The life of an entrepreneur is often riddled with anxiety, stress, lack of sleep, and an overdose of caffeine. While a fast-paced environment and hard-working attitude are often what leads an entrepreneur to success, over time, it can be the very thing that causes burnout.
A growing trend amongst entrepreneurs is the practice of meditation. Listening to interviews with notable entrepreneurs such as Tim Ferriss and Kevin Rose, I have been hearing more and more how successful founders are relying on the benefits of meditation to keep them grounded in the midst of an often chaotic environment.
Why Meditation is Good for Entrepreneurs
I used to think that meditation was simply for people that lived outside of Western culture, or had a strange spiritual belief system that didn’t jive much with my own. Upon further research, it turns out that meditation doesn’t have to be a spiritual experience at all (although it is for some), but simply an exercise of the mind to clear thought patterns, focus on a specific word or idea (called a mantra), or simply to observe the thoughts that come to mind when it is relaxed.
To many who practice meditation, the focus is on achieving calmness, and a sense of inner balance. This benefit comes from meditation’s ability to train the mind to let go of things that it cannot control, leading to what has been called a “liberated” or “enlightened” life.
For entrepreneurs, meditation can bring about the following benefits:
- Relaxed State of Mind - By spending even 10 minutes in meditation each day, the entrepreneur experiences a brief moment where the demands of the day are put on hold.
- Greater Confidence - By being still and removing distractions, the entrepreneur often gains a deeper perspective that removes the negativity that can be a barrier to self-confidence. Enabling them to take more risks and move forward where others are paralyzed by fear and doubt.
- Reduced Stress - Negative stress is often a byproduct of juggling too much and not taking any time-outs to gain perspective. The discipline of regular meditation forces the entrepreneur to give the mind a “power-nap”, refreshing it to handle the demands of the day.
- Increased Creativity - Creativity isn’t just for artists, every successful entrepreneur needs to conjure up creative solutions on a regular basis. By starting the day with a prepared mind, the entrepreneur is better equipped to think outside of the box, or let their mind wander towards solutions that might not have come to mind when their stress levels are elevated.
Like physical exercise, the practice of meditation is ironic in that while it takes up some time from your day, in the greater scheme of things it adds time to your day by allowing you to be more efficient and productive with the rest of your day.
Common Types of Meditation
There is no one way to meditate. In fact, a quick search on Google will unearth hundreds of different schools of meditation. For the most part, however, they can be divided into one of two main categories:
- Focused Attention Meditation - In this type of meditation, the mind seeks to focus on a single object, thought, word, or even simply the breaths that are taken. The goal is to clear out everything from the mind that is not a part of this focus. Sometimes the objects of focus have meaning, while other times words are repeated over and over (such as “om”), and have no meaning other than being a mystic syllable to focus on.
- Open Monitoring Meditation - As opposed to having a focus during meditation, the open monitoring method simply observes whatever thoughts pass through the mind during this time of meditation, letting go of any judgement or attachment to these thoughts. This practice encourages a lack of reaction to thoughts and stimuli, which in turn builds the ability to have more control over reactions outside of meditation.
Some types of meditation, known as “guided meditation”, have a teacher or guide that instruct the individual in what to focus on, or when to allow time for open monitoring. This is a great place for many entrepreneurs to start as it requires no research or practice before starting.
Simple Steps to Begin Meditating Today
While some forms of meditation are only taught in paid classes (such as Transcendental Meditation), many forms of meditation take little to no preparation at all. Here are a few basic steps to begin meditating:
- Find a Comfortable Position - This can be sitting on the ground, upright in a chair, or even lying on the ground (although you want to ensure you don’t fall asleep). While certain types of meditation lend better to particular sitting positions due to breathing techniques, the beginner simply needs to be able to relax comfortably.
- Listen to a Guided Meditation - These are available as apps for your smart phone, as youtube videos, or audio downloads. Check out the resources section at the end of this post for specific resources.
- Be Patient - The first few times may feel a little awkward. However, just like physical exercise, the benefits come with consistency.
- Slowly Increase Time - You can’t expect to go a 30 minute session on your first one without letting your mind wander. That is why many meditation teachers suggest you start with a short amount of time and gradually increase it.
Guided Meditation on YouTube
- Guided Meditation Sleep: Delta Waves, Deep Sleep, Inner Peace
- Breathing Guided Imagery Meditation
- 10-Minute Meditation for Anxiety
This is perhaps the most interesting item to feature as a resource, but a $299 bluetooth headband called a Muse can detect brain activity, and provides auditory feedback into your headphones, training you to develop effective meditation techniques. Entrepreneurs like Pat Flynn are big proponents of the tool. Pat recently wrote concerning his regular use of the Muse:
When I’m working I can actually catch myself getting off-thought and get back on track faster, and I feel a lot more focused during my work too, especially while writing. -Pat Flynn
While a $299 accessory is not necessary to realize the benefits of meditating, for those of us who love biofeedback and new technology, the Muse is worth a look.
According to the American Psychological Association, even a minor amount of short-lived stress can make an impact on your health (both physical and mental). While entrepreneurs often feel that they need to “go go go” in order to be successful, taking the time out of the day to practice meditation has been a proven, effective method for increasing your productivity throughout the day, providing appropriate perspective, and training to react appropriately to stressors that are inevitable throughout the day.