Meditation and Entrepreneurship: How Self-Reflection Drives Innovation
There are plenty of studies on the health benefits of regular meditation and mindfulness practice, but could self-reflection be the key to new and innovative business ideas?
Even though I’m just 21 years old, I’ve been meditating for years. I don’t always have time in my schedule to sit and meditate for an hour or more, but I find that a few breathing exercises throughout the day help clear my head and make me feel more present. I don’t do it to improve my creativity and business acumen, but these are very, very helpful side effects.
As an entrepreneur, I’ve founded and co-founded a number of businesses, including The Doe and Guin Records. Both of these businesses took a great deal of time, dedication, funding, and even luck to get off the ground. However, they also took creativity, a forward-thinking approach, and a steady hand. Unbeknownst to many people, meditation is a great way to strengthen the creative part of your brain. I was able to cultivate the parts of my mind that don’t always get used on a day-to-day basis thanks in large part to daily meditation.
I’m not saying that meditation alone made me (or anyone else) a successful entrepreneur. What I’m saying is that meditation made me a better entrepreneur. But at the end of the day, I’m just one person. Clearing my thoughts and practicing breathing exercises may help me flourish as an entrepreneur, but who’s to say that these tactics will work for someone else? Fortunately, I’m not alone.
Entrepreneurs Who Meditate and Innovate
Everybody likes a good success story. There are thousands of entrepreneurs who started small or came up with ideas that seemed like a long shot before reaching success. Today, many of those same entrepreneurs are some of the leading business moguls in their respective industries. Moreover, many of them practice meditation (or similar mindfulness activities) to help improve themselves, destress, and find perspective.
The founder of The Huffington Post and Thrive Global needs no introduction. As one of the most successful businesswomen and political commentators in the United States, Arianna Huffington is someone millions of young entrepreneurs would like to emulate. However, many of those who look up to her may not realize that Arianna Huffington is an avid meditator. In fact, she opened a 2016 article on meditation by writing that “one of the best — and most easily available — ways we can become healthier and happier is through mindfulness and meditation.”
While he may not have the same kind of international name recognition as Ariana Huffington, Russell Simmons is a highly successful entrepreneur in his own right. Simmons co-founded Def Jam Recordings, in addition to numerous successful clothing lines. While he took part in the party culture of his youth and readily admits to using drugs at the time, Russell Simmons has since changed his ways. After becoming an entrepreneur and a father, Simmons shifted to a healthier lifestyle centered on yoga, meditation, and veganism.
Though he is no longer with us, Steve Jobs is one of the most famous and influential entrepreneurs of all time. As the co-founder of Apple, Jobs helped lead the way in the world of computing and mobile technology. To this day, his inventions and designs are used by millions of people all over the planet. At his memorial service, attendees were reportedly given a copy of Autobiography of a Yogi, a nod to Jobs’ dedication to meditation and Zen Buddhism. It was even said that Steve Jobs saw meditation as a way to train his brain to work more efficiently.
The Science Behind Self-Reflection and Innovation
It’s easy to throw up examples of famous or successful entrepreneurs who meditate and draw unfounded conclusions. However, the science behind meditation helps prove my point. Meditation is so much more than just a peaceful breathing exercise. In addition to its calming and destressing effects, regular meditation and self-reflection can have a lasting impact on your brain’s structure. At least one study from Harvard concluded that daily meditation even works to reverse the aging process in the brain.
So far, we’ve established that meditation does at least two very important things: it helps you destress and it helps strengthen your brain’s natural mechanisms and structure. The former is good for any entrepreneur; a stressed business owner does not think clearly and is more likely to make rushed or ill-advised decisions. Regarding meditation’s effect on the brain, keeping your brain young, strong, and vibrant is certainly a good way to come up with new and innovative ideas for your business.
Finally, it’s important to note some of the effects of meditation that may not be easily measured. Meditation and breathing practices require you to clear your mind and live in the present. This naturally requires you to take a closer look at yourself. People often dismiss the benefits of self-reflection, but they really cannot be overstated. When you evaluate yourself — your behaviors, characteristics, and goals — you can identify ways to improve. It also gives you a new perspective on how and why you run your business, giving you insight into the nature and underlying purpose of your endeavor.
The Bottom Line
In short, meditation and self-reflection are two of the easiest, cheapest, and most effective ways to become a better entrepreneur. That said, I don’t swear by meditation as a “cure-all” for every problem. As an entrepreneur, you will still have to deal with all the stresses and tough decisions that come with running a business. You will still have to juggle your work and personal life. Meditation won’t change any of those external issues. However, it will make you better equipped to deal with them.
Best of all: meditation is completely free! Many entrepreneurs spend thousands of dollars seeking out advice or guidance on how to improve. Instead, just spend a few extra minutes per day relaxing, breathing, and reflecting. Believe me, you won’t regret it.