In the hustle and bustle of everyday life, modern society would have us assume that our beliefs and thoughts are a part of who we are. Our internal monologue is often a constant companion in our lives, talking us through relationships, activities, responsibilities and everything in between. Some people’s voices are encouraging, others are critical, but most fall somewhere in between, nevertheless persistently narrating our life back to us. Many people will never give this concept a second thought, assuming that it is natural and unavoidable. Often, we are simply too busy living life to consider the fact that maybe, our thoughts are not who we are.
For nobody is this more true than for entrepreneurs. In addition to dealing with the weight of being personally responsible and often liable for every decision they make for their business, they must also face the massive amount of uncertainties that come up when building a company up from nothing. They are often wearing a number of hats, quickly attempting to gain numerous skills across a wide range of subjects in order to adapt to the challenges they face, and tend to work longer hours without compensation in favor of keeping the funds in the business. While it is certainly possible to cope with these challenges as millions of people do each day, there is one powerful tool that can be vastly beneficial and increase the chances of success for a business owner: meditation.
“Practicing meditation has helped quieten my mind and has been instrumental in leading me to a state of inner peace and fulfillment,” said Barry Lall, founder and chief executive officer of the hotel management company Pinnacle Hotels USA. According to Dr. Bharat Lall, after spending the first half of his life focused on becoming an entrepreneur and building a successful business, he realized that he had let his mental and physical health fall to the wayside as a result. After beginning a wellness journey, Lall says that he not only finds himself feeling better than he ever has before in his life, but has also come to find that meditation has also come to benefit him from a professional standpoint as well.
Raised in southern Africa by parents who had immigrated there from India, Lall said that his parents encouraged him to enter one of the two career paths they knew to create financial stability: medicine and engineering. Choosing the former, Dr. Lall attended medical school in Scotland before moving to the United States for his residency. He settled in southern California where he worked as a family physician for nearly a decade, but his time in America made him realize he had a deep desire to pursue entrepreneurship. He began to look at the “Business Opportunities” section of his local newspaper every day, and when he came across an ad for a small motel that was priced to sell he jumped on the opportunity.
With the blessing of his family, Lall left his career in medicine in favor of the vastly more challenging and yet more rewarding career path of entrepreneurship. From scrubbing toilets when his maid called in sick to learning how to keep good records and manage the financial aspects of the business, Lall dove headfirst into entrepreneurship. Through hard work and grit, over the past three decades he managed to build his business from the ground up and today Pinnacle Hotels USA manages nine properties with 1,800 guest rooms and over 600 employees.
For all intents and purposes he had achieved the “American Dream,” but according to Lall when he reached his fifties he realized that he had let his health slip to the wayside as a result. He had been dealing with chronic migraines for over half of his life by that point, and found that they inhibited his ability to think, articulate, and made him irritable and generally in low spirits. Even though it was a time of great career success, he describes it as a period in which when he had migraines he had a very pessimistic attitude towards life and that everything felt gloomy. Deciding enough was enough, Lall took action to improve his nutrition and found that with the migraines lessening considerably in frequency he was able to focus on other aspects of wellness such as physical activity and mental health.
Lall said that meditation is a vital stress management technique for entrepreneurs. For him it aided in better dealing with the many demands he faced as leader of a growing organization, and helped him approach social situations with more ease. Through meditation, Lall said that entrepreneurs can gain better clarity and approach challenges with a more level head. The practice of meditation can differ greatly from person to person, but ultimately it is about focusing and redirecting your thoughts, allowing you to take the efforts of a 20 minute session and apply it at little points throughout your day.
Meditation has been proven to cause changes in your brain that assist greatly in reducing stress. A study showed that after only eight weeks of consistent meditation, participants saw improvements to the amygdala region of their brain, the part that controls anxiety, stress and fear. This means that ruminating thoughts – the kind of thoughts that seem to just play in a loop over and over again in your head – can be greatly reduced. According to Lall, prior to meditation he would often spend hours awake at night replaying a conversation or meeting in his head if he felt it hadn’t gone particularly well, stewing over everything he could have done differently. Meditation encourages focusing on the present moment, and with active practice Dr. Bharat Lall found that he was able to let those thoughts move through his head like a passing cloud rather than fixate on them.
Meditation also has the ability to help with your attention span. In one study, participants were sent on a 10-day intensive mindfulness meditation retreat and upon returning were found to have longer attention spans and a better working memory capacity than the control group that did not participate in the retreat. Dr. Lall said that his productivity has increased significantly since beginning meditation, because he is better able to filter out thoughts and focus on the task at hand, and has better recall that leads to less time wasted as well. He even uses meditation to help him sleep at night, as the relaxation response triggered by meditation has the ability to allow your body and mind to fall asleep faster and stay asleep for longer. A good night’s sleep is absolutely essential for the mental acuity needed by an entrepreneur each day, and yet most do not get nearly enough.
Lall said that his best advice to entrepreneurs wanting to embark on a meditation journey is to begin slowly, but aim for consistency. Five minutes every day is better than 30 minutes once a week, and it is only with consistency that long-term success can be achieved. There is a reason meditation is called a “practice.” It requires a person to show up every day until thoughtful action becomes a habit. Entrepreneurs are often so focused on making their business a success, they forget to take care of the thing that came up with their big idea in the first place: their mind. By practicing meditation, they can take a step in the right direction of becoming a more well-rounded business leader and person.