The day before Emmy-award winning authors and producers Chis Miller and Phil Lord spoke at Monmouth University, I was lucky enough to dine with the duo. Their creative work includes the LEGO MOVIE, 21 & 22 JUMPSTREET, CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF MEATBALLS and they will be the directors of the next adventure in the Anthology series of STARWARS films.

They shared experiences of their incredible journey, the successes, the stresses and the joy at seeing their ideas captured in brilliant new forms of media. Upon learning that I was an Executive Coach, Phil asked for one piece of advice as a ‘take away’ from our conversation. After considerable thought, I said to ‘breathe’.

Most weeks I send two or three texts to clients with one word: breathe. A proponent of Yoga, Phil immediately understood the concept and was intrigued by the application I recommend: to keep calm, provide oxygen to the brain by inhaling deeply through the nose with back straight and head held high. Hold the breath a moment then slowly exhale through the mouth.

There is another benefit to this simple process: it buys you time to think. If you are in an uncomfortable conversation with someone, you can use the out-breath to gain information before reacting, by asking a thoughtful open question. You will gain additional information useful in any decision making scenario.

The extra few minutes you take to breathe could make the difference. You may need to ask several questions to maintain your poise and contemplate the full issue at hand.

Today’s leaders are rediscovering how meditation enables them to more successfully build rapport, collaboration and consensus by phrasing questions in a mindful manner. Working with corporate clients, we discuss how these meditation skills, in the context of mindfulness and agility, contribute to individual and thus team success. Contemplative situations inspire decisions based on respect and empathy for others as well as providing important benefits for our personal health and welfare.

Phil and Chris described fast-paced project and contract discussions, negotiations and idea generation, emphasizing the importance of having private ‘down time’. Rob Asgar agrees in his article Why The World’s Best Leaders Want To ‘Meditate On It acknowledging mental and physical health “seems to be a bottom-line benefit to this ‘shutting up and sitting still’ business”. He then poses the question:

“Do you have the patience to wait till your mud settles and the water is clear? Can you remain unmoving till the right action arises by itself” –Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu (Steven Mitchell translation).

Asgar explains that Chade-Meng Tan, Google’s official ‘Jolly Good Fellow’ “…believes meditation, done right, doesn’t simply boost performance in some amoral fashion. It creates the healthy relationships that make for a better world. The brand of “mindful meditation” that Meng teaches to ambitious Googlers …isn’t just about silence or stillness. It’s about cultivating a certain attitude that changes how we see so-called intractable problems and so-called problem people.” Further, Asgar identifies three benefits of mindfulness:

  1. Mindfulness can turn office politics from a jungle to a garden. Meng has “seen how the way we mentally frame our work community improves how we perform. And it’s not about being passively nice. He favors healthy and aggressive competition, within a workplace or with other companies; and he favors competition in doing good things for customers or the community.”
  2. Mindfulness can build an environment for Aha! moments. “There’s a paradox of creativity. Just as you can’t catch a tennis ball if you tense up your hand too much, you can’t have a great idea if you’re spraining your grey matter while trying to force it. A practice of meditation helps considerably here.”
  3. Mindfulness can keep you sane and healthy. “Stockbrokers are three times more likely to suffer from depression than the general adult population,’ Yahoo News reported this year. ‘Excess stress is a leading cause of heart and brain disease.’ That’s one reason meditation is catching on along Wall Street.”

Few of us will be involved with Hollywood negotiations over major films like Chris and Phil. The lesson here is to think about how we can maintain our health as we pursue our goals to perform to a higher standard. What can we do to hold true to our course and forge our own trail? Take the time to step aside, contemplate and consider how you can ‘stay in the moment’ of reflection and creativity.