Meditation for Entrepreneurs — A Blueprint
Be calmer, more creative, more joyful, and less worried as an entrepreneur through the power of meditation.
“An entrepreneur tends to bite off a little more than he can chew hoping he’ll quickly learn how to chew it.” — Roy Ash
Let’s be honest.
As entrepreneurs, we all need to cope with uncertainty, evaluate risk, constantly learn, and adapt to an ever-changing environment. Often times it means working harder, longer, and sacrificing short-term gains for a longer-term goal. Not the most stable and predictable way of living.
Luckily, meditation offers many techniques to work through these challenges while helping you to get to know yourself better.
The most obvious benefit of meditation is that it reduces stress levels. However, there are many more profound benefits to be reaped.
More specifically, meditation can help to
- Be more centered — Entrepreneurs sometimes need to make quick decisions and iterate quickly, and good decisions are only being made when distracting thoughts and negative emotions are out of the way.
- Be more goal-oriented— Focusing your energy on reaching your goals and milestones is essential and meditation can help to put you into the right mental state to channel your energy more targeted.
- Be more creative—Finding innovative solutions for problems is daily business and divergent thinking is key here, a trait which is imposed by meditation.
- Be more joyful — Life is partly suffering and building a company most likely involves low times, though, there is no reason for not being as joyful as possible throughout the entire process.
- Stop worrying that much — Failure does not exist, it is only the interpretation of most people’s mind that makes it look like a failure. In reality, it is all about learning, and every challenge will put you in a better and stronger position.
- Get to know your true self — This is a hard one. Finding your true self means to understand your values, strengths, weaknesses, and real passions. Getting closer to your true self will almost certainly make you a different kind of entrepreneur.
Different brainwaves for different purposes
First of all, the term meditation is only an overlying concept with many different branches and methodologies coming from various cultural and historical backgrounds.
Different forms of meditation differently influence the brain; which is measured through brainwave activity. Brainwaves can be observed with an EEG (an “electroencephalograph”) and we all display five different brainwaves that serve different purposes.
Alpha waves occur during relaxation and lower the production of stress hormones.
Beta waves are our normal working state and become active when we work on goal-oriented tasks or problem-solving. Having the right amount of beta waves means that we are able to focus properly, while low beta waves are associated with ADHD and depression, while a surplus can result in anxiety, an inability to relax, and higher stress levels(find the study here).
Theta waves are associated with deep relaxation and daydreaming and are also present during the sleep cycle. These waves are oftentimes referred to as a way to tap into our subconscious mind.
Delta waves are present during sleep and facilitate quick healing and information consolidation, which is fundamental to learning and memory.
When it comes to personal development Gamma waves have been getting much attention in recent years. They are associated with “flow states” or being in the “zone” with intense focus, peak performance and decreased anxiety.
Various studies (e.g. here) showed that advanced Tibetan meditators produce higher levels of Gamma waves than non-meditators — both spending the same amount of time meditating in the study.
Neuroscientists believe that gamma waves link together information from various parts of the brain through different sensory input, in order to process and make sense of the vast information flow we experience. In one popular study, Buddhist long-time practitioners and students were asked to practice meditation techniques for “unconditional loving-kindness and compassion.” Then their Gamma brainwave activity was examined and while all participants showed an increase, the long-term practitioners showed significantly higher Gamma levels.
Mingyur Rinpoche oftentimes referred to as “the happiest man on the planet” has been part of various studies with his brain activity being measured. In one experiment, he was instructed to meditate on compassion followed by a rest period. Mingyur’s “brain circuitry for empathy rose 700–800 times higher than during the rest periods”.
Now it is important to say, that any kind of meditation will likely affect more than one type of brainwave, in fact, the synchronization between different brain waves is crucial for many processes in the brain. However, there are differences with regards to the magnitude of brainwave activation, which makes different meditation techniques more or less suitable for different purposes.
Reaping the benefits
You can do the following meditation techniques on your own or use guided meditations and there are plenty of apps available and videos on Youtube. If you are a beginner, Insight Timer is a good starting point and gives you free access to numerous forms of meditation through music, videos, and guided sessions.
Now, let us activate those brainwaves!
Meditation for concentration
The brainwaves that are most relevant for everyday concentration on daily tasks are beta waves. However, remember that while beta waves are crucial for focus, too much activity results in feelings of stress and anxiety and too little activity is associated with ADHD and depression. In one study, meditation has been described as a way to maintain attention on “immediate experience and away from distractions such as self-referential thinking and mind wandering.” Self-referential thinking distracts from the task at hand and means to relate everything back to yourself, questioning your abilities, and negative self-talk in general.
The network of brain regions responsible for it is called the default mode network (DMN). Luckily, meditation reduces activity in this network.
The following closed meditation techniques with a focus on one single thing, e.g. the breath, can help to reach optimal beta levels.
Meditation practice: Zen, Vipassana
How-to offline (Zen): Click here
How-to offline (Vipassana): Click here
Guided Meditation (Zen): Click here
Guided Meditation (Vipassana): Click here
Beta music (Listen when feeling distracted, e.g. being in a noisy cafe or before concentrated work): Click here
Meditation for facilitated learning
Mindfulness meditation has been shown to increase alpha brain waves that are not only responsible for making you calmer but help to switch between tasks and can result in less distraction from vague thoughts. Research conducted by the Osher Research Center and Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging showed that people practicing MM could boost their memory significantly.
In a meditation study at the University of Massachusetts and Harvard Medical School, 16 test subjects practiced mindfulness meditation on their breath for 30 minutes a day and experienced a significant increase in the size of the hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for learning, memory, and spatial orientation.
