Meditation: A powerful mind-enhancing drug that has no side effects and is completely free
“Meditate?” The hard-driving, successful COO looked at me askance and replied to my suggestion, “That’s not for me. I’ve tried it; I hated it; I can’t do it.”
As a businessperson, if you find something that will improve your organization’s performance, you find a way to do it. Why would your personal performance be any different? Research shows that even brief meditation produces structural changes in the parts of the brain that govern learning, memory, feelings of well-being, confidence and emotional resilience. If there was a drug capable of producing these kinds of changes, we’d be lined up around the block to buy it. Yet, meditation is often dismissed.
We all know that physical exercise is necessary to maintain a healthy body. We may struggle to maintain a regular practice, but we would never say:
- “Exercise isn’t for me.” No. We may not exercise, but for most of us, there is no doubt that we should. Research tells us there should be no doubt about meditation either.
- “I’ve tried it, but I hated it.” I know very few people who started their exercise regime and loved it from the beginning. Meditation is similar; for busy people, it’s hard to sit down and “do nothing.” Like physical exercise, it takes a while but once you start feeling the benefits, you’ll realize it’s time well-invested.
- “I can’t do it.” Most of us aren’t stellar athletes nor can we focus on our breath for more than a few brief seconds to begin with, but if we keep at it, we improve.
Meditation is like physical exercise. It requires a commitment to begin a new routine, and stick with it.
With many of my clients, it helps them make a commitment to meditate when I compare it to physical exercise. The parallels are many:
- Like physical exercise, the benefits of meditation are guaranteed but gradual. We all want quick results and can get discouraged if we don’t see them. Like going to the gym, we all wish we could immediately see improvement in our body shape and stamina, but we know it won’t happen.
- Doing some is better than none at all, but more is better. Meditation does not require a significant amount of time every day. The benefit comes from doing it regularly. Even practicing a mere 5 minutes a day has been shown to make a difference in resilience and emotional agility.
- The trick to establishing a routine is finding a method that suits you. Just as people prefer different ways of exercising, there are many ways to practice meditation –guided, nonguided, sitting, walking, with or without other people. There are apps for phones and a plethora of books and videos demonstrating the many varieties.
- And just like with exercise – “no pain, no gain.” The benefits of meditation come from the act of refocusing your mind more than the amount of time focused. For busy executives, it is painful to “do nothing” and it is very hard to simply focus on one’s breath. But what is important to remember is that it is the act of trying to focus that builds brain connections and they become stronger with regular use.
A healthy body is essential to a long and productive life, so most of us try to exercise and watch what we eat. As business people, though, we don’t work with our bodies – we work with our minds. Doesn’t it make sense we should exercise our mental “muscles” as well? At the end of the day, the hardest part may be just getting started.
Summer is an excellent time to start healthy habits. Many of us take some time off to reflect, rejuvenate, and make new commitments to adopt healthier practices in our lives. I encourage you to consider meditation. I can tell you from personal experience, you’ll be glad you did.
If you are interested in how you might improve business outcomes and your quality of life, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or (301) 943-3074.