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How to Nourish Critical Thinking & Make Better Business Decisions

Countless articles have been written on how to be more efficient, productive and make more informed and better business decisions.  Executives spend thousands of dollars on time management, energy management, schedules and philosophies that support a better, more efficient use of our time.

These are all certainly valuable – up to a point.  Are we overlooking what is right in front of us?  Quite literally – do we diminish the present?

A recent study headlined on Harvard Business Review’s blog, entitled “A Little Meditating Helps You Make Better Business Decisions”, reported that 77% of participants who focused on their breathing for just 15 minutes a day could avoid the tendency to stick with a less-than-optimal strategy simply because significant money had been invested in it.  The thought was that meditation improved mood and kept participants focused on the present.

Daniel Goleman’s recent book, Focus, also comments on the importance of meditation – its focus on breath, and the return to breath, when the mind wanders.  He reports that studies show how it builds an internal resilience to distraction.

Before you say, “But wait!  I have no time to sit around and focus on my breathing.  Do you know how much I have to get done?”  I have made this argument, too.

But what if the very thing we don’t have time for – focusing on the present — is exactly what our critical thinking skills need to function at their optimal best?  If we know honing our critical thinking skills means better business decisions and we’re not happy with how our time is being managed, perhaps we might consider the following:

1.    Critical Thinking Needs Time.  Thinking through complex issues and collaborating with our team takes time.  But the sum total is greater – both for our clients (better product) and for our teams (internal dynamics) when we do so.

2.    Critical Thinking Needs Internal Resilience to Distractions.  Creating the time for critical thinking means noticing distractions and making a choice to respond to them or not.  Meditation, or focused breathing, helps build this muscle.

3.    Critical Thinking is Nourished by a Refreshed Mind.  Better business decisions are better because they use our resources – our time, energy, and money – wisely.  A refreshed mind, through focused breathing and staying present, contributes to this ability exponentially.

Where critical thinking is an important skill in our leadership and our teams, how we choose to use the present to take care of this valuable asset is up to us.

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