Something like meditation is not normally associated with business, but research is increasingly pointing towards the fact that it should.
Not only does it allow executives to clear through the clutter before tackling that important decision, but puts them in a calm space from which they can approach a situation objectively – and not emotionally.
Effectively, mediation allows you to take a step back and out of a thought process that could be spiralling out of logic. Often business owners get so invested in projects that they stop seeing the wood for the trees. Few are able to happily walk away from a project that’s going south, because it feels like they’ve completely wasted their investment. When you’re attached like that, it becomes easier to think you can save the project by investing even more – even if to just prove to yourself that you didn’t make a mistake – than to walk away.
This dilemma is referred to as a “sunk cost bias”, where the business person becomes transfixed around the amount of money already lost, rather than seeing the mistake in increasing the investment.
“Prior research shows the more we invest in something (financially, emotionally, or otherwise), the harder it is to give up that investment and the more inclined we are to escalate a commitment,” Andrew Hafenbrack notes in his 2013 paper with Zoe Kinias and Sigal Barsade, Debiasing the Mind Through Meditation: Mindfulness and the Sunk Cost Bias. “In many cases negative emotions; fear, anxiety, regret, even guilt or worry over past decisions, subconsciously play a part in the decision-making process.”
Active mediation allows a person to walk away from the emotional element of wanting to correct a mistake at any cost, and instead see the clear and logical way forward – away from the sunk cost.
Hafenbrack, Kinias and Barsade’s research discovered that the human mind is partial to flittering between thoughts, as well as the past, present and future. This how we tend to be functioning on a daily basis, and it’s in this state that people make decisions taking into account too many factors – some, like possible future consequences, that aren’t even true.
Practicing active mindfulness allows people to centre their thoughts on the exact situation at hand and assess it for what it is, nothing more and nothing less. When the clutter and possible outcomes fall away, then a person can make an unbiased decision that will more likely than not be a more healthy decision – for the business and for their own peace of mind.
It can be exhausting taking every variable into account for every decision. It can also lead to much unwarranted stress to continue with a project that isn’t yielding the returns that it should. Such actions don’t remain isolated either, causing a knock on effect to other areas of the business not being managed properly and increasing worse decisions being made from the wrong space.
Approach one decision through mindfulness, and the rest will soon follow. You will also find that stress levels within your business could decrease, as the added clutter could be causing a lot of the stress all by itself.
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