pose is that your pelvis is aligned, so this might require you to be more mindful of how you sit or lay.
Comfort also relates to your clothes. Try to wear non-restrictive clothing that makes it easy for you to assume your meditative position.
3. Close your eyes.
This one is kind of a no-brainer, but you can’t really shut out the world if you don’t, well, shut out the world.
Steady and deep breaths will help to quiet your mind and get you focused on your body. It also gives you something to focus on when you’re trying to clear your mind. Concentrate on your diaphragm rising and falling as your lungs expand and contract. You can also visualize your breath by thinking about a balloon contracting and expanding, or as the rise and fall of a buoy in the ocean with each inhalation and exhalation.
5. Get advice from experts.
There are many different avenues you can take to learn more about meditation. You can take a class, participate in guided meditation, read books or listen to podcasts. If you’re just starting out with meditation and are apprehensive, it might be best to get a little more information and guidance before diving in. You may also consider leading a meditation session at work for those who are interested in joining; this also serves to bring your co-workers together.
If you need a little help with your technique or need to practice mindfulness on the go, there are many apps available for your smartphone to assist you. Here’s a small selection to get you started:
- The Mindfulness App ($1.99, for Android or iOS)
- Headspace (10-day free trial, subscription thereafter. Android or iOS)
- Meditate ($3.99 for iOS, $1.99 for Android)
- Breathe2Relax (Free, Android or iOS)
Like any learned skill, meditation will take practice and dedication. If you find yourself longing for some internal peace and quiet, especially due to your hectic schedule or business life, you might want to consider adding meditation to your routine. For some, as little as five minutes a day can have a profound impact.