Want To Become A Better Leader? Consider This Idea: Do Nothing

by Rob Dube
Republished from Forbes, November 2, 2017

When I decided to do nothing, it changed my life.

Growing up, I had health and family issues that caused a great deal of anxiety. After college, I started my company and quickly found that starting and running a business on top of starting and raising a family brought my anxiety to an even higher level. In 2004, my best friend and business partner, Joel Pearlman, and I sold our business. Less than one year into a three-year employment contract we had with the buyer, I found that my anxiety was at an all-time high.

I was on vacation with my family in Northern Michigan, it was a beautiful sunny day and my family was out enjoying it. I, on the other hand, was inside the house working. I was frustrated, stressed out and on the verge of tears. I looked over at a chair in the corner of the room and said to myself, “Rob, go sit in that chair and breathe in and breathe out, just like you’ve read about.” I did, and I felt just a little better. The world didn’t change. My problems didn’t go away. I just felt better. My mind settled and body calmer.

That moment in the chair changed things for me. It’s when I realized that mindfulness meditation might be useful to me in my life and as a leader. Since that day, I’ve developed a regular meditation practice and committed to taking biannual silent retreats. Each day starts and ends with meditation. I began to notice I was more present and aware with my team members. The difference between what I refer to as “pre-chair Rob” and “post-chair Rob” taught me that my choice to do nothing has been the most rewarding leadership challenge I ever took.

I’m a fact finder. So while that first moment in the chair was enlightening, I needed to learn more. I dove in and became a student and practitioner of mindfulness meditation. I learned that meditation is more than just a peaceful exercise in paying more attention — mindfulness meditation retrains the mind and results in cognitive and psychological changes in the brain.

In fact, there have been over 6,800 scientific articles on meditation since 1972, and 4,500 in the last 10 years alone — all of which have merit, but most importantly, 60 rock-solid studies that illustrate scientifically the positive effects meditation can have on our brains and in our hearts. For example, mindfulness meditation is associated with changes in the gray matter in regions of the brain involved in learning and memory processes, emotion regulation and perspective taking.

I also learned that branches of the Military were teaching meditation, such as the Virginia Military Institute. Every incoming cadet is required to take a class called Modern Warriorship, a course designed to teach strength of mind through secular-based meditation practice. The course prepares cadets to become the most capable service members possible, teaching them how meditation can help them manage stress and increase productivity.

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