The most successful business leaders in the world talk a lot about hard work. It goes without saying that it is difficult to succeed without working hard. But all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy, as they say. Well, not necessarily in business, but there is a similar principle in the business world that calls for taking the time to relax and meditate.
Meditation is catching on among C-suite executives. According to Entrepreneur contributor and business expert Deep Patel, well-known executives like Jeff Weiner (LinkedIn), Arianna Huffington (Huffington Post) and Ray Dalio (Bridgewater Associates) all take time out of their busy days to meditate. The question is this: can meditation make you more successful as a business leader? Patel seems to think so, and he has evidence on his side.
Meditation to Improve the Mind
Patel says that evidence shows meditation can help improve the mind. He specifically mentions a couple of studies relating to enhanced learning ability and better memory. If his interpretation of the data is correct, daily meditation could be one of the most important things business owners and executives could do for their companies.
According to the two studies, regular meditation improves memory capacity measurably. It also increases brain volume, especially in areas of the brain known to be related to cognition, memory, learning capacity, and the emotions. It would appear as though meditation may even change the actual structure of the brain in ways that increase both volume and function.
Meditating Toward Optimism
Next on Patel’s list of meditation benefits is a more optimistic attitude. He correctly cites how easy it is to fall into patterns of negative thought, patterns that do nothing more than disrupt the business leader’s ability to see opportunity. Meditation is seen as an antidote to those negative thoughts as long as it is channelled toward the positive.
Patel recommends coming up with a mantra you can use during your own sessions. That mantra should be something that encourages you to release negative thinking so that you can embrace the positive itself. Just a simple phrase repeated over and over during a meditation session can do a lot to break the cycle of negative thoughts.
Meditation to Increase Concentration
It is no secret that people begin to lose their ability to concentrate as they age. Some studies suggest it might be related to not using the brain as much. Think of it in terms of muscle. As you get older, you are less likely to vigorously exercise or regularly do manual labour. You lose muscle tone as a result. Some scientists believe the same thing happens with the brain.
Patel asserts that not using the brain as much may cause a reduced ability to concentrate. He recommends regularly exercising the brain with challenging skills. Working on your brain can increase your mental capacity and improve the ability to concentrate. And the better you concentrate, the more accurate your thought processes will be.
To prove this point, Patel cites research that shows Buddhist monks perform better on concentration tests then most others. Buddhist monks are known for daily meditation that can occur for hours on end.
Meditation to Control Emotions
While the emotions are absolutely necessary to the human existence, losing control of one’s emotions is almost always a negative thing. This is especially true when the emotions themselves are negative. Therefore, it is critical to keep negative emotions in check. Meditation is a good tool for doing so.
A 2016 UC Berkeley (in the US) study referenced by Patel suggested meditation makes it easier to recognise and deal with negative emotions. The study further suggested that releasing negative emotions is easier once they are properly identified. Meditation helps people live in the moment by focusing on those things that matter now, rather than remembering past failures or being anxious over the future.
Meditation for Relationships
Next on Patel’s list of evidence is a 2009 piece published by Psychology Today. The piece explained how meditation is promoted by psychologists as a means of developing “emotional resilience” that makes for better relationships. The paper suggests that regular meditation helps people better understand their own emotions as well as those of individuals in their immediate surroundings.
Why is this important? Because relationships often succeed or fail on what we perceive about others. If we can treat people with a bit more grace and understanding rather than always trying to win the war, so to speak, our relationships will grow stronger as a result.
Meditation apparently helps us reach that state. As such, it also helps make us better communicators more willing to stop and listen. You are less likely to fly off the handle or act irrationally when things don’t go your way.
Meditation to Relieve Stress
Stress relief is the one aspect of meditation most of us are familiar with. Studies have shown that people who meditate regularly are better able to cope with the kinds of things that cause stress and anxiety in the rest of us. When stress is properly managed, it has a number of great health benefits including a lower risk of hypertension, heart disease, and so forth.
If nothing else, meditation helps a person relax and focus the mind. The kind of focus required by meditation does not allow you to think about 100 things at once. Just by focusing on a single thought or action, you can set aside all of the things that are currently troubling you. This will help you relax and be in the moment.
Meditation for Creativity
Finally, Patel asserts that regular meditation is useful for encouraging creativity. He cited one particular study that observed “diversion thinking” in people who were engaged in a particular form of meditation known as open-monitoring meditation. This kind of meditation allows for jumping from one thought to the next instead of focusing on one specific thought. It is believed that open-monitoring meditation encourages creativity.
Ancient cultures have relied on meditation techniques for centuries. It should be no surprise that some of today’s most successful business leaders are returning to this ancient technique to improve their minds, their relationships, and their ability to produce. Daily meditation could be the very thing you have been looking for to improve your abilities as a business leader.