By Andy Bailey
The idea of clearing one’s mind isn’t exactly a breakthrough. After all, there are numerous articles and studies on how meditative acts help boost creativity and performance. According to Walter Isaacson’s The Book of Jobs, Steve Jobs even asserted that the driving factor behind his creative inspiration was a clear mind through meditation.
As a young business owner back in the early days, I discovered the powerful effect that clearing my mind could have on my decision-making and creativity. By no coincidence, it was also around that time that paddleboarding became my hobby.
See, I was spending a lot of time with my family at our home on the Gulf Coast of Florida. In an effort to take greater advantage of our surroundings and find some time to myself, I bought a paddleboard and took it out for a maiden voyage. I’ve been addicted ever since.
The activity is not only beneficial because of its positive effects on your core strength and balance, but also because it allows you to experience soothing surroundings devoid of distracting noises or movement. When I’m balancing on top of the water, listening to the laps of the waves and feeling the board beneath my feet, I truly clear my head – and I’m not talking about a zone-out-in-front-of-the-TV mindless stare, but a complete lack of active thought, a deep reserve of mental energy expenditure.
The Benefit Of A Clear Mind
In 2011, I sold my business, which I started in college and grew into a successful organization. Any entrepreneur will tell you ahead of the process that selling your company will be an exciting time, but also a terrifying one.
Once the sale wrapped and I was ready for whatever my next phase of life would be, I recognized – and was invigorated by – the fear of the unknown. I made a commitment to avoid that “next phase” decision for one full year. During that year-long recess, I paddleboarded – a lot. I made a conscious effort to keep my mind clear and open, and each time on the board, I left worry and anxiety behind.
I realized then just how crucial my head-clearing trips had been to my overall approach to my career up to that point. It was during this paddleboarding sabbatical that I came up with the idea for my next company, where I now get to share my successes and mistakes with other entrepreneurs all over the country looking to improve their businesses and themselves.
Had I been actively engaged in another project or overwhelmed with deciding my next step, I may not have had my breakthrough. And then it hit me: These types of mindfulness activities should be a habit for all entrepreneurs.
As entrepreneurs, we’re always working, and we grow accustomed to thinking about our business every waking second. But people need a respite from constant mental processing in order to put groundbreaking ideas into action and achieve measurable results.
If you feel like you’re getting burnt out regularly or lacking the inspiration or creativity you once possessed, get out of your surroundings and clear your mind. Below are my three rules on how to do it:
1. Find your “paddleboard.”
Okay, so paddleboarding may not be for everyone. No matter, the trick to really getting away and clearing your head is to find your version of my paddleboarding affinity. Maybe it’s setting times on early mornings to visit the driving range at a nearby golf course, or maybe it’s setting aside time each month to build a woodworking project with your bare hands. The key here is to find something that’s more muscle memory than creative thought.
2. Make it a fun habit.
This one should be obvious, but to effectively free your mind from the daily distractions and stress of entrepreneurship, you’ve got to make your physical activity something you really enjoy. For example, don’t jump straight into meditating if you realize that you’re not a big fan.
Find your “zen zone” where you can actually enjoy not thinking. This is important because, for many of us entrepreneurs, it’s difficult to stop thinking. Don’t set yourself up for failure by doing something forced. Take advantage of your physical hobbies and interests and find something that encourages you to escape.
3. Do it alone.
Much of what makes us entrepreneurs is the way we process outside stimuli and information. We take our surroundings and filter them through our perspective, warping them and shaping them into how they can fit in our business. All of this external noise is detrimental to the process of clearing your mind, so commit to spending some quiet time by yourself so you can get back in tune with what you really want and where you’re headed, without input from others.
You don’t have to escape to the middle of the Gulf of Mexico to practice mindfulness, but as an entrepreneur, you should make an effort to reduce the number of distractions around you. Find your paddleboard and set aside time to clear your head of the daily stress and rigor of entrepreneurship. You’ll notice a difference if you make the commitment.