Meditation: The Newest Choice for a Competitive Advantage in Leadership
It’s no news that today’s CEOs and executive leadership are under an enormous amount of pressure and stress on a daily basis. Stress wreaks havoc on every system within the body, a fact that’s becoming more widely accepted in the world of business. From retail brand founders to CEOs of top tech brands, the regular practice of meditation is catching on, and for good reasons.
Meditation allows our nervous system to shift from the sympathetic (survival mode) to parasympathetic (rest and digest) state. We are faced with stressors all day from work, the toxins in our environment, and our daily action lists. This stress can lead to reduced cognitive ability, forgetfulness, weight gain, angry outburst, and the development of physical ailments.
Dropping into the parasympathetic nervous system is a reset for mind and body. One of the best-selling points for meditation with CEOs and people around the world is that meditation doesn’t have to take a huge chunk out of your day. It can be practiced whenever someone has a few minutes to spare. Not only does meditation allow us to shift perspectives and stimulate a more peaceful sense of being, it also invites us to check our ego at the door. Imagine that, a practice drives ego dropping. Meetings could get so much more productive! Meditation can be a very humbling practice because it’s not easy. It’s simple, but not easy. For most is extremely counter intuitive and against all of our conditioning. But with consistent dedication, you too can reap the benefits that the leaders of large companies have come to rely on for their daily sense of peace and stillness.
Ray Dalio, founder of the world’s largest hedge fund firm, Bridgewater Associates, admits, “Meditation more than anything in my life was the biggest ingredient of whatever success I’ve had.”
Tupperware CEO Rick Goings meditates daily and shared with Business Insider, “For me, it’s a practice that not only burns off stress but gives me fresh eyes to clarify what’s really going on and what really matters.”
An article in the 2005 San Francisco Chronicle quoted Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce.com, stating the reason he meditates: “I enjoy meditation, which I’ve been doing for over a decade. Probably to help relieve the stress I was going through when I was working at Oracle.”
According to her Huffington Post article, Arianna Huffington bridges the gap between business and meditation by assuring, “Stress-reduction and mindfulness don’t just make us happier and healthier, they’re a proven competitive advantage for any business that wants one.”
Not only are CEOs and executive leaders developing this practice for their own sanity, physical health, stress levels, and cognitive function, but many companies are starting to offer meditation classes to employees so everyone can reap the benefits.
So, what are some of the specific benefits to adding mediation into the routine?
Meditation improves elasticity. Multiple research studies have shown that meditation has the potential to decrease anxiety, thereby potentially boosting resilience and performance under stress.
Meditation boosts emotional intelligence. Brain-imaging research suggests that meditation can help strengthen your ability to regulate your emotions.
Meditation drives creativity. Research on creativity suggests that we come up with our greatest insights and biggest breakthroughs when we are in a more meditative and relaxed state of mind. That is when we have “eureka” moments. This is likely because meditation encourages divergent thinking (i.e. coming up with the greatest number of possible solutions to a problem), a key component of creativity.
Meditation enhances your relationships. While stress narrows your perspective and that of your team, and reduces empathy, negatively impacting performance, meditation can help boost your mood and increase your sense of connection to others, even make you a kinder and more compassionate person.
Meditation is a focus builder. Research has shown that our minds wander about 50% of the time. Add in work interruptions, text messages, IMs, phone calls, and emails, and it’s no surprise that employees have a hard time staying focused. But studies show that meditation training can help curb our tendency for distraction, strengthening our ability to stay focused and even boosting memory.
Importantly, meditation is not just “one more thing to do.” If you’re thinking that you have enough on your plate and don’t need yet another thing, consider this advice that Arianna Huffington shared with me. “Although I’ve known its benefits since my teens, finding time for meditation was always a challenge because I was under the impression that I had to ‘do’ meditation. And I didn’t have time for another burdensome thing to ‘do.’ Fortunately, a friend pointed out one day that we don’t ‘do’ meditation; meditation ‘does’ us. That opened the door for me. The only thing to ‘do’ in meditation is nothing.”