One of the best things you can do for your professional success is get into a meditation practice.
In 2007, I started meditating at the encouragement of one of my mentors at work.
It was my first "real" corporate job. It was a daily challenge, with high expectations for performance.
I was a little lost and unsure of whether it was really the job for me.
I had had an interest in meditation since a random experience attending a Buddhist ceremony when I was 15.
But when it came to starting a regular practice, I was out to lunch, just like everyone else.
My mentor just said, "Start a meditation practice."
I didn't really know what that meant.
Even though I didn't know whether I was doing it right, I believed it would help me.
So I sat down, cross-legged on pillows on the floor of my apartment, and put on a five-to-seven-minute iTunes playlist.
When the playlist was done, so was I.
I followed this practice on-and-off for the next several years. The practice deepened, and eventually, I started meditating without any music at all.
This is when my results really started to take off.
Over the next five years, I got more and more serious about my practice.
Eventually, I worked up to my present practice of sitting for 20 minutes each morning and 20 minutes most evenings.
Here are the nine things that happened to me over this time period:
1. I stopped getting sick as much.
Turns out meditation actually reduces inflammation at the cellular level and boosts the strength of your immune system.
There's pretty good science behind this.
2. I became more "chill."
Before meditating, I was a pretty anxious person. I used to worry about things left and right.
Once I started meditating, I got less put off by small disappointments and details.
3. I became happier and more stable in my moods.
We've all struggled with depression or periods of sadness.
Once I got into regular meditation, it seemed my normal emotional highs and lows were more evened out.
Some people might find this horrifying, but I think they're just addicted to the emotional crack of intensity and drama.
The "happiest" and most successful people I know have pretty stable moods.
4. Coworkers began commenting on it.
While I was going through difficult transitions at work, such as reclassifying employees, firing people, cutting pay or whatever other corporate changes were taking place, people began noticing my emotional stability.
Eventually, I got to a position where I was the one managing the mentor who had suggested I get into meditation.
In one of our one-on-one conversations, she said, "You're very clear."
She meant not just clear in my communication, but also in my ability to remain emotionally stable and keep the lines of responsibility appropriate.
In other words, I wasn't going behind anyone's back, complaining, spreading negativity or playing power games like some other managers.
5. I got a series of promotions and raises.
Two of my mentors at work said they saw big things for me.
Every time I got another promotion, they emailed me telling me they'd been predicting it for a long time.
I would not have been as decisive and clear-headed had it not been for the meditation practice.
6. My jobs became easier and easier.
But first, they got harder and harder.
Probably the hardest part was when I was interviewing for a team lead position.
It was a six-month process, during which my primary competition for the slot and I both worked on the same team, and were being managed by the leader who would ultimately have a massive say in who would get promoted.
It was a fishbowl-like, high-pressure environment, and it lasted for six months, making it probably the hardest "job interview" I ever had to endure.
Since the pressure was on daily for six months, and any error or slip up was scrutinized to the nth degree, I was worried.
I ultimately won the position, but even that hard period was easier than it would have otherwise been.
7. I had moments of deep clarity, where my inner monologue went completely silent.
I had not realized that all my life, I had a high-pitched whine of "inner voice" ringing in my ears.
When it went away, the silence felt so good, it was almost a physical sensation of pleasure.
(I don't think it's an accident that the first time this happened was after a yoga class.)
8. I processed social and emotional needs at greater speeds.
I would find myself in conversations with people, and their motivations would become very transparent to me.
I saw "through" people.
I saw when they were projecting and being immature or egotistic in their words or deeds.
This made it relatively easy to maneuver around it without getting caught up in it.
9. My day-to-day became a complete dream, absent any grind at all.
Eventually, I was able to write my own job description with the corner office and the whole nine yards.
Each day was a breeze.
I would come in, answer a few emails, attend a few meetings and take a few phone calls. My only priority was to coach different people in different departments to get along better.
My unofficial job description was "peacemaker."
My entire yearly salary was earned when I created a few moments of rapport or understanding over the phone by helping two departments work together better.
Of course, this became boring. I left to start my own company, but that's another story.
There are about 40 other benefits I could list, but nine should be enough to pique your curiosity.
If you want a real-world "life hack" backed up by decades of valid science that costs you zero dollars, start your own meditation habit today.
You can start with just one minute, or do as I did and work up to a five-to-six-minute playlist.
Let yourself be guided by the music.
However you do it, you should do it.
I can't think of a single more powerful tool for every person to have today.
Remember: The sooner you get started, the longer you'll have to enjoy the benefits.