Better Living Through Meditation
Have you ever heard the expression “if the only tool you have is a hammer, you tend to treat everything as if it were a nail?”
Beyond Working Harder and Learning More
You see this a lot in the business world: No matter what the problem, the answer is one of two solutions…Need to attract more clients? Work harder and learn more about sales. Need to improve the bottom line? Work harder and learn more about money management. Need your employees to be more productive? Tell them to work harder and learn more. So, when I started my first business, this seemed like sound advice and I took it to heart.
Here is what happened: It was 11 years of – If I just exhibit at this conference… If I just send out this direct mail campaign… If I just learn how to write copy better. You know what that got me? From the outside it looked like the business was doing a million dollars a year. In reality it wasn’t even reaching six figures and had $72,489 in debt. That number was actually higher because I stopped adding it up after that point. And forget about paying myself first; I never took a paycheck. On the outside, everything was FINE. If anyone asked, everything was just fine. One day my friend Christine said to me, “Lori, this is like watching you in an abusive relationship.” That took a few months to sink in before I realized she was right. There was no saving this business. I needed to shut it down.
Yes, learning more is a lifelong endeavor. However, a lot of people – maybe you – are already working as hard as they can. If you could work harder, you would! But your health, your sanity, your relationships are already strained, so working harder is not always the answer.
Another Tool in the Toolbox
I needed to find a better way forward. I rummaged around in my “toolbox.” When I was 10, my mom had taken my brother and me to a meditation course known today as the Silva Method. I didn’t use those techniques for the next 25 years! When I started my first business, I tried to figure out what these successful businesspeople–Ariana Huffington, Oprah, Russell Simmons, Ray Dalio, and Bill Ford–were doing right. I found a commonality: they practice meditation. Interesting. Still, I didn’t do it! It had been ingrained in my mind that working really hard, 7 days a week for 12 hours a day was the way to go.
Then… when I started another business, one of the things I decided to do differently was to integrate the practice of meditation into my life and work. I came to understand that being able tap into its many benefits was critical to my success.
For a long time, it seems many people considered meditation simply a spiritual practice, like prayer (which can also be considered a form of meditation). Or something only woo-woo hippies did while sitting cross-legged on mats at an ashram for 18 hours a day. However, there’s now a whole lot of supporting research on the topic.
Consider this: Meditation…
- Decreases anxiety.
- Builds resilience, so you spend less time stuck mulling over past mistakes and worrying about what might happen tomorrow.
- Gives you strength to act in the present moment, so you’ll perform better in stressful situations.
- Enhances creativity, so you’re more open to insights and breakthroughs. (Have you ever noticed the ideas you get when you’re in the shower or out on a run? It’s because your mind is in that relaxed state.)
- Helps regulate emotions.
- Boosts your emotional intelligence.
- Improves your ability to have patience with situations and people.
- Decreases the likelihood you’ll react impulsively and get frustrated in emotionally charged situations.
- Allows you to maintain peace of mind no matter what’s going on around you, so you can make more logical decisions.
- Increases your sense of connection to others, so you are kinder and more compassionate.
- Improves personal relationships because your willingness to get drawn into conflict decreases.
So, with all these great reasons and research supporting the importance of meditation: Why isn’t every person on the planet practicing meditation? Why wasn’t I doing it when I KNEW it could change my outcomes? It comes down to understanding the value of Focus and coming to terms with the perception of Time.
Focus: Calming the “Puppy Mind”
Imagine the frenetic energy of a puppy. Puppy Mind is when you have a million, out-of-control thoughts running around in your head. The way to manage Puppy Mind is to acknowledge those thoughts racing through. Observe this thought as it bounds forward, and that one, and the other…And then let each one go, coming back every time to your breathing or your mantra or the voice of the meditation teacher. You might have to do that every 30 seconds, and that’s ok. The more you practice, the better you get at it. After awhile, you might become aware that the time between each mind-wandering incident gets a little longer. But recognize that bringing your mind back is an integral part of meditating.
A Good Return on the Investment of Time
There is a Zen proverb that goes something like: “If you don’t have time to meditate for an hour every day, you should meditate for two hours.” Time management is a challenge we all face. We’ve got texts, emails, phone calls and 9 million other distractions pulling at us.
I don’t have time to sit for an hour a day! This is what you may be thinking—it certainly was among my top reasons for not pursuing the practice of meditation earlier in my career. I didn’t have time because I was busy working so hard. But what if you didn’t need an hour a day? What if you could do it in just 15 to 20 minutes a day? And by taking those 15 to 20 minutes, you were able to be more effective, more productive, the rest of the day? Meditation is like this. When you “invest” some time in meditation during your day – it’s often easiest in the morning – it takes you less time to do everything else you need to do. Meditation helps you stay focused on tasks at hand, helping you to discern what information is important and what isn’t, so you get more accomplished.
In conjunction with improving your focus, meditation improves your memory. Which makes sense: If you have better focus, you’ll retain more of the information you’re taking in. Meditation is a valuable tool to help keep our brains in good working order and our memory sharp as we age.
There’s a reason those high-performing business leaders and athletes I mentioned earlier feel so strongly about practicing meditation: It helps!
I urge you to add the Meditation tool to your toolbox, so you can reach the goals you’ve set for yourself and not have to work SO FREAKING HARD to get there.