Meditation practice: Mindfulness
How-to offline: Click here
Guided Meditation (10 mins): Click here
Guided Meditation (20 mins): Click here
Alpha waves music (Listen when feeling distracted e.g. being in a noisy cafe or before concentrated work): Click here
Meditation for creativity
The brainwaves that are most relevant for creativity are alpha and theta waves, which are also associated with daydreaming with our minds roaming freely, chunking together different sources of information.
Mindfulness meditation is not only good for facilitated learning but also creativity. At Leiden University in the Netherlands, researchers found that people who practiced open-monitoring meditation such as mindfulness performed better at tasks that demanded divergent thinking, which refers to creativity.
In another series of studies, the importance of specific mindfulness skills in the creative process has been supported. The ability to observe thoughts is closely related to openness to experience, a personality trait that appears to be one of the most robust indicators of creative success.
If you are more interested in a traditional and more spiritually oriented practice try Kriya Yoga, which has been practiced in India for centuries and has received worldwide attention after it was mentioned in the book, “Autobiography of a Yogi” by Paramahansa Yogananda.
Meditation practice: Mindfulness, Kriya Yoga
Guided Meditation (MM for creativity): Click here
Guided Meditation for creativity (Generic): Click here
How-to (Kriya Yoga): Click here
Guided Meditation Kriya Yoga (more advanced and spiritually-oriented): Click here
Alpha and theta waves music: Click here
Meditation for goal setting
Studies show people who set goals are more successful. Writing goals down yield even higher chances of success. However, with regards to meditation integrating goal setting into your practice comes at an additional advantage; bringing your subconscious mind into the game. With the subconscious mind being responsible for up to 95% of the overall brain activity, the way it is programmed has a big impact on present and future behaviors, which in turn influences the outcome of your life and thus business. Alpha, as well as theta waves, are seen as the gate to the subconscious mind.
Meditation practice: Mantras, affirmations, visualizations
Guided Meditation (Mantra, without goal-setting): Click here
Find your own mantra: Click here
Guided Meditation (Goal-Affirmation): Click here
Guided Meditation (Visualization): Click here
Alpha and theta waves music: Click here
Meditation for less anxiety
Meditation practice: Loving-kindness, Gratitude Meditation, Transcendental Meditation, etc.
As pointed out before high activity in the default mode network can result in self-referential thinking, which can lead to negative self-talk, doubts, and anxiety (e.g. “Am I going to succeed with this idea/ projects?”)
All the previously mentioned techniques help to reduce activity in the default mode network. In this study, mindfulness meditation has shown to loosen the tight connections in the prefrontal cortex that are activated when self-talk occurs. In addition, meditation has shown to decrease in the size of the amygdala, the part of the brain responsible for fear, anger, and stress.
Loving-kindness meditation has been shown to have a particularly strong effect. Those who practice loving-kindness meditation tend to display higher-than-average gamma waves, which results in superior ability to focus, a more accurate perception of reality, and oftentimes leads to emotions of bliss.
Another form of meditation is Transcendental Meditation (TM), which works with a personal mantra and has become very popular in recent years. Here you can find hundreds of published research studies on the TM technique that have documented its effectiveness on stress and anxiety, brain function, cardiovascular health, and more.
Guided Meditation (Loving-kindness): Click here
Guided Meditation (Gratitude): Click here
Introduction Transcendental Meditation: Click here
Some more words on anxiety
With regards to entrepreneurs, anxiety can come with the uncertainty towards the business outcome and fear of professional and personal failure. Oftentimes this results in overplanning for each and every scenario and detail. However, the traditional definition of failure should not exist in the entrepreneur’s mind, rather it should be seen as necessary “adjustments” or changes on the way.
In the book The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself ― Michael A. Singer, an economist, spiritual leader, and serial entrepreneur states the following:
“The truth is that most of life will unfold in accordance with forces far outside your control, regardless of what your mind says about it”
Instead of making concrete plans for the next several years to come, you might wanna follow a vision while being open and receptive for opportunities that arise in the short term. Instead of worrying about various future scenarios, be in the present moment and channel all your energy on solving problems right now.
Do not forget your true self
Now, when going through all the practices, one might think that it is only about optimizations but most importantly you will get to know yourself better, which will likely end up in directional adjustments regarding your entrepreneurial journey. Most likely, it will make you a better entrepreneur. Certainly, it will make you a better human.
A sample daily routine
A typical day could look like that, however, always remember to be playful with your meditation and do not overthink it.
- Goal setting meditation: Pick from above or find your own goal-setting mantra.
- Reason: Set yourself up for the day and be productive in the morning
- Gratitude meditation: Pick from above or pick your own
- Reason: Appreciate the now, release stress, be grateful for tasks (that you have hopefully achieved in the morning) and take on the second round in the afternoon.
- Mindfulness meditation: Pick from above or pick your own
- Reason: Observe the thoughts that have been accumulated throughout the day, relax, reflect and set yourself up to get a decent amount of sleep.
Bonus “All-inclusive meditation” (e.g. at night):
- Goal setting, compassion, gratitude to enter your subconscious mind: Click here (can be used at different times during the day)
- Reason: During the night your brain will store new information and connect it to old information (knowledge) and work through all experiences throughout the day and beyond. You wanna make sure it will work on the “right things” to set you up with energy for the next day.
Now it time to relax back and start meditating and please do not make it too complicated. Try out different techniques at different times to see what works best for you.
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About the author
Michael Burkhardt is a Global Citizen (40+ countries) who helps AI enthusiasts acquire hands-on skills through Real-World Projects.
He blogs about AI ethics and believes in collaboration and community. To remain balanced, he shares tips on meditation for entrepreneurs.