Reflection on Mindfulness in Business

One of the gifts of being a student is getting a second chance each year to focus on resolutions. If something didn't stick after New Year's, the first day of school brings with it the perfect time to try again.

As a second-year MBA candidate at NYU Stern, I still make those aspirational first-day-of-school resolutions. This year, one such commitment was to set aside time each week for reflection. In business school, I've received incredible opportunities to develop knowledge, advance my career and interact with extraordinary individuals. Because this two-year experience is nothing if not intense, however, I often sacrifice moments for self-reflection because I focus my energy on short-term to-do lists.

Enter my resolution to spend some time taking in the bigger picture.

To my great fortune, I have a partner this year in my effort to pause and reflect. The Stern School of Business has joined with Global Spiritual Life at NYU, with support from the Lenz Foundation, to introduce the NYU Mindfulness in Business Initiative. The first event of the year featured Dan Harris, best-selling author and co-anchor for ABC's Nightline. Being in business school, I expected Harris's recommendations for mindful living to consist of checklists and frameworks. Instead, he shared with us his path to meditation, and the clarity he's found as a result. He made no promises, but offered a convincing case about the value in stepping back and gaining the presence of mind to become aware of thoughts and impulses before acting on them.

Prior to the event, I held some unfair judgments about the practice of meditation. It couldn't be for me. I don't have incense at home, I admit to worldly ambition and have never seriously considered giving up red meat. Harris introduced me to a very different personification of meditation: a practice to increase self-awareness, humor and compassion, to reduce stress and to allow for measured decision-making.

Given the desirability of those characteristics, I began minimizing the stigma I associated with meditation in favor of more open consideration as to how to achieve a mindful state. For students frequently pressured by peer comparison, demanding schedules and the always popular "what do you want to do with your life?" inquiry, I see the Mindfulness in Business Initiative playing a natural role in the future of business education. Among the tools we should have at our disposal upon graduation is the ability to respond to stimuli with thoughtfulness instead of blind reactivity. This capability can only gain value as life and work continue to increase in complexity.

I meditated for the first time this morning. Truthfully, I feel like an impostor calling what I did meditation. I failed over and over again, catching myself thinking about reading assignments I've already missed, the temperature in my apartment, that song in my head that's stuck on repeat, and a host of other questions, reminders and random thoughts. I walked out the door, however, not thinking about the failure. I thought about trying it again tomorrow. I thought about taking little steps to quiet my mind, better myself, and make that latest resolution stick.

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