When invited to sit in stillness, or meditate, at a retreat or while on vacation, many business people will welcome the quiet time but once back at home and in the swing of things, this practice may be forgotten. I know it was for me. I was introduced to mindfulness and meditation many years ago at a retreat spa. The mindfulness practices of sitting, walking, and eating stimulated me, shifted some things within me, and motivated me to make some changes. Determined to continue these practices, once home and without support, they were abandoned in a few days.
Fortunately, today many companies are not only encouraging employees to meditate, but they are also sponsoring the programs to teach and support the ongoing practice. As research emerges demonstrating the many benefits and most importantly the cost savings to companies’ bottom line, particularly in reduced absenteeism and health care, many such as General Mills, Google, Patagonia, Ford Motor Company, and Accenture are eagerly establishing corporate mindfulness programs.
It doesn’t hurt that mindfulness and meditation are now covered by the mainstream press. Leaders in business, entertainment, sports and art are now revealing their long-held dedication to these practices. People such as Marc Benioff (Salesforce.com), Jeff Weiner (LinkedIn.com), Melinda Gates, Arianna Huffington, Lebron James, Oprah, Katy Perry, Soledad O’Brien, Dan Harris, Candy Crowley, Jennifer Lopez, and a host of others attribute their continued success to their meditation and mindfulness practice.
How exactly can sitting in stillness and focusing on your breath bring you success?
More Time and Less Reacting
First of all, the time you invest in meditation will return to you in spades. When you sit in stillness and you focus on your breath, you notice the here and now, the inhale and the exhale. Yes, your mind wanders, you notice, and you begin again. You are aware. You are present.
In your work day, as situations become chaotic and deadlines approach, you might begin to feel as though time is running out, everything is crashing down on you. But then you sit for just a moment or two and breathe in and out. Time seems to expand. You no longer feel overwhelmed or that you need to react. You have the space to take control of the situation. You have all the time you need to creatively complete the project at hand.
Increased Focus, Less Distracted, Quicker and Better Recovery After Interruptions
After you have been practicing meditation for a while you will also notice that when working, you are more focused on the task at hand and less likely to become distracted by social media, emails, and texts. If you are interrupted, you can use a breathing exercise like Three Conscious Breaths – breathing in deeply through your nose and exhaling completely through your mouth three times – to re-center and refocus. Research proves that once interrupted most workers take between 15-23 minutes to get back on track and even after that they are more than twice as likely to make mistakes. But with the breathing tools from meditation, you can avoid the wasted time and errors.
Improved Productivity, Prioritizing, and Decision-Making
As you sense the expansion of time and you become more focused, you realize that you are getting more done. Productivity increases. You also feel okay about what doesn’t get done because you are properly prioritizing and doing what is most important.
Whenever you do feel overwhelmed, you STOP – Stop, Take a breath (or three conscious breaths), Observe (how do you feel?), and Proceed when ready.
More Self-Aware and Compassionate
You’re able to make these better decisions since you are more self-aware and self-compassionate. The more you sit in stillness, the stronger your compassion muscle becomes. You develop compassion for yourselves and others. You appreciate that we as people may be different, and yet, we are the same with all the same needs, wants, and desires. So, a lot of the self-consciousness around admitting you don’t know or asking for help at work drops away because you know ultimately, you just want to get your work done as efficiently, effectively, and quickly as you can.
If you are feeling lost like you don’t know what to do or how to ask for help, you stop and sit in your chair with both feet on the floor and feel the heaviness of your feet. Breathe in and sense your belly rising and breathe out and sense your belly falling. You can even do a loving-kindness meditation. Once you feel grounded in your breath and your body, go get help and answers.
Increased Creativity and An Eagerness to Learn
The more self-aware you become, the more present you are. The more present you are, the more curious you become. As your curiosity grows, you are more open, you develop a wider perspective, and your creativity deepens and strengthens in all areas of your work, play, and home life. You may make a decision from a different viewpoint, launch an initiative using new partners, or write a marketing headline with fresh boldness.
That curiosity, openness, and receptivity that meditation helps to activate also motivates you to keep learning, asking questions, and exploring.
More Present for Family and Friends
The same presence, focus, and creativity you have at work, you now bring home to family and friends. Since you are more productive, better at prioritizing, and making decisions, you have more time for family and friends too. And that time is more enjoyable, relaxed, and fun because you are not worried about work and you are not beating yourself over what did not get done at work.
Sitting in stillness and focusing on your breath will help you be more successful at work and at home because it helps you be with whatever is happening in the present moment and not react to it. Instead of reacting, you create space around it and decide if and how you are going to respond. You are in control of your space and time and you seem to get more done in less time. Your focus, productivity, creativity, self-awareness, and compassion grow. You get better at prioritizing and decision-making. One decision almost all meditators make is to keep practicing. The ROI is off the charts.