High-profile executives like Jack Dorsey, CEO of Twitter and Square, and Ray Dalio, founder of investment company Bridgewater Capital, all advocate a practice that helps with stress and burnout: meditation.
Dorsey, for example, tweeted about completing a 10-day silent meditation retreat in January.
Marianne McGuire is an Irish artist and meditation coach who has worked with executives and entrepreneurs struggling with burnout.
Like Dorsey and Dalio, she believes meditation belongs in the toolbox of anyone who wants to manage stress and become more productive.
Dalio and Dorsey’s claims aside, meditation strikes some as a wooly practice that’s unlikely to affect the bottom line.
However, consider this US Statista survey, which reported that 54% of respondents felt stressed or burnt out at least once during 2017.
McGuire wasn’t surprised. She recounted working with a lawyer who felt overwhelmed by problems in her business.
“[The lawyer] had reached the stage where she wanted to give up. Her career had become very dry, and she was depressed about it,” explained McGuire.
“She knew in her heart and soul something was missing. I shared a simple meditation practice with her and guided her to examine what her core desire was.”
After the lawyer began meditating and reflecting on these daily sessions, she learnt how to manage stress more effectively.
“The results were amazing,” said McGuire. “Her business doubled, she received very gratifying feedback from her clients who said: they’d never experienced a service like it.”
According to research published in Science Mag, the human brain wanders about 50% of the time.
In other words, if your mind wanders while your boss talks about the latest sales figures in a board meeting, it’s not just you.
Consider the executive who receives negative feedback about a project from her boss. She may ruminate on this feedback, take it personally and let it affect her performance.
Similarly, an entrepreneur faced with a crucial hiring decision may vet candidate after candidate for months and avoid choosing one.
Both the executive and entrepreneur risk letting overthinking hamper their performance and could benefit from focusing on what’s in front of them, through meditation.
“A focused mind is a productive mind. You don’t want to spend your life spinning your wheels,” said McGuire.
“When you place your attention within…it’ll remind you of the truth about the present moment, and your life can become uncluttered. Unproductive thoughts fall away.”
A simple search on the Google Play and App store reveals dozens of popular free and freemium meditation apps including Headspace, Brain.FM, Primed Mind, Calm and 1 Giant Mind.
These apps mostly involve focusing on the breath for five, ten or twenty minutes as part of a guided or unguided meditation session.
“If [an app] helps you set time aside…great,” said McGuire.
That said, the practice of meditation is thousands of years old and hardly beholden to digital software. Other types of meditation including writing, yoga and even some sports.
“Don’t bother with complicated breathing techniques and the sitting in the lotus position,” said McGuire.
“Start at your head, moving down your body. Down, down, down, and reach your toes. Focus on your senses…’What can I hear, right now? What am I smelling?’”
In short, meditation is a free practice that’s open to anyone, and you don’t need any expensive tools or retreats to do it.
“It depends on your personality type. Do whatever suits you. There’s no right or wrong way,” said McGuire.
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