The fifth instalment in our new series spotlighting Founders’ Stories. Once a week we’ll talk with an up and coming entrepreneur or leading mind in our industry about their journey so far, sharing failures and successes they’ve learned along the way.
Mindfulness. It’s a practice many of us find bewildering. But hundreds of studies have proved that mindfulness affects the way the brain works, even altering its whole structure. For entrepreneurs at risk of burnout, developing more mindful ways of living might be the welcome you need for a calmer route to success, and there’s expanding evidence that suggests mindfulness in the workplace can increase productivity levels too so it comes as no surprise that more and more employees and entrepreneurs are looking to benefit from its effect on workplace wellbeing.
On Wednesday 16th April, we’ll be joined by mindfulness guru Shamash Alidina, author of Mindfulness for Dummies and more recently Mindfulness at Work for Dummies, for our next monthly meetup with leading minds and anyone else interested! We anticipate it to be one of our most motivating talks yet. I caught up with Shamash to give us a teaser of what’s to come.
I first discovered mindfulness in a philosophy class. I was actually studying Chemical Engineering, but was feeling demotivated following an internship over the summer. I saw a poster on the underground which had a quote from Socrates saying ‘the unexamined life is not worth living‘. That sounded intriguing so I went along.
I loved the mindfulness exercise so much, I’ve been hooked ever since! I almost quit my degree but somehow managed to finish it, and then went straight into teacher training so I could be a science teacher at a school where all the kids did mindfulness and meditation. I taught there for eight years before deciding to teach mindfulness full time to adults. Now I specialise in training people to teach or coach mindfulness, and am starting a new program to train mindful entrepreneurs in 2015!
In what ways might mindfulness benefit an entrepreneur?
Mindfulness is a brain training. There’s loads of evidence to show the massive positive changes that take place in people who practice mindfulness exercises. Even short mindful exercises daily seem to rewire the brain. The brain becomes more resilient, flexible, better able to focus, discover clarity and creativity. All these are the qualities of a successful entrepreneur. On top of all this, mindfulness makes people friendlier. A mindful entrepreneur is better able to communicate to clients, customers and suppliers. They are more likely to take care of their staff as well as themselves. In our modern world, we need entrepreneurs that care about their impact on the planet.
Do you think there’s a link between mindfulness, happiness, productivity and profit?
A massive link, yes! There’s a great iphone study that found most people are unmindful 50% of the time. The study also found the more mindful people were, the happier they were. When you are living in the present moment, you’re happier. That’s mindfulness. And there’s other studies linking happiness to productivity, creativity and profit.
Some of you may know about the company Zappos. Zappos is in the business of not only selling products (mainly shoes), but also maximising the happiness of everyone they interact with. And they’ve been bought by Amazon for billions of dollars, so they’re being pretty productive and are certainly profitable!
When the brain is happy, it’s relaxed and able to see the big picture. This is not just airy fairy talk – it’s a theory supported by a top psychologist (Barbara Fredrickson) called the ‘broaden and build’ theory. Positive emotions have evolved to open your attention up and build creative ideas and solutions. Plenty of studies have found happiness leading to more effective problem solving, greater engagement and increased efficiency.
Happiness isn’t something that we can achieve easily. It requires a certain amount of wisdom, intelligence and effort. I don’t think true happiness is just pleasure or the feeling of excitement.
The happiness that arises from mindfulness can be thought of as a deep sense of flourishing, as states the renowned monk, Matthieu Ricard. It lies underneath fleeting emotions and thoughts. This leads to an ability to remain calm and focused, no matter what’s happening in the business. With less energy wasted on thoughts about the past and worries about the future, you’re able to excel as an entrepreneur and get lots of high quality work done.
If you’re a mindful entrepreneur, you’re like the Jedi of entrepreneurs!
What ways can entrepreneurs introduce mindfulness to their routine?
There are hundreds of ways! Here’s a few ideas:
- Take 10 conscious breaths every morning, before starting the day
- Drink your morning tea with awareness. Notice the steam, the temperature, the colour of the tea and of course, the delicious taste!
- When driving to work, drive within the speed limit. When in traffic, look at other drivers, and in your mind say ‘may you be well, may you live a happy life’.
- Every hour, take a few seconds to consciously enjoy 3 mindful breaths whilst smiling. Remind yourself that you’re alive, and what a precious gift that is.
- Do one thing at a time and enjoy doing that activity as much as possible. Stop multi-tasking – it’s ineffective according to many studies.
- Practice listening to at least one person a day in a mindful way, without judging them. Just deeply listening without interruption and with full attention.
For more info join us at our next meetup in Central London where Shamash will be sharing an unmissable, in depth view of how you can be a better entrepreneur through mindfulness (including best practices). Beer & pizza all included with tickets, go gettum ››