What Can Mindfulness Do For You?

June 4, 2014

Meditation and mindfulness have become all the rage.

I recently met with a group of entrepreneurs all of whom swore by Headspace and other meditation apps, claiming that it helped them to keep calm and to think more clearly. In her new book, Thrive, Arianna Huffington enthuses at length about the degree to which meditation has addressed her problems of overwork and exhaustion. That’s no small endorsement.

But it’s not without detractors. Luke Johnson is a serial entrepreneur and currently chairman of Risk Capital, a private equity business. He argues that entrepreneurs are by nature impatient, competitive individuals who thrive under pressure. They hate being relaxed and their drive is what makes them successful. “Those seeking peace in a frantic world,” Johnson says, “are probably better off becoming horticulturalists than corporate executives. Business involves a fair amount of greed, rivalry, workaholism, pettiness and failure.”

Meditate to Do More, Not Less

My two cents: I think Johnson has willfully misunderstood mindfulness and its intent. None of its advocates are arguing in favor of a kicked back, catatonic form of relaxation.

What the entrepreneurs I’ve worked with value in meditation is the resulting ability to empty the mind of noise and make more thoughtful decisions. They use it as an antidote to hyper-activity and multitasking. They don’t see workaholism as a badge of honor and their experience is that meditation has made them more productive, not less.

Entrepreneurs seeking peace of mind don’t do so in order to do nothing–but in order to do what they do better. No one would accuse Huffington of being a blissed-out slouch. If meditation helps you think better–do it. And if you can’t find the ten minutes a day that it requires, you almost certainly need it more than most.

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