The best business leaders understand the importance of self-care and take steps to ensure that they put themselves first when necessary. One increasingly popular self-care strategy is to incorporate mindfulness and meditation into one’s daily routine. In fact, the American Psychological Association has endorsed meditation as a proven means of reducing stress, enhancing focus, and improving control over emotions, all of which can have tremendous benefits for executives. Further, a number of today’s most prominent leaders, including Bill Ford, Jeff Weiner, Ray Dalio, and Russell Simmons, have spoken out about their use of meditation and its impact on their performance in the office.
Meditation provides business leaders with the following benefits:
A better perspective
Distractions can make people fail to see things clearly. However, taking the time to meditate brings individuals outside of the busy world of running a business so that they can put the issues they face into perspective. When people are unfocused, issues may seem like they are bigger problems than they really are. For example, if someone is worried because sales have decreased, a lack of mindfulness might cause them to panic. However, thinking calmly about the issues could help them realize that this downturn is part of the normal ebb and flow of business. A calmer perspective helps people see what is most important in a situation and keeps them from panicking when it is not beneficial. In the event that profits have decreased because of a problem with the sales team or the product, meditation can help leaders point to the specific problem so that they can fix it.
Because of its ability to decrease anxiety, meditation often helps people become more resilient and perform better under stress. Through meditation, individuals can control their intrinsic fear and panic, which in turn allows them to think more clearly about what they need to do. Panic leads people to make rushed decisions that often do not take all issues at hand into account. However, when individuals can approach a stressful situation from a place of equanimity, they ultimately make better decisions. In fact, multiple business leaders have noted how meditation has helped them remain calm even in high-stress situations. Moreover, researchers have found that meditation practice is actually more effective than a vacation in terms of increasing a person’s resilience.
Improved emotional intelligence
The results of brain-imaging studies have shown that meditation can help individuals maintain greater control over their emotions. To achieve success, business leaders need to be able to put themselves in the shoes of their employees and understand their perspective. Controlling emotions better means that people can hold their own feelings at bay and consider how other individuals must be reacting to a situation. Showing emotional intelligence increases trust between employees and their leaders, which ultimately results in stronger teams. When something goes wrong, leaders need to control their anger or disappointment to better understand a situation and figure out an appropriate response.
Researchers have found that people’s minds tend to wander about 50 percent of the time, even before the normal distractions of the workplace, from e-mails to instant messages, are factored into the equation. Meditation can decrease this tendency toward distraction and help business leaders stay focused on the task at hand. Better focus means greater productivity, which means that investing time in meditation can actually have a positive return. Individuals may find that they actually have more time, not less, once they begin a meditation practice because of the boost in focus that they receive.
People tend to come up with their best ideas when they are in a relaxed state of mind. In fact, some research on creativity directly ties meditation to insight and breakthroughs. Meditation helps individuals go through all of the possible solutions to a given problem, which in turn generates more creative answers. While meditation doesn’t guarantee that individuals will come up with the next great idea, it does make them more receptive to the options that exist. In other words, meditation transforms business leaders into better problem solvers, especially when it encourages them to step back from the stress of a situation and approach it with clarity.
Because the modern business world is so busy, leaders may not take the time they need to really think about what they have achieved so far and which paths might prove the best move for the future. Meditation gives people time to relax and reflect, which often helps them see more clearly the strengths of a company and figure out what steps to take next. Taking the time to consider the future keeps the company on the right track while also guiding personal development. In this sense, meditation can motivate leaders to push themselves and their companies further. Meditation helps individuals avoid getting stuck in ruts and gives them the direction they need to move toward their goals.