Despite repeated press on the benefits of mindfulness, only 8% of US adults have a meditation practice. I started meditating during a time of personal crisis. It was the best thing that could have happened to me, and it had a positive impact on other people in my life as well. Professional development impacts many more people than just the leader.
Meditation is a leadership game-changer. Research shows that meditation actually changes our brain. Due to its neuroplasticity, the brain strengthens and modifies neural pathways based on life experiences. Dan Harris explains it this way: “we are not stuck with factory settings when it comes to compassion, self-awareness, patience and focus. These are skills that can be trained.”
The profound benefits of meditation are spelled out clearly in Altered Traits, a new book by Daniel Goleman and Richard J. Davidson. Many of these benefits show up after only a couple of months of regular practice. Of particular note, loving-kindness, or metta meditation, seems to provide the most immediate and enduring gains in how we related to other people. Clearly, our world will be a better place if our leaders cultivate these superpowers:
- Improved ability to focus
- Reduced implicit bias
- Reduced response to stressors
- Lower anxiety
- Increased resilience from adversity
- Deeper connection to people
- More compassion for team members and peers
Common myths that prevent meditation. Given the immediate and profound benefits, I find it interesting that more people do not meditate. In my experience, many leaders think their mind is too busy to meditate or they don’t have time. People are often concerned it will take too long to see the benefits.
Guided meditations make it easier to establish a practice. One of the best ways to start meditating is to use a recording. I used a simple loving-kindness meditation recording to establish a daily practice. A recording helps us focus on something other than our own thoughts. Apps and web-based programs such as 10% Happier can also be helpful when meditating for the first time.
Your first 10 minutes produce immediate results. In a study by researchers from Stanford University, people reported a deeper connection to strangers after just 7 minutes of loving-kindness meditation. That’s incredible! As Goleman noted on the 10% Happier podcast with Dan Harris (Ep 98), after two months of loving-kindness meditation practice people are more likely to notice those who need help, become more generous and demonstrate less implicit bias. These are world-changing behavioural shifts.
Meditating for 10 minutes a day changes the world. Most leaders impact hundreds or thousands of people. Leaders who meditate use their enhanced superpowers to create inspiring work environments for others. The organizational benefits of employee engagement are well documented. There is a broader societal impact on employees’ personal lives and the way they impact their communities. Global change starts with each of us. Doing work on ourselves leads to positive change for many people. I encourage you to establish a meaningful daily meditation practice. Every 10 minutes counts.