Leadership requires not only management skills but also creativity and a sense of balance. One thing some well-known leaders have found to be beneficial for these areas is meditation.
In a fireside chat at the Greenwich Economic Forum, Ray Dalio of Bridgewater Associates and Arianna Huffington of Thrive talked about meditation and the benefits it can have for people in leadership positions. Dalio ascribes much of his success to meditation and says it has been instrumental in his processes and success.
Meditation enables creativity
Dalio said when there are many things on his mind and plenty of reasons for stress, meditation helps clear his mind and provide clarity.
“It gives one an equanimity,” he said. “It gives one a creativity. The act of repeating a mantra, which Is just a sound, and then transcending into the subconscious mind not only brings a peacefulness and a healthy state of mind, but it also taps the subconscious mind, which is where the creativity comes from.”
Huffington loved that Dalio stressed equanimity and perspective. She they said are two of many amazing qualities of leadership that aren’t discussed a lot and haven’t been prioritized as much as other leadership qualities have been. Huffington added that during the pandemic when multiple crises are happening, it’s important to talk about resilience for both managers and their teams.
Dalio said he doesn’t think anyone he has introduced meditation to that has given it a chance has said that it hasn’t had a great impact on their lives. He added that many people in positions of power find they need to meditate regularly, and most wouldn’t think that such people would practice meditation.
Will you succeed?
Huffington talked about the time she decided to leave the Huffington Post and start Thrive. She noted that you never know if you’re going to succeed, but she wanted to provide the tools necessary to help others succeed.
“You never know when you launch something new that it will succeed,” Huffington said. “For me, the key was to actually be able to bring to people tools and techniques to achieve behavior change. It’s one of the hardest challenges.
She explained that 75% to 90% of the skyrocketing disease problems, such as diabetes, are behavior-based. Thus, she built micro-steps to help people with changing their behavior and matched it with storytelling to touch people’s hearts and motivate and inspire them.
Just get started
Huffington advises people who say they don’t have 20 minutes to meditate to start with just one minute. She said a lot of science shows it takes 60 seconds to course-correct from stress and reduce the stress hormone cortisol.
“For me, it’s all about starting somewhere,” Huffington said. “If 20 minutes seems too much, begin somewhere so you get the value of practice.”
Dalio said he and Huffington have discovered why Type A and people under stress don’t understand, which has to do with doing rather than not doing.
“I think we think that the more we know and the harder we try, the more successful we can be, and while there are elements of that, we’ve learned that the opposite is the case,” he said.
Use mistakes as learning
Dalio also said it’s important to recognize mistakes and use them as opportunities for learning. Huffington believes it’s imperative to build a culture willing to acknowledge mistakes and learn from them.
“People have a much easier time talking about their colleagues than talking to their colleagues about what they are thinking or feeling…” she said. “That culture has been incredibly rewarding because it’s kind of removing the toxicity of going around people instead of managing to work through disagreements.
She added that this is important not just for business but for every aspect of life.
Dalio said he has learned a lot about leadership through his experiences in the market, which have taught him humility.
“I’ve come to learn that I have to be an independent thinker because whatever is commonly thought is built into the price, so you can’t make money unless you think differently,” he said. And whenever you’re thinking differently, there’s a significant chance that you’re wrong, and so finding out what is true is so fundamental to making a good decision and overcoming one’s emotional barriers to that through meditation or however you do that.”
Dalio also learned that truth in relationships brings about trust.
“What I learned through my experiences over 45 years or so starting running Bridewater is that in life, for me, the most valuable thing, meaningful work, meaningful relationships, if I can be on a mission with somebody to do something great with them, to win the battle, to achieve great things, and you can have that relationship that is deep and meaningful, that’s very powerful,” he said.
Two minds in one
Dalio also said being honest about strength and weaknesses is logical and powerful in building relationships. He explained that it’s like having two minds in our mind. There’s the conscious mind that we’re aware of and that’s logical, and like Freud discovered, there is the subconscious mind that’s emotional.
He said it’s important to align those two minds so fears of disagreement and discovering the truths about your weaknesses don’t stand in the way of success or building great partnerships. Dalio added that if you’re carrying home thoughts, criticisms or failures, you’re not going to be successful.
He added that it helps to think about how sports teams operate. They require criticism and understanding to put points on the board. Dalio also said you have to be calm and truthful to be successful in the markets and in entrepreneurship.
Dalio and Huffington believe meditation can help managers achieve these things so they can be more successful and better leaders.
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