No matter how long you’ve been in business, you know one thing for certain: you love being an entrepreneur.
You’ve poured blood, sweat, and probably a few tears into starting your business, and you wouldn’t have it any other way.
But one thing is also true: running a business takes a lot out of you. There’s no way to completely separate yourself from your business failures and successes when your business is one you’ve built all by yourself.
Running your own business makes the highs seem even higher, but it also makes the lows feel lower. The constant ups and downs are a lot for anyone to handle.
Thankfully, there are practical ways to combat the anxiety that comes with running a business. One such way is meditation.
While you might associate meditation with an esoteric practice that seems out of reach, it’s actually a lot simpler (and more effective) than you think. Of course, effectively learning to meditate takes a lot of time and practice—but the beauty of it is that anyone can do it.
How do I start meditating?
As with any new habit, the hardest part of meditation is simply getting started. Showing up is half the battle. Once you show up for yourself, you’re already well on your way to an effective meditation practice.
Start simply: sit in a comfortable position (think kindergarten—criss-cross applesauce) and allow yourself to stare somewhere unremarkable, like at a spot on the ground a few feet in front of you, or close your eyes and focus on your breath. Set a timer for 3, 5, or 10 minutes, and try your best to keep your mind clear, letting go of any thoughts you may have.
That’s it—you meditated!
Of course, the same type of practice won’t work for everyone. If you have trouble sitting and meditating without any structure, try downloading an app like Headspace. Or, if you simply have trouble sitting still, check out walking meditation.
And while it may take a while for you to truly feel the effects of meditation, the benefits will show up in all aspects of your life—including the workplace.
Here are 5 ways a regular meditation practice can help you become a better leader.
1. Improve your emotional regulation and intelligence.
All good leaders know how to deal with one thing: people.
You could be as book smart—or cognitively intelligent—as humanly possible, but if you don’t take the time to communicate with and understand your employees, how are you going to be able to lead them effectively?
Emotional intelligence is one of the cornerstones of being a healthy person—and it is also a hallmark of some of the top leaders around.
The key is to empathize and engage with your employees—get to know them and control your emotional responses to their actions. Mindfulness meditation can help you better control these emotional responses, even long after you’ve been in a meditative state.
2. Allow yourself to let go.
You’ve likely heard many times over how important the art of delegation is for effective leadership—and, likely experienced first-hand just how hard it can be to relinquish control.
One reason it’s so hard to let go? A lot of business owners experience anxiety.
Meditation has been shown to decrease anxiety in multiple instances. In fact, it can even come in handy during incredibly stressful work situations. According to an interview with the Harvard Business Review, that’s exactly what happened for business owner Alak Vasa:
“There was this one instance where the market tanked and there was panic on the desk. The trading desk was an organized riot. Thanks to my meditation practice, I was able to keep my composure and propose solutions to reduce the impact of the market crash.”
Keeping your cool in stressful situations is key to running an office, as it signals to your employees that everything is going to be okay—and, therefore, reduces more widespread panic. It also allows you to let go and let others take on work that you don’t have to (and shouldn’t) be doing. Regularly meditating can help calm anxiety in even the most stressful situations.
3. Boost your creativity.
Good leaders and entrepreneurs know how to practice creative problem-solving. They don’t just find one way to solve a big problem—they figure out many potential solutions before making a big decision.
According to research on creativity, we are most likely to come up with creative ideas when we’re in a relaxed state of mind (something that can happen either directly after meditating, or from regular meditation practice). Additionally, meditation pushes us towards divergent thinking, which allows us to come up with as many solutions to a problem as possible.
Creative problem solving is key for business growth, especially when you don’t know what your next step is. In fact, decades ago, the Disney Imagineers called in a renowned meditation teacher, who helped them reach new creative directions that led them to open several theme parks all around the world.
4. Get better sleep.
Some people may associate leadership with little-to-no sleep. After all, Bill Clinton claimed to only get a few hours’ sleep each night. If we’re busy running a company, wouldn’t that necessitate creating more waking hours to get work done?
But times are changing, and so is entrepreneurship. Arianna Huffington’s renowned TED Talk ensures that the key to success is getting healthy amounts of sleep every night.
If your business thoughts are keeping you up at night, considering incorporating mindfulness meditation into your nighttime routine. Your sleep will improve, and so, in turn, will your performance.
5. Train yourself to stop multitasking.
Finally, busy entrepreneurs know the importance of multitasking—that is, being able to handle many things at once. It’s a commonly-accepted “positive” workplace trait, so much so that you’d be hard-pressed to find a resume that doesn’t list it under the “skills” column.
But contrary to what you may think, the key to getting more things done is to try and do less at once. Another term for this is monotasking.
Getting more done means shielding yourself from distraction—something that’s hard to do, especially if your work requires you to constantly be online. Regularly meditating can help you improve your focus and ability to pay attention to the task at hand. (And remember, if you really want to increase productivity, it’s important to have a little fun.)
Meditation may not seem like it’s for everyone, but trust me—it is. Start implementing a meditation practice into your routine just a few times a week, and you’ll begin to notice the benefits sooner than you think.