Great ResignationClimate ChangeLeadershipInflationUkraine Invasion

Why Most Executives Miss the Point of Meditation

April 28, 2017, 12:00 AM UTC
Neil Webb/Getty Images/Ikon Images

The Leadership Insiders network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in business contribute answers to timely questions about careers and leadership. Today’s answer to the question, “What’s your morning routine before going to work?” is written by Doug Randall, CEO of Protagonist.

My alarm goes off at 5:30 a.m. every morning. Needless to say, some days it is more welcome than others. Running a business (and a family, along with my wife) usually means that as soon as I’m conscious, there’s something on my mind.

I’ve spent the past 15 years instilling a meditation and yoga practice, and it’s played a major role in helping me stay grounded as my company continues to grow. Every morning, I go to my rooftop or garden to meditate for about 25 minutes. I don’t use a guided meditation, but rather try to reach complete stillness.

Meditation isn’t an uncommon pastime amongst modern businesspeople, but I think many miss the purpose. When I meditate, I’m not trying to force myself to be peaceful if I don’t feel like I’m at peace. I’m quieting my mind so that I have room to understand more about what’s going on beneath the surface. I think many executives make the mistake of envisioning an outcome and then trying to force it into reality at all costs. But successful leadership in today’s world is more about listening and moving with the flow. I make an active effort to break out of that cycle, by breathing and bringing my focus outside myself.

There are some days when I don’t feel that I can meditate successfully—I might be too angry, anxious, or upset. On those days, I lean into the emotion. If a feeling is pervasive enough to keep me from my meditation, then I want to understand it. That means that if I’m not meditating, maybe I’m boxing with a punching bag. It’s not quite as zen as engaging in my practice, but it’s a lot more honest. I’ve found the best way to get past anger, stress, or any of those other negative emotions is to feel them completely.

I bring a pragmatic approach to my meditation and yoga practice, and I truly believe that they make me a more consistent and reliable leader. Starting off my day by really checking in with myself gives me a foundation for confident decision-making moving forward. I identify the lens through which I’m making business decisions, and can take that into account as new situations arise. The same framework helps me empathize with my employees’ and customers’ choices.

By the time I finish my meditation (or, occasionally, my boxing), I feel centered and ready for the day. This is the time for me to shower, check email, and temporarily tap back into the reality of the hours ahead.

By about 7 a.m., I’m wrapping up my morning routine at home by having breakfast with my family—one last bit of calm before I head into the office. I take time to connect with my kids over breakfast every morning, which is extremely important to me. It’s easy to push quality time with loved ones to the side, especially if I’m entering into an especially hectic day, but I’ve found that work that needs to be done at 7:30 a.m. can generally still get done at 8 a.m. Being fully present with my kids grounds me in a different way; it keeps me connected to values like generosity and joy that I try to bring to work every day.

A person’s morning routine sets the tone for the rest of their day. I put such a heavy emphasis on mine because I want to be a consistently thoughtful, decisive, reliable, and happy leader.