A new image flashes through your eyes before you can even begin to understand the messages of the one that came before, there are a dozen different sounds filling the room in addition to the thoughts banging around your head, and everything going on on the outside diminishes the internal process in your mind needed to get anything done. We live in an era where our minds gather so much information by the second that we run the risk of over-stimulation leaving us with what I like to call the freeze effect: when too much turns into nothing.
It’s no wonder that practices such as mindfulness and meditation are being cast under the spotlight even more than before. Sometimes, we make the mistake of associating these practices solely to mental health issues, without realizing the benefits that working on bringing the mind back to the present moment can have on every individual regardless. This is because to have an effect on our surroundings, we must first work on what we have within.
Especially when you have decided to take your future into your own hands and finally delve into making your vision a reality. Add the stress of breaking into the world of entrepreneurship and following your own path into this already stress-ridden environment and you have the perfect recipe for chaos.
There is no cookie cutter path, no specific guidelines, to the road you have chosen. So anything that can clear up the course a bit more is welcome.
What is mindfulness and how can it help you, the entrepreneur, reach your goals faster and more efficiently?
Keeping your own vision in sight can be the most difficult of these challenges. Bringing things back into perspective when things aren’t going according to plan, or making a decision by having to weigh financial, ethical, and personal factors on your own is part of the “responsibility package” when it comes to the business of startups.
Dr. Ellen Langer, Ph.D., a social psychologist in the Psychology Department at Harvard University and author of 11 books as well as more than 200 research studies, has studied mindfulness over 35 years and is described as the “mother of mindfulness”. By studying mind/body unity she has found that “When you’re mindful, rules, routines, and goals guide you; they don’t govern you.”
This is because full presence and immersion in what you are doing at the time and place that you are doing it in means you are also aware of why you are doing it- and it is here where the focus on your ultimate goal comes back into the picture.
Being mindful can allow you to see things that you wouldn’t normally take notice in, and open you up to an entire universe of opportunities. Contrary to popular belief, mindfulness and meditation are not ways of thinking about nothing, but rather of choosing and focusing on what to think about.
When you learn to observe, to stand MENTALLY in the space you are in PHYSICALLY, you also learn to step outside of the “partial attention” lifestyle and catch opportunities when they present themselves.
By being in the present moment you can avoid paralyzing sensations like anxiety for the future and regrets about past decisions. Often times we find ourselves worrying about the uncertainty of the future, and overanalyzing the past. Practicing mindfulness is like driving: to get to where you are going you have to be fully aware of the road that you are in at that moment. If you are looking too far ahead you can miss the cars passing by or the pedestrians crossing the street.
Your rearview mirror is only useful if you want to look back to make sure you can change lanes or make a turn. Similarly, in the path to moving from concept to creation, looking back on the past is only necessary if you are figuring out how to make a change in order to get to your destination more efficiently. Continuing to look through that rearview mirror at whatever you have already left behind takes the focus off the road ahead.
Mistakes often times arise from a lack of clarity. When you are dealing with several different objectives at a time your thoughts can cloud your ability to see things in a coherent and straightforward manner. The practice of being mindful aids two parts of your brain that are crucial in our ability to develop and continue projects. According to a study by the University of British Columbia, one is the ACC (anterior cingulate cortex), in charge of self-control and focus, and the second is the hippocampus, which aids adaptability to shifting situations.
The best part, is that it only requires a couple of minutes a day of bringing the mind back to the body for you to begin to see the results.
So how does one bring the mind back to the body?
Well, it’s easy as breathing… literally.
There are certain things that our bodies do that we don’t have to think about for them to happen. By bringing your attention to these things that “just happen”, like breathing, you are letting go of what disconnects you (worries about investors, developing a webpage, a recent unexpected roadblock) and grounding your thoughts to the one thing that, no matter where your mind flies on a daily basis, is still on this physical, tangible world: your body.
Following the changes in your body as you draw breaths in and out is a way of practicing attentiveness. When you concentrate on the process that actually takes place when you breathe it takes effort to maintain your thoughts in sync with the way your body moves: the more you practice concentration the more likely you are to reach different levels of insight.
When you examine the way your body responds, you begin to identify where tension might exist, and what thoughts might drag your mind out of the state of meditation, which in turn allows you to examine the effect of your work on yourself and the environment around you. If you understand your problems, you are more likely to be able to solve them.
You can apply the practice of mind body connection to walking. Instead of walking in a constant state of indifference, when we are mindful, we are unlocking our creative selves and aiding our performance with every conscious step.
In an interview with the Harvard Business Review Dr. Ellen Langer, Ph.D. incorporates the idea of work/life integration into the practice of being mindful. Instead of balance, which separates work and life into different categories, this integration allows us to transfer our abilities. “When we’re mindful,” she says “we realize that categories are person-constructed and don’t limit us”.
It is no secret that the entrepreneurial business environment is more complex than other structures. Mindfulness can improve productivity, awareness, opportunity-seeking, focus, positivity, character, and more importantly health and happiness. For the busy entrepreneur it is an essential, uncomplicated, time-efficient, long-term practice that can benefit not only their work, but also their lifestyle.