What do Rupert Murdoch, Oprah Winfrey and Russell Simmons have in common? These hyper-successful businesspeople meditate regularly. As it turns out, this practice is good not only for your well-being, but also for your business life. A study by the international business school INSEAD suggests that as little as 15 minutes of meditation can increase resistance to what is known as “sunk cost bias,” regarded as one of the most destructive cognitive biases affecting organizations today. Sunk cost bias is the tendency to continue a losing venture in a vain attempt to recoup or justify the irrecoverable investment already made in it. In layman’s terms, it’s throwing good money after bad.
To combat this negative tendency, the INSEAD study employed two types of simple meditation: mindful breathing and body scan. Here’s how to perform them:
Sit with your back straight on a chair with your feet on the ground, or comfortably cross-legged on a cushion on the floor so that your lungs and diaphragm can move freely. Set a timer for five minutes. Close your eyes, and relax. Remaining otherwise motionless, focus on your breath going in and out. Every time your mind wanders, acknowledge the thought, and gently bring yourself back to your breathing. If you have difficulty remaining focused, silently repeat the words “inhale” and “exhale” as you perform each.
If you practice yoga, this body scan technique will sound familiar. Lie flat on your back with your arms at your sides, palms up. Focus on your breathing. After several deep breaths, direct your attention to your toes, tuning in to any sensations in that part of your body. After one or two minutes, move your focus to the soles of your feet and hold it there for a minute or two. All the while, continue to focus on your breathing. Follow the same procedure as you move to your ankles, calves, knees, thighs, hips and so on, moving upward along the body. Focus on each part of the head: jaw, chin, lips, nostrils, throat, cheeks, eyelids, scalp, etc. Finally, focus on the very top of your head before slowly bringing yourself back to awareness of your surroundings.
Better business decisions are hardly the only potential benefits that come from meditation. While you’re at it, you’ll also be reducing stress, improving memory and increasing focus. Give it a try. You have nothing to lose — and perhaps plenty to save.