Step back and take a look at daily life today. It’s hectic, with demands coming at us from all corners — and thanks to technology, at all hours of the day and night.
On the job, the pace is frantic and the expectations are high, so it’s no wonder that many corporate chief executive officers who are seeking a way to cope with the stress are turning to meditation.
It’s not a new concept — the late Steve Jobs of Apple fame practiced meditation — but its popularity is spreading beyond California’s Silicon Valley executives to Wall Street and beyond.
“Why are business leaders embracing meditation rather than, say, massage or ping-pong?” writes Emma Seppala in the Harvard Business Review. “Because there’s something to meditation that appears to benefit CEOs more than recreation or relaxation does alone.”
Academic research, dating as far back as the 1970s, has demonstrated that meditation isn’t simply some wacky West Coast idea but a technique that has real benefits for practitioners, including better productivity, improved co-operation, more work satisfaction and reduced irritability.
For example, a 1993 study conducted in four companies in the United States and Japan showed that regular practice of meditation among employees resulted in significant improvements in job satisfaction, efficiency and productivity, as well as in work and personal relationships. Who can argue with a technique that offers such excellent benefits to both the individual and the corporation?
Manish Chopra, a principal in the New York office of McKinsey & Co., authored a piece in a company publication about the value of meditation. Initially skeptical he, Chopra believes meditation has helped him become a better leader and has the potential to do the same for his colleagues.
“In my experience, though, most of today’s workers — and senior executives perhaps most of all — lack what they need, whether it’s meditation or a different approach, to balance and offset the demands of their “anywhere, everywhere” roles in today’s corporations,” Chopra wrote.
He believes meditation is an excellent outlet, because most busy executives don’t have the time for an extended vacation to restore balance to their lives. Chopra, himself, discovered that regular meditation helped him cope with challenges that he considers common to business executives: email addiction, coping with disappointment, and becoming too insular.
Rather than getting caught in the trap of checking his email early in the day and allowing unpleasant messages to affect his mood, for example, his increased self-awareness has led him to review email prior to dinner, a time when he is generally less productive at other tasks.
“I have experienced a real shift in how I focus my energies,” he wrote. “Despite the same, if not greater, pressures at work, I am enjoying more control and a greater sense of purpose in my daily and weekly activities.”
Research has shown that meditation can decrease anxiety, which allows practitioners to be more resilient and handle stress better, says Seppala in the Harvard Business Review (HBR). Alak Vasa, founder of Elements Truffles, talks of adopting meditation during a stint as a trader on Wall Street.
Of an instance when the market plummeted, she said, “Thanks to my meditation practice, I was able to keep my composure and propose solutions to reduce the impact of the market crash.”
It is also valuable in regulating your emotions, which is important since anger has an impact on cardiovascular health.
“Thanks to meditation I have developed patience.” Archana Patchirajan, CEO of Sattva, told the HBR. ”I have a better relationship with my team. Best of all, I maintain my peace of mind.”
Meditation also fosters creativity, because the relaxed state of mind it produces is conducive to insights and breakthroughs, and it improves your sense of connection to others, both important qualities for leaders to nurture.
Chirag Patel, CEO of Amneal Pharmaceuticals noted that “In a business, you start connecting to your customer as your family rather than merely a business transaction.”
Writing for Forbes.com, Rob Asghar talks of a discussion with Chade-Meng Tan, a Google executive and official Jolly Good Fellow, who views meditation as a prescription for creating healthy relationships that produce a better world.
Meng views meditation as a way of cultivating a different attitude about the world that affects our view of so-called problem people and difficult situations. If we can begin to appreciate their viewpoints and challenges, it changes the way we approach them.
Running through this list of benefits provided by regular sessions of meditation — and regular is a key word here — what smart manager wouldn’t want to give it a try?
Not meditating yet? It’s easier than you think.