Starting and growing a business is one of the most turbulent, high pressure things you can do in your life.
Sensing pressure, the brain reduces the blood flow to the logical data processing part of our brain – the part that pays attention to what IS. It short circuits us to the part of the brain that reacts FAST – “the reptile”.
As entrepreneurs facing pressure all the time, this is a problem.
It dramatically reduces our ability to a) make good decisions and b) enjoy the experience of running our business.
Across the board, there is one thing that brings the brain back to its logical processing. That’s ‘attention’. Or mindfulness.
Harvard psychologist Ellen Langer (1989) reported “a mindful approach to any activity has three characteristics” – and we should be very interested in these, as entrepreneurs. They are:
- the continuous creation of new categories
- openness to new information
- and an implicit awareness of more than one perspective
Some people find mindfulness easy. Most people don’t. It’s a muscle that takes practice to strengthen. But it’s something some successful and happy entrepreneurs have told me they do every single day for their whole lives. They live under pressure. So they find ways to avoid what that does to their brains.
The easiest route in is to pay attention to something tangible for longer than you normally would.
One way which I use with entrepreneurs I work with is to have a little adventure with a strawberry. The strawberry is one of the most beautiful, intricate, exquisite things you can buy in a supermarket. It’s entirely natural. It’s the perfect Minimum Viable Strawberry. No engineers created it. No one coded it. It has a majestic architecture when you look closely, complete with taste, texture, smell, feel, nutrition, aesthetics.
We look at it for 10 minutes (those that want to – no one has to). I start the clock and instantly wonder whether I am going to be able to last the duration myself. *Flight!*
I once bravely did this with a slightly unwilling group – the whole ten minutes. I later realised from her blog, that one of the entrepreneurs had spent 50 hours staring at something similar. Wowzers, I thought.
The 10-minute-let’s-stare-at-a-strawberry thing sends blood through relatively unused neural pathways in your brain. Do it tomorrow and the next day… and those pathways will become highways. Your brain learn to pay attention and use its logical processing over its fight or flight response.
End result? Better decisions. Enjoy running your business more.