With high achievers from Arianna Huffington to Richard Branson and businesses from Google to Ford getting involved, mindfulness isn’t a passing fad. It’s a technique used by entrepreneurs the world over to get better results for themselves and their team. Let’s dig into what it is and why it’s especially great for startup entrepreneurs:
Mindfulness in a nutshell.
Mindfulness is a type of meditation (meditation being the general term that covers different styles of meditation, such as transcendental meditation, yoga, tantra, guided visualization and many more).
Mindfulness is the act of consciously drawing the attention to one subject. It could be a sound, a sensation, an object. The most common focus is the breath – not because of any special power that the breath has, but rather because it’s a constant.
Why should entrepreneurs practice mindfulness?
Mindfulness often gets lumped in with the woo-woo – people often assume it’s a touchy-feely, spiritual thing. And although mindfulness practice has historically been connected with religion, it’s shedding the ‘om’ association with some help from modern science. The daily act of spending time focusing on one thing – even for a short time – produces measurable outcomes, backed by data, that have a proven effect on your efficiency. (The number of startups that have sprung up around meditation and mindfulness is a big clue towards how powerful a resource this is.)
Productivity and efficiency are crucial for entrepreneurs, who need to be constantly firing to get their own and their team’s capacity to the level it needs to be.
Mindfulness has been shown to improve:
Single-tasking is the new multi-tasking. Regular meditators have been found to have greater activity in the anterior cingulate cortex (ACCC). Sounds like it belongs on Star Trek, but it’s actually the part of the brain associated with self-regulation and the ability to purposefully direct attention and behavior. Mindfulness practice can help you focus on the task at hand, and also to prioritise your workload.
Studies have shown that overall brain function is improved with mindfulness practice. A Harvard study found that in addition to improving ACCC function, mindfulness also adds gray matter density to the hippocampus, which is the part of the brain that deals with memory, so it’s a simple and free way to supercharge your day.
Startup founders put in long hours – day after day, week after week, often for years on end. Mindfulness can improve sleep, energy levels and feelings of wellbeing, reducing incidents of burnout, which is a real danger for entrepreneurs.
Mindfulness helps to reduce stress by better allowing you to regulate your emotions, making it harder for your feelings to get the better of you in difficult situations. Mindfulness has also been shown to improve empathy and compassion, leading to better relationships and better conflict resolution. Emotional intelligence isn’t just nice to have, it’s an essential for entrepreneurs: it leads to improved business outcomes.
Ability to learn from mistakes
“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” Fail fast. It builds up your internal reference points and will help you eventually succeed. Mindfulness helps you evaluate failure and learn from it, quickly – again, the ACCC is associated with your ability to learn from mistakes. Mindfulness practice = stronger ACCC = greater ability to make good decisions based on past learnings.
Our study shows that trusting your gut is an important factor in founder success. Entrepreneurs who are confident in calling the shots based on their own instincts are far more likely to reach their goals – yet another reason why all wannabee founders should be spending time growing their mindfulness muscle.
You don’t have to spend long on mindfulness to see benefits. The group in the Harvard study spent an average 27 minutes per day meditating, but there are plenty of advocates suggesting that even one minute of meditation can help.
For entrepreneurs – people whose attention is a resource that needs to be used as efficiently and effectively as possible – mindfulness is one of the simplest and best tools you and your team have to ensure success.
Ready to get started? Here are just a few of the mindfulness resources out there: