Why entrepreneurs need to meditate.
Recently, I was asked to do a meditation workshop at Cape Town Start Up Week, a conference for entrepreneurs. As I sat down to prepare, it dawned on me that I was an entrepreneur too.
I had been permanently employed for the last 18 years. But after completing my meditation teacher’s training, earlier this year, I resigned to start “the quiet inside” and to see if I could actually make a living by teaching people to meditate.
Meditation has helped me a lot in a high stress industry, but I realized that it’s taught me even more, as I start out alone. As I get my head around the fact that I’ve joined the ranks of those fancy, business-like people called entrepreneurs, I want to share a few of the lessons that my meditation practice has taught me on my journey.
How to surf stress
According to the Gallup Wellbeing Index, more entrepreneurs report “being stressed” than other workers. And a Bloomsberg Business Survey reported South Africa as being the 2nd most stressed country in the world. So if you’re a South African entrepreneur, watch out!
Owning a business is like being bi-polar, the highs seem higher and the lows seem lower. It can seem impossible to switch off, with your mind racing 24/7. And now that we’re all accessible all the time, the urge to constantly check in can leave you with no time to yourself. Not to mention that when you work for yourself you often have the most unsympathetic and demanding boss around. Add on the pressure of having to support a family, look for opportunities and a never ending to do list with no help and things can be quite overwhelming.
That’s why it’s so important to take a little time each day to stop doing. Meditation helps you to see and accept what’s really happening without trying to control it. Meditation also helps you to connect with what’s important to you, your sense of purpose, which reminds you why you’re doing what you’re doing.
Harvard Business Review and the EY Beacon’s Institute conducted studies that show that purpose driven companies are more profitable. Having a purpose also helps you to keep your plans flexible. Often entrepreneurs get fixated on a certain plan or specific outcomes and suffer greatly when things change or don’t happen the way that they expect.
Meditation makes you less reactive. So instead of being thrown around in the waves of your day-to-day triumphs and defeats, you learn to surf. The ups and downs are still there, but you glide through them, using their momentum to take you where you want to go.
How to be friends with yourself
We are often harder on ourselves then anyone else would ever be. Who doesn’t have that voice in their head? That one that orders them around, undermines their confidence and second guesses them. That voice can become even louder and more opinionated when you’re an entrepreneur.
Meditation can help you realize that this critical voice isn’t really you. You don’t need to listen to it, engage with it or fight against it. It’s just a though that comes and goes like all thoughts. And the less energy you spend on it, the less it will bother you.
In our goal-orientated society, people find it incredibly hard to just be with themselves. Have you ever noticed that in restaurants when someone goes to the bathroom, it normally takes five seconds for the person who is with them to pull out their phone? When you stop being your own worst enemy, and feeling like you need to constantly escape from where you are, your life will become a lot easier.
How to lose the ego
Entrepreneurs so often tie their entire sense of self into their business. They take things personally, very personally. Whether it’s day dreaming about the big office you’ll have one day, while neglecting the job in front of you, or thinking that you’re more important then other mere mortals, using your business to feed your ego is always a mistake.
It also distracts you from your purpose – unless your purpose is to feed your ego, in which case you have even bigger problems. Meditation helps you realize that this image that we create of ourselves doesn’t really exist. It stops us from taking ourselves too seriously and actually allows us to have more fun.
How to live in the present
So many entrepreneurs see each day as a something they have to go through in order to get somewhere else. This somewhere else is a magical place where your business is large and successful. You are totally secure and you suddenly have access to all the good stuff in life.
Sorry to break it to you, but this “somewhere else” doesn’t exist. Meditation makes you more aware of all the good stuff that is all around you in everyday life. It helps you to appreciate every day and enjoy the ride.
We waste so much time making plans that never happen or rehashing past events, that we often miss out on what’s happening right now. And right now is the only time that we can actually take action or do anything to change things.
Not being present is super dangerous for entrepreneurs because they could miss out on opportunities, stop relating to people in a human way or drop the ball. Plus you miss out on all the richness and beauty of your life. According to the National Science Foundation, 95% of your thoughts are exactly the same as the ones that you had yesterday. It’s pretty scary to think that we’re acting like goldfish paying attention to these repetitive thoughts, while we miss out on this amazing life that we’ve been given.
Meditation can train your attention to stay present, making you more aware of what’s happening around you. As an entrepreneur and as a human, that can be one of the most important skills that you ever learn.