Recently, at a family wedding, I was chatting with a cousin about his upcoming junior year of high school. The stress of preparing for the ACT and SAT seemed to loom heavy on him. When I asked what he was most excited about for the upcoming school year, he looked at me mystified.
Stress about the results of those tests and how it would impact his personal trajectory had sucked all the fun out of the year ahead – and it hadn’t even started yet.
Making decisions about the future can be difficult at any age, but allowing yourself to enjoy the process should be a part of it.
It’s easy to say, “follow your interests” when it comes to career planning, but without a good mindfulness practice, it’s easy to become all-consumed by what we “should” be doing, instead of what we would enjoy doing.
And knowing what we enjoy is key to creating a fulfilling life – and career.
Integrating a daily meditation or mindfulness practice helps reduce your stress response so you can make choices about your future with ease.
Here are four ways meditation can help in your career journey:
1. Handle stress better.
Meditation is simply exercise for your brain. – Dan Harris, 10% Happier
Stress is an inevitable part of life. Instead of feeling overwhelmed or debilitated by stress, which can lead to burnout, depression, and a slew of lifestyle diseases, meditation can help you reframe stress and give you the tools to manage its impact on your mental and physical wellbeing.
Meditation has also been proven to improve your ability to respond, rather than react to stressful situations. So, even when your cortisol levels increase, you can experience more clarity and focus on big tests, interviews, importation presentations, and even in difficult conversations.
2. Make career choices that align with your interests and values.
“Happiness is not in the mere possession of money; it lies in the joy of achievement, in the thrill of creative effort.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt
Many people find themselves paralyzed by choice when it comes to career decision making.
While pursuing something you’re ‘good at’ or that ‘pays well’ are both factors to consider when choosing your career, having a job that looks good on paper isn’t everything. Your happiness should also be a key factor.
Meditation helps you see beyond black and white solutions so you can find creative ways to a fulfilling career that aligns with your personal values and interests, while getting out of college (or a tech program) without a pile of debt, and still having fun while you’re at it.
Meditation can also help you make decisions informed by a positive perspective rather than a negative fantasy, in which fear or external pressures from family or society can prevent you from going after the things you really desire.
3. Increase your productivity.
Research shows when you’re happy, you’re more creative, better at problem solving, and more productive – than at negative, neutral, or stressed.” – Shawn Achor, Happiness Advantage
Meditation improves your ability to get in to a flow state faster and stay there longer.
Because meditation reduces stress, anxiety and symptoms of depression. It can even make you feel more joyful and connected, which translates into higher levels of productivity at home and at work.
At every stage of your career, increased happiness and productivity proves to be an advantage. As a student, you’ll have more time to spend with your friends, or pursuing hobbies that interest you. As an adult, you’ll have more out-of-office time to dedicate to personal growth goals, to get involved in your community, care for your family, and do the things you love.
4. Live in the present.
“If you are depressed you are living in the past.
If you are anxious you are living in the future.
If you are at peace you are living in the present.”
– Lao Tzu
Finding meaning in your career is wonderful, but work can’t fulfill all aspects of your life. Investing completely into your chosen profession is recipe for burnout, unhappiness and dissatisfaction
Self-care is important. Starting a daily mediation practice will help you live more in the present and become more aware of those other simple things you need to do, to show up as your best self – on and off the job.
Get enough sleep, start a gratitude practice, eat healthy, get lots of physical movement, and invest your time in fostering a supportive friend group. Find clubs to join, hobbies to pursue, and places to volunteer – especially if they’re in areas that interest you – but aren’t being utilized in your day-to-day work.
And most importantly, allow yourself to enjoy your career journey.
Ready to start a daily mediation practice? Check out Seek United’s free course, How to Start a Daily Meditation Practice.
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