Breathe in for ten seconds. Breathe out for ten seconds. Repeat.
This simple act, repeated several times, is the most basic of a group of exercises known as mindfulness meditation. It is so simple, in fact, that it forces you to simplify yourself just to complete it. You don’t think about your inbox, your favorite sports team, your family feud, your bruised ego, your competition, or your dreams about the future. You just attend to your breathing.
Simple. Repeatable. Calming. Focused.
I used to do it every day. Nothing reminded me more about life’s natural ebb and flow. Nothing else revealed so clearly the size of a single moment of time. It left me impervious to insult, flexible through frustration, and ceaselessly inspired. Breathe in. Breathe out. I had never been happier.
So why did I stop?
At some point while starting a business, networking with big shots and wannabes, filling my days with frantic enthusiasm—and my inbox with endless newsletters—I fell out of practice. I dropped the one habit that could guide me through the extremes of entrepreneurship. I lost my breath. I forgot how to zen.
Now I’m writing this post, partly to encourage you to bring a little mindfulness to your business practices, but mostly to remind myself that I don’t have to give up my most inspiring practice to be successful. Many will tell you entrepreneurship is all about late nights, bottomless coffee, and suffering through your own anxieties to ultimately “break through.” I think it can be much simpler than that. I think it can be like breathing. Here’s how.
Not-so-zen: 184 messages in your inbox. 79 follow-ups you didn’t follow up on. Interrupting your workflow to check your email 50 times a day.
Zen: Email has its own space of time in the day. It neither interrupts nor gets interrupted by other activities. Each email is a breath. Read as you breathe in. Reply as you breathe out. If it’s something you want to get to now, get to it. If it’s something you want to get to later, delete it. Let it go. Exhale and attend to your next breath.
Not-so-zen: Badmouthing, dismissing, attacking, feeling threatened by, or any other type of emotionally reactive behavior.
Zen: You study your competitors’ strengths and incorporate them into your business practices, products, and services. You approach them with curiosity. You take action rather than reacting to their actions.
Not-so-zen: You’re always looking for the right words to say. You’re looking for the right analytics to use and the best way to use them. You’re following people following you on Twitter and trying to manage all of your “channels.” You spend more time obsessing about what people are saying about your company than you do about your product or service.
Zen: You don’t strive for mass appeal; you strive to reach your core audience so well that it gets bigger. You hold true to what you believe is valuable and you share that without shame. You listen as much as you speak. You confidently adapt your language to that of your audience without sacrificing your core values or offering empty promises.
Not-so-zen: You have a perfectly crafted mission statement full of jargon. You almost believe your own pitch, and you talk about the business you will have in 6 months or 2 years rather than the business you have today.
Zen: You recognize that the world is not yet how you would like to see it, and you spend time calmly closing this gap. You aim to make each word, each action, each decision, and each breath a reminder of your mission to yourself and others. You don’t freak out if you miss a few, you just keep going.
“Inspire” literally means to inhale—to breathe life into. Inspire your business with these examples, but don’t stop there. Find your own breath. Where in your business have you lost it? What habits will inspire you?
Let’s start here. Breathe in for ten seconds. Breathe out for ten seconds. Keep building.
* Adam’s column, Mission Control, is about launching a startup and tracking its rise. From overcoming setbacks to ultimately (fingers crossed) fulfilling his mission, Adam Lupu offers his inner thoughts and outer workings while building a company. Read more of Adam’s “Mission Control” column here. *