3 Ways Meditation Can Make You a Better Leader
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Running a business can be an emotional roller coaster ride, and it's easy to get caught up in worries about the future or frustrations with the past. Meditation helps to center you in the present moment, making the trials of entrepreneurship more manageable and the lifestyle more sustainable.
"It's so easy to get swept up in thinking of your marathon as a series of sprints," says Lodro Rinzler, a meditation instructor and author of Walk Like a Buddha (Shambhala, 2013). "You burn yourself out really quickly."
Meditation can help counterbalance that anxiety. By training you to stay in the present moment, it helps you develop patience, approach problems calmly, and treat yourself kindly when things go wrong.
The process of meditating is simple: Sit upright in a comfortable position on a cushion or chair and set a timer for 10 minutes. Gaze at a spot on the ground 2-4 feet in front of you and focus on your breath. As thoughts arise, notice them, but try to just let them go.
The challenge comes in finding the discipline to do it every day, as well as the courage to work through your fears and acknowledge negative patterns or habits. "Be extremely gentle with yourself," Rinzler says. "Obstacles and frustrations come up, but mentally yelling at yourself is antithetical to the whole process of getting to know yourself."
The benefits may be subtle at first, but here are three ways that a regular meditation practice can help you in the workplace:
1. End habitual unproductive thoughts.
We tend to dwell on common issues, such as frustrations about a co-worker, worries about tomorrow's presentation, or regrets about yesterday's gaffe. Those thoughts become habitual distractions, often hurting our relationships and choices. "Meditation is a training tool to help us become familiar with thoughts or patterns that come up over and over," Rinzler says. To break those patterns during your work day, Rinzler recommends taking a 30 to 60-second break once every hour. Look up from your computer and focus on your breath, noticing any thoughts and letting them go. "By doing that, you're taking a fresh point of view every hour," Rinzler says. "That helps you refocus and stay grounded."
2. Focus on who you want to be.
Meditation is a process of learning who you are, who you want to be, and how to get there. Noticing the thought patterns that arise during meditation makes you aware of the habits you have, allowing you to choose which ones to let go, and which ones to keep. That awareness helps you set clear intentions about the impact you want to have in the world.
To add value to the world through your work, develop your business goals and practices based on qualities you hope to cultivate. For example, if you want to be generous, then ask, what does it mean to build a business based on generosity? What actions would you take on a daily basis if you were a generous leader? The values you choose will be evident in the products, companies, and cultures that you create.
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3. Trust your innate wisdom.
Buddhists believe that each of us has innate wisdom, which is the essence of who you are when you act without habits or defenses to hide behind. It's the root of gut instincts, creativity, and inspiration. "When an idea just occurs to you, that's your innate wisdom," Rinzler says.
Meditation helps you access innate wisdom by grounding you in the present moment. As you practice, notice moments throughout your day that feel right or genuine -- that's when you're expressing innate wisdom. But remember that it takes time before you feel that authenticity often. "We can do so many things for instant gratification, and meditation isn't one of them," Rinzler says.