Looking to increase your effectiveness as an entrepreneur? Here is one trick – meditate. Sitting down (or lying down) for 5 minutes a day to meditate can have a dramatic effect on your business. You will make better decisions, handle adversity more effectively, and feel better overall.
Every entrepreneur should do it.
Meditation has gained wide acceptance in business and is practiced by a number of successful executives. It’s openly encouraged at places like Google and INSEAD. It’s also been mentioned by the Harvard Business Review and many other publications.
Although few people know it, I have actually been meditating since I was a teenager. At that time, meditation was much less popular than it is today. Few people did it, and I thought it was something that only Buddhists, Yogis, or those New Age folks did.
In my case, I was just a kid looking for answers – and an edge.
I have always thought that the key to success lies in self-control and self-awareness. That’s one of the reasons I majored in Psychology, which, by the way, was useless in helping me achieve self-control or self-awareness. Meditation, on the other hand, can provide you with that.
I learned about meditation by chance. My mother is an avid reader, and I was rummaging through her books one day. To my surprise, I found a book about Yoga.
The book had a relaxation exercise that appealed to me. Basically, you lied down, closed your eyes, and started focusing on each part of your body. Slowly, each part of your body that you focus on, relaxes. Before long, your whole body is relaxed. In my case, it worked like a champ.
This piqued my interest and soon I was reading books about meditation techniques and their benefits with regards to problem solving. At the time, books recommended using visualization, while meditating, as a way to solve problems. I gave this a try and got fairly decent results.
Fast-forward a lot of years (I am not telling how many) to the present day, and I still meditate regularly. My technique has changed a little bit, but the results continue. Every day I meditate at least once and often twice. My wife, an attending physician at a local university, also meditates daily. She attributes many benefits to meditation as well.
During my years as a meditator I have seen the following benefits. For starters, it was incredibly useful when I was launching my company, especially when I decided to leave my job and focus on my startup full time. Trust me, few things can be as stressful as leaving a steady paycheck to focus on your dream.
All in all, meditation has been useful at work and in my personal life. Here are some examples:
Calmness in times of stress
Perhaps the most significant benefit of meditation is that it can bring calmness during times of stress. Launching my company has been one of the most stressful things I have ever done. Every day I carved out 10 minutes to meditate, often in the middle of the business day. After a short meditation session, I’d feel relaxed, recharged, and full of energy.
Better problem solving
Meditation can be a great tool for problem solving. I often meditate during stressful times in the business, which is a daily occurrence. I am sure any entrepreneur can relate to this.
This calm that follows meditation often changes your perspective and allows you to come up with new solutions. You don’t even need to visualize. The act of simply being quiet allows new ideas to emerge.
Meditation is great at slowing down our internal conversation and dialogues, which we all have. This gives you a chance to recharge and see things in a new light.
It makes your a better business person
Meditation can turn you into a more effective business person. It gives you an edge when you are dealing with other people, whether they are employees, partners, or competitors.
As an executive who meditates, you can learn to be calm and responsive, instead of frazzled and reactive. You will have a better understanding of yourself and your emotions, and, thus, will be able to manage them to your advantage.
You also learn to become a better listener and be more aware of what is going around you. This gives you an edge in negotiations.
Get a handle on your fears
One major advantage of meditation is that you can use it to handle your fears. Often, you can do this in combination with visualization. I’ll give you two examples – one related to business and the other related to my personal life.
I have used meditation successfully to improve my public speaking and to reduce my fear of flying. I’m a big believer that the best way to destroy a fear is to go ahead and do what you fear. This act takes all the power and control out of your fear. It puts you in the driver’s seat.
This is easier said than done. Meditation and visualization helped me with this.
Every entrepreneur should be good, or at least decent, at public speaking. In my case, I used to suck. Yep, I was bad – and scared – about speaking in public.
However, I eliminated my fear of public speaking and became decent at it by doing two things. First, I took a few public speaking classes. Yes, you need classes and practice. No amount of meditation is going to change that. However, I always meditated and visualized each speech as a success. It worked. Now I am, hopefully, halfway decent. By the way, athletes use a similar technique.
Now, let’s talk about flying. Technically, I don’t have a fear of flying. I love flying. I have a fear of crashing, which is the exact opposite of flying. While this fear is not paralyzing, it’s annoying.
Like my fear of public speaking, I handled this by combining visualization and by taking flying lessons. I learned how to pilot a sailplane. A sailplane (glider) is an airplane that is towed by another plane and then is released at about 3,000 feet to soar through the sky. Nothing gives you a better chance to look at fear in the eye than having your instructor stall the plane at 2,000 feet.
Here are some photos of my flying experience:
Better mental health
People who meditate also enjoy better mental health. It can help you reduce stress and anxiety, which many experts blame as one of the root causes of many common mental ailments.
Needless to say, meditation should be used as part of a plan that is managed by your doctor.
How to meditate
The easiest way to meditate is to sit in a comfortable chair or lie down on a bed or couch. Keep in mind that if you lie down, there is a chance that your meditation will turn into a nap. Then do the following:
- Set a timer for 5 minutes. You can do more later.
- Close your eyes.
- Focus on your breathing.
- Breath in slowly, starting from your belly and filling your chest.
- Wait a second or two.
- Exhale slowly.
- Once the timer goes off, open your eyes.
- Now, get back to work.
During this exercise you will notice that thoughts come at you like a tsunami. You’ll be thinking about work, dinner, a date, or whatever. That is common and it’s not a big deal. Cast your thoughts aside gently and focus on your breathing.
Meditation is not about achieving a blank state of mind. This is a popular misconception. Instead, it is about quieting things down, often by focusing on one thing – in this case, your breathing. As with many things, you will become better with practice.
A quick note. Personally, I don’t like using regular kitchen timers. Their alarms are too harsh for meditating. Instead, I use an app called Insight Timer. The meditation timer of Insight App is free and has a pleasant gong to start and end a meditation. Just a personal choice. In the end, any timer will work.