Can meditation make you successful?

Meditation alone can’t make you successful.

And its practice, although co-opted into Western notions of productivity and wellbeing, doesn’t aim for success in the traditional material sense.

That said, it’s a habit that, among other skills and attributes, can indirectly aid the process.

Do billionaires meditate?

Meditation, since its emergence in western culture, has been seen as a powerful tool. It’s no surprise, therefore, that powerful people recognise its utility.

From CEO’s and special forces operatives to musicians and sports stars, many swear by their contemplative ritual.

  • Steve Jobs was a famous Transcendental Meditation practitioner.
  • Paul McCartney, the former Beatles legend, even visited India in the 60s to learn more about the technique.
  • Oprah Winfrey, television star and CEO, is a huge advocate of the practice.

Don’t think you possess billionaire traits? And if so, will meditation help?

Does meditation increase IQ?

Research suggests an important link between meditation, improved cognition and higher IQs.

“The study, using scans of the subjects’ brains, showed that the meditators had more gray matter, which equates with more neuronal activity and better performance, in certain areas. The insula, which is associated with the integration of thoughts, senses and emotions, was thicker in gray matter in the meditation practitioners. So was the prefrontal cortex, which handles working memory and fluid intelligence, or IQ. In her presentation, Lazar pointed out that other studies have shown that people who have practiced meditation long-term have higher IQs than non-meditators.”

Although this is obviously no guarantee of success, having an increased cognitive capacity will clearly help with the critical thinking required for progress.

But, the benefits don’t stop there

Meditation changes the brain

The same study shows that meditation can actually alter the structure of your brain, resulting in a host of benefits, from potential effects on learning, cognition, memory and emotional regulation.

“This study demonstrates longitudinal changes in brain gray matter concentration following an eight-week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction course compared to a control group. Hypothesized increases in gray matter concentration within the left hippocampus were confirmed. Exploratory whole brain analyses identified significant increases in gray matter concentration in the PCC, TPJ, and the cerebellum.”

Mindfulness practice leads to increases in regional brain gray matter density.

Before asking how meditation can be used to enhance such success attributes, let’s define terms.

What is success?

The first question to ask in whether meditation can make you successful is what the term really means to you?

Most people will answer in the material sense, defining success as the accumulation of money, power and recognition.

That isn’t the case, however, for everyone. For people suffering from mental health issues like anxiety or depression, success might simply mean enjoying life again.

For others, it may signify improving their emotional intelligence to cultivate better relationships with their friends and family.

Whatever your definition, the important message here is that meditation is a worthy practice, whether it helps you reach your goal or not.

Meditation, in a historical context, was not designed to help us accumulate material riches.

If anything, it was intended to help us break free from mind made attachment – pretty much the antithesis of seeking wealth and power!

In abandoning worldly desire, mindfulness promised liberation and enlightenment.

Since its emergence as a lifestyle tool and well-being enhancer in developed countries, practitioners have used meditation as a means to an end.

Whether that’s aiming for the intangible sense of happiness or the real feel of money in your pocket, the act of aiming at a future target is oxymoronic to the true sense of meditation.

That’s not to diminish the desire to improve your circumstances.

It’s a natural tendency to want a better life for ourselves and our loved ones.

However, rather than relying on a technique like meditation to deliver those results, it’s more valuable to be mindful in the present moment and consider any positive results from such practice a happy byproduct.

Perhaps this notion is best summarised by psychotherapist and Nazi concentration camp survivor, Victor Frankl, who outlines a preferable mindset to aiming, reaching and grasping for positive experience.

“For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side-effect of one’s personal dedication to a cause greater than oneself or as the by-product of one’s surrender to a person other than oneself. Happiness must happen, and the same holds for success: you have to let it happen by not caring about it.”

Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning

And this may be a valuable realisation, judging by the prevalent media-driven narrative of the unhappy rich person intent on finding themselves.

Correlation vs causation

You see, just because successful people meditate, doesn’t mean that’s what got them there.

Correlation doesn’t imply causation, which might help to explain the link between meditation and success.

Realising that they remain unfulfilled after achieving their goals, many successful people turn inward to contemplative practice to help them make sense of their existence.

What to do then?

Even if success is on your agenda, don’t pursue it through meditation.

If that’s your sole motivator, you’ll soon lose the ability to maintain a regular daily practice, especially when the going gets tough.

Rather, practice meditation to go inward and learn about your ‘self’.

In a world that increasingly tells you who you are and what you should be thinking, use it to observe your thoughts impartially, a mechanism to reveal your true nature.

And even if this practice doesn’t lead to the tangible rewards you seek, the insight and benefits you experience are far more precious.

Can meditation make you successful?

Meditation alone can’t make you successful.

But it does provide a wealth of benefits that might make achievement more attainable.

However, you needn’t wait for success to enjoy the benefits of self-reflection.

And even if it doesn’t directly lead to success, the path you tread will be remarkable nonetheless.