11/28/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

CEO Secrets: Why Does Meditation Improve Performance?

As business leaders we need to have a clear picture of present reality in order to make effective decisions. Meditation is a practice designed to clear the mind of stress and distortion, and allow you to experience present reality.

Over time our minds become filled with thoughts and beliefs that were placed there both consciously and unconsciously. We have defined experiences and recorded them as beliefs. Thought patterns have developed over the years, some of which are helpful and others are not. We are bombarded with ideas, advertising and images from TV and movies that stick in our memories. These thoughts often circle in our minds causing fear and stress. 

All these thoughts and beliefs were filtered by our mood at the time we experienced them. If we are in a good mood, we tend to record a more positive message; if we are in a bad mood, it will be more negative. When we recall this information it is also filtered by our mood at the moment of recall. The bottom line is our mind is full of highly distorted information that is often conflicting. 

See Present Reality With A Minimum of Distortion

Meditation helps to clear the mind and leave room in our consciousness to experience the reality of the moment. The flow of cause and effect is highly complex and, in order to be successful business leaders, we need to be able to see present reality with a minimum of filtering from the thoughts and images filling our minds. When working with teams of engineers, I enjoy asking if anyone has invented a successful time machine. Of course, they always say no. Then I ask, "So you are certain that no one can travel to the past and the future?" They laugh and agree. Therefore, there is no reality outside of the present moment. The future is a speculation, and the past is what we have recorded in our memory or in writing, which is, as I said earlier, highly distorted.

Present Moment Is The Portal To Reality

Yet how much of the time do most leaders spend traveling to the past and the future in their mind? I would suggest, too much. The best leaders realize that being able to live in the present moment is the secret to both personal power and strategic advantage. They learn to see through false realities and connect with true reality.

An Example from Sports

After watching Florence Joyner win the hundred meter dash, the TV interviewer showed a super slow motion playback of her run. She was about equal with the field through the middle of the run, and then she leaped out way ahead of the field to win the race. The interviewer played the run again, and just as she put distance between her and the field, the interviewer stopped the tape and pointed to the screen and asked, "What happens right here?" Florence answered, "I just let go." 

She stopped thinking about the race and slipped into what sports coaches call "The Zone" and, of course, her performance accelerated dramatically. She was integrating all her training with the reality of the present. Being able to find your way into "The Zone" is critical for success as a leader. Some respond to pressure by "clutching" and thereby reducing performance, and others slip into "The Zone." Michael Jordan was famous for performing better under pressure, as are many successful athletes. As a leader, is this true for you? When the pressure is on, do you call for the ball? 

Integrative Presence

Sports coaches realize that if athletes think too much about the past and the future, they will miss the reality of what is happening in the present. The future extends from the present, not from the cognitive frameworks in your mind. Those who can let go of their thoughts will find it easier to integrate their actions with present reality. In business, I call this "Integrative Presence."

If an athlete can create this state of mind, so can a leader. If these states of mind that seem to create super human results can be created in one area of life, they should be able to be created in others. While the environment is right for this kind of performance in sports, it is not beyond or separated from the business world. The most effective leaders have mastered Integrative Presence. Integrative Presence unleashes genius in any endeavor. Integrative Presence is, as I define it, collaboration with the natural flow that extends from the present integrated with the knowledge, intention and consciousness of an individual or group. Integrative Presence allows you to integrate all the realities of the moment simultaneously while combining them with your intention. Those who master this will Unleash Genius within themselves, and the people who follow them, to create new realities once unimaginable.

Business is much more complex than sports, and so I will discuss how to integrate this into your business life in the next post..