What’s the Big Deal About Meditation?

Over 1000 studies on meditation have shown its positive physical and mental effects and its profound impact on attitude and behavior. Countless articles, blog posts, and books extoll the virtues of what up to 20 minutes of meditation per day can do for us. Will meditation calm frazzled nerves, keep us cool and composed when the going gets tough, give us sharper concentration, make us better listeners, and possibly improve our health and overall well-being? In a word, yes.

meditation and leadership

So Why Don’t We Do It? 

Here are four reasons. The first is meditation seems a little too out there. We think it’s the domain of those searching for spiritual nirvana. In other words, not your regular folks, so we rule ourselves out. The second is that we don’t believe meditation could actually bring about the changes in mind and body – at least not for us – that research shows it can. Third, we are convinced that we don’t have what it takes or feel we just can’t sacrifice the time to sit still for 20 minutes a day. And finally, we don’t know how to do it.

Business Leaders Who Meditate   

Meditation has been undertaken by many since ancient times as a spiritual/religious practice. Since the 1960’s, however, in Europe and the US, meditation has developed a secular route with the outcome being stress reduction, relaxation, and self-improvement rather than spiritual enlightenment.

Business Insider article listed 14 executives who swear by meditation. Among them are Marc Benioff, Founder, Chairman and CEO of Salesforce.com and Panda Express Founder Andrew Cherng, Former CEOs Bob Shapiro of Monsanto and Bill George of Medtronic not only meditate themselves, they both “turned office rooms into meditation spaces” to encourage their workforces to do the same.

Just over three years ago, Google got on the meditation bandwagon when it introduced its seven-week meditation course, Search Inside Yourself, chiefly designed by Chade-Meng Tan, a long-time Google employee and the author of the book of the same name. Each course fills quickly with a long waiting list for a coveted spot. Among the many positive comments participants make about this Google course, one engineer said it all – it’s more about “small attitudinal changes” that can make all the difference in connecting to what’s important in life versus disengaging from it. Meditation gives you that.

4 Career-Enhancing Reasons to Meditate

There are four career-enhancing reasons to meditate that stand out. Every good leader needs emotional intelligence to self-regulate in tough circumstances, to stay motivated and engaged to get the job done, to put themselves in the shoes of others to understand situations from their perspectives, and to boost self-awareness so that they know their own motivations, feelings and desires – a major requirement for self-improvement. Research on the long-term effects of meditation shows that these are some of the many outcomes from a regular daily practice.

What About You?

Imagine yourself 30 to 90 days from now – calm, centered, and composed in any type of situation, clear-headed and confident in front of the toughest people, able to listen and stay focused on what’s important at all organizational levels, and self-assured about where you’re taking your future and why. That’s what 20 minutes a day of meditation can do for you.

If you want to start now, here’s what you can do for the first month.

  1. Make the commitment to yourself to do it. Tell someone. This will help you stay on track.
  2. Create a plan for when you’ll meditate for the next four weeks. Mornings are often best, but any time during the day will do as long as you have a quiet space and 20 minutes of uninterrupted time. Two 10-minute slots might work just as well.
  3. Jot a few notes at the end of each day about what you notice about yourself.

There are several ways to meditate. I recommend starting with Meng Tan’s book, mentioned above. It’s an easy read and geared toward everyday people. You can get a good meditation process going from that. And before long, you’ll see the results.

Photo credit: Shutterstock.com/Evgeny Atamanenko

